Review Summary: not bad, not good, but on the right track. shame we'll never see if they could have topped it.
My history with this band is a patchy one, having heard all of their albums and hating all of them for one reason or another. Be it the contrived nature-worship tones of their debut, the crude and often cringe-inducing lyrics and subject matter of the following records, indeed - all was not well with Woods of Ypres as far as my opinion stands. But there are several reasons that compel me to give this review a fair write-up. For one, it certainly isn't as bad as any of the previous albums they've put out. Indeed, many of the crude themes that were in the previous albums are here but they're handled with a sense of maturity, despite it not being quite there. Any sign of maturity could be seen as the complete antithesis of their last album, The Green Album, which stands as one of the worst albums I've listened to. Not only is it beyond crude, but it's also immature, bloated, self-indulgent, and completely underwhelming. The uninteresting instrumentation backed with the simplified teenage-poetry lyrics, all for 80 minutes, getting worse with every consecutive track, which take you from rolling your eyes to feeling like vomiting, all the while worsening until the absolutely horrifying journey comes to an end. So it's a relief that this album doesn't quite follow down that path. Or, it does, but it doesn't go the whole way, which is delightfully refreshing in a rather mundane way. Make sense? Perhaps not, but it's certainly not awful.
But it certainly isn't as good as some people make it out to be, either. The tragic death of the songwriter and vocalist David Gold contributes a lot as to why this album is being so treasured, and that's fine - fans of this band will see this album as his last 'hurrah' and if they liked the previous records with all their flaws there's no real reason as to why they wouldn't appreciate this one. But it can't be overlooked that ultimately this album is just dreary. Perhaps that's the point, but an album can be dreary without being lifeless, but Woods of Ypres didn't seem to get the memo. Most would take dreary over cringe-worthy any day, but it doesn't automatically make this album good. Most of the tracks here plod along at a mid-pace doom-laden drudge, reminiscent of Katatonia's mid-era work, or perhaps more accurately Type O Negative's depressive pacing. Fans of the aforementioned bands may get a good kick out of this, but like many of us, the similarities don't do the band any favours because this band never really reach the level of quality set by them, nor do they put much of their own spin on it, especially now that the vocals sound like almost a direct ripoff of Peter Steele. Well performed? Yes, sure, I'll give David that, but it's undoubtable that if you want music like this you're much more likely just to reach for Discouraged Ones by Katatonia or any Type O Negative album.
This is the album's main flaw; It just doesn't do enough. They've stripped away many of the glaring faults of the past albums, which is great, but they haven't been filled in or replaced with anything. It's infinitely more listenable than any of the albums before it, but what's listenable compared to the excellent Type O Negative work which is really can't hold a candle to? There is certainly more of a metal edge here, David occasionally whipping out the growls which offer a refreshing change of pace, sadly not capitalized on as much as it could have been. Some of the guitarwork here is more interesting too, the chugging doom-like riffs often engaging and catchy and adding a necessary groove to what would ultimately be incredibly boring, but it just isn't enough to keep it afloat. Everything else instrumentally is just there, unremarkable yet competent, which would be fine if the album had much of a voice of its own. Well, maybe it does, but it isn't loud enough to make it shine above its contemporaries.
So no, it isn't a bad album. It occasionally even borders on good, surprisingly. It's probably the best ending Woods of Ypres could have conjured without a complete and utter departure from their previous work, which perhaps would have worked nicely for many, but a band should always stick to their guns despite the naysayers. It can't separate itself from the albums that obviously influenced it, but it definitely separates itself as the best Woods of Ypres album (except the very first EP). The occasional cringe-worthy moment ("When you're silver, you never come first, when you're silver, the truth always hurts") can't overshadow that too much. It's a possibility that as an album it doesn't really stand by itself but it's definitely the kind of album that fans will pull tracks from. Would have been very interesting to see if they could have really ironed out their sound, but I guess we'll never know. But for fans of David's work, eat this up.
Oh well. If life really is just pain and piss, it's nothing that he will miss. :]
Adora Vivos is one of the best tracks I've heard this year. That aside, good review. Some parts of the album drags a lot and seems repetitive (and that's what I believe is the main flaw of the album), but if you like repetitive music, you won't mind them.
Sucks that the edit function is down, though XD. The sentence is plain weird.
I thought this was their best album ever, though. And it has nothing to do with Gold's death. I would admit that his death gives this album a very "prophetic atmosphere", since he sings about death throughout the album, and especially because of the last 3 songs: "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)", "Finality" and "Alternate Ending" which literally talks about his own death.
Oh, and the tracklist put up there is the tracklist of the promo, not the actual release. The actual release had "Keeper Of The Ledger" as the 3rd track. Career Suicide shouldn't have been on the record.
Damn it, I was moments away from posting a review of this myself. You were much more eloquent than I am, though!
This is the first album of theirs I've picked up, and my first entry into Doom, but I find it absolutely fantastic. Perhaps occasionally a little repetitive (especially in the first 3 tracks), and perhaps sometimes a little overly dreary (I'm not a fan of Modern Life Architecture), but that mentioned track aside this is, in my opinion, the best release I've heard yet this year. Adora Vivos and Traveling Alone are superb.
Disagree that Career Suicide shouldn't have been there. A little silly, perhaps, but I enjoyed it.
this isn't really a gateway into doom at all. it's more or less depressive rock with a metal-ish edge. i'd look elsewhere at like early candlemass stuff for doom that is relatively easy to grasp that sets the stage for the bands that came before it. :]
If you want to explore doom, try Esoteric. They're on the extreme doom metal side, though. You could also try early Anathema, early Katatonia, My Dying Bride, early Candlemass, and so on. If you want something modern-sounding or melodic, go for Ghost Brigade or Swallow the Sun.
Well written, man. It flows just as it should: Setting up a single thought and expanding upon it from various angles. Good stuff. I mean, you've convinced me to not listen to these guys, but it was with a well written piece, no less.