Ypres is a municipality in the Flanders region of Belgium. Though today it may not mean much too very many people, back ninety years ago during the heights of World War I, Ypres was a place of much terror, death, and destruction. It was here that the British and German empires locked horns in three different battles, each lasting months at a time. Being sent there meant almost certain death for tens of thousands of people. Perhaps this is why the natives of Windsor, Ontario, Woods of Ypres, made reference to this once terrible place. You see, Woods of Ypres focuses on the not so pleasant things in life – despair, darkness, sadness. The kind of emotions that the vast armies of the warring empires must have felt as they rotted away in the trenches of Ypres. Against the Seasons (full name: Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs from the Dead Summer Heat), was a demo, and the first recording of Woods of Ypres. Originally, it was released in 2002, but the band re-released in 2005.
The music found on Against the Seasons can be described with relative ease. Melancholic; raw; emotional; cold. These are all adjectives which could describe the band's debut album. And you do not have to go looking for these elements for them to become apparent. No, the raw melancholy can be felt through each and every song, from the opening seconds of The Shams of Optimism through to the closing moments of Awaiting the Inevitable 30 minutes later. Though their song structures are a little more than slightly different, Woods of Ypres somewhat reminds me Opeth through their long, sombre musical passages. However, do to the (lack of) production, the passages and interludes in Against the Seasons are not as easy to make out. But still listenable, and each song has plenty of outstanding moments. The 7 minute track, The Sea of Immeasurable loss stands out here, as is the most interesting song of the album. Vocally, the Against the Seasons demo is slightly different than the band's debut album. For the most part, Woods of Ypres makes use of the raspy black metal vocal technique. The harsh vocals found on the demo are done by a former member, Brian McManus. They fit the dark moods very well, helping create a bleak, sombre atmosphere. Though I am not always a fan of the vocal style, it does not take away from the music at all, and I find his performance quite likeable. Overall, Woods of Ypres definitely impresses with Against the Seasons, and make excellent use of their musical talents.
As I mentioned earlier, the lyrical approach of David Gold reflects around despair, darkness and other similar subjects. Now for those of you who enjoy these themes, you will find yourselves right at home. But if you're like me, and don't have any particular interest in this kind of stuff, well fear not. Though they contemplate on the more negative aspects of life, the lyrics are not cries for attention or help. Instead they are honest musings of the band's primary songwriter. Though some may ignore them due to the harsh vocals, the lyrics in fact, are pretty fascinating. And though some of the lyrics David has penned seem slightly silly, the emotion and depth involved is definitely impressive. The lyrics both play a large and small part of the demo. They help contribute to the melancholic feelings of the album, and for that, I'd say they play an important role. Well then how can they affect the album in a small way at the same you ask? Well for the simple reason that not everyone listens to music with the lyrics right in front of them, and through the harsh vocals, may lose a few listeners.
Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs From the Dead Summer Heat is definitely one of the more impressive demos I've heard. It combines raw, melodic black metal with a melancholic atmosphere. While listening it is obvious that a ton of effort was put into the creation of the demo, and it shows through in the music. Each band member has a strong showing, and not once does anyone slip up in his performance. Woods of Ypres should have quite a good career in front of them if they can build on the momentum they've created with their first two releases. The band's next album, Woods 2: The Deepest Roots and the Darkest Blues (what's the deal with all of these long titles?), is due for an early 07 release, and should be quite an interesting album. And while we wait for its release, Against the Seasons is definitely a recording worth listening to. Pick this up if you happen to find it.
(Since there are only five songs, I'll pick the best one)
The Sea of Immeasurable Loss