Review Summary: Woods of Ypres' third album contains some of the band's strongest song writing yet. However with fifteen tracks, it's a little on the long side...
I won't lie, though my anticipation for Woods of Ypres' follow up to the superb Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth album was rather high, I was growingly skeptical that the now five member band would actually ever finish it. Woods' frontman David Gold has only given it what, five or six different release dates over the last couple years, has he not? Regardless, the band's second full length album, titled Woods III: The Deepest Roots and the Darkest Blues (don't laugh, guys) was promised to be a return to the melodic black metal roots of Woods of Ypres five track, thirty minute demo. This also had me somewhat incredulous, as while the Against the Seasons […] was a decent release, it has nothing on the doom metal-esque offering that was Pursuit of the Sun, and tends to lose its lustre far more quickly.
Fortunately, Woods III isn't as, well…black metal
as David Gold promised. While it's true that the melodic black metal elements are featured predominately, as the rather raw sounding Iron Grudge shows, Woods of Ypres seems to adopt a sound that bridges the bitter, aggressive themes of Against the Seasons and the slower, more contemplative sound of Pursuit of the Seasons. And while Iron Grudge, Through the Chaos and Solitude I Came, and December in Windsor each feature the two distinct sounds of Woods of Ypres' earlier recordings (Iron Grudge and Through the Chaos each taking on the band's black metal characteristics, whereas December in Windsor would fit right in with the Pursuit of the Sun songs), Woods III's strongest moments fittingly occur on the songs which combine the two styles. It is in highlight tracks like The Northern Cold, Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground, Years of Silence (And the Private Joke), and the instrumental, Trillium: The Third of Three Winters that it feels as though the band has put the most effort into. The tranquil, doom-y elements created through David Gold's almost carefree, clean singing (which is quite a bit better than his growl, I'll admit) and the slow, soothing bursts of (generally) electric melodies compliment the bitter distortion and relentless aggression of drummer Chris Mezz's blastbeats tremendously. As result (and also thanks in part to the vastly improved production), these songs are some of the strongest Woods of Ypres had penned to date, and immensely enjoyable.
That said, Woods III as a whole is not quite as digestible as some of its stand out tracks. Though most of the songs are surprisingly concise, as only two songs are over six minutes in length, the fifteen tracks that make up the Canadian band's sophomore album is a bit of an overkill. Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues fits the definition of a grower album quite well, as it is quite difficult to get into upon the first one or two listens. Also somewhat irritating are the (rather laughable) lyrics, which blur the lines of stupidity ("I understand the relation / Of black metal and modern life"
and "Each day I could see the changes / Each day I became more extreme"
both courtesy of Through Chaos and Solitude I Came…) and silliness ("We dug this hole for ourselves, but we’ll gladly bury you instead"
– Iron Grudge). While it's baffling how the band could have settled for those lyrics (then again, given the scene they belong to, perhaps not), but David Gold's singing generally negates any ill effects of the lyrical aspect of the album.
Overall, Woods III: The Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues is a rather excellent follow up to Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth, and taps the Toronto based band's potential exceedingly well. Despite a few blunders during the recording process (both End of Tradition and Song of Redemption could have been dropped), the record shows a definite growth in the band's song writing abilities. Though it's likely that Woods of Ypres' latest foray may not be one of the strongest overall efforts by the end of the year, it's still certainly an album to look into, especially for doom and/or black metal fans.