If the current crop of melancholic dark metal isn’t quite genuinely melancholic enough for you, then you could do a lot worse than the latest release from Canadian doom-mongers, Woods of Ypres. The re-release of the fourth album from the Ontario band is an organic, introspective pleasure, rich in ideas, diverse in approach but run through with a dark, brooding sentiment that seeps inexorably through the album like black molasses.
“Woods 4: The Green Album” is an extension of the artistic vision of the band who have perhaps now outgrown their black and doom metal roots and have carved a particular space in the metal pantheon where the band can indulge their whim and fancy for acoustic and more mainstream rock without losing their essential miserablism. There will, undoubtedly, be some black/doom metal adherents who will see this as some sort of musical heresy. To my mind, it represents an open-mindedness, a musical creativity and it adds a degree of unexpected texture and light & shade to what could have been a relentless and unforgiving album.
The immediate standout cut, ‘I was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery’ has a genuinely epic quality to it- the opening piano bars sound like they have been taken from a long lost World War Two movie before we break into a dark and gothic exposition of guilt and loneliness. Likewise the brilliant ‘Shards of Love’ with its forlorn soundscape of oboe, guitar and refrained drumming is an exceptional take on a failed relationship, seen from the point of view of its heartbroken protagonist. The refrain of ‘What about this? What about that? Don’t you remember our lives?’ is that ideal refrain for that cigarette lighter/mobile phone light moment in a gig.
‘Suicide Cargoload’ reminds us that Woods of Ypres still can play brutal with the best of them and contains enough guttural vocals to strip paint, underscored by a pounding riff and a sense of drama. You’ll all be chanting ‘I feel so heavy, man!’ around your bedrooms or at the live venues. ‘Retrosleep in the Morning’ is a slow paced chugging tune, reminiscent in parts of early period Tool. This, as you undoubtedly know, can only be A. GOOD. THING.
“Woods 4” surprised me and in a good way. I was expecting to be able to write this review on autoplay and do the usual lazy journalist thing of embellish the press release with a few choice phrases of “I quite liked track 4” ; “Track seven is an epic” etc etc. I’m glad I didn’t and that I gave this record the time and space that it deserves. “Woods 4” has an organic feel to it: I suspect that this is intentional- clearly Woods of Ypres want you to experience this record as a whole and it is undoubtedly best listened to on a single indulgence, preferably in a darkened room and with a glass of your favourite red wine. That’ll do for me.