Review Summary: Atmospheric USBM for fans of atmospheric USBM
As the black metal genre has expanded over the past decade and spawned its share of innovators and derivatives, it’s hard to say that a band plays ‘atmospheric black metal’ without an appropriate footnote. The footnote here is that Woman is the Earth, a band hailing from the Black Hills of South Dakota, cites the burgeoning ‘Cascadian’ movement as their primary influence. While they add ancestral folk music and an appreciation for textured/atmospheric music in their biography, this album is unmistakably in the vein of their Pacific Northwest predecessors.
This Place that Contains My Spirit
is a contemplative, naturalistic album. Woman is the Earth uses themes of cleansing, re-birth, vastness of space, and connections to the natural world. The album reflects that with its organic sound and, at times, lush tremolo melodies. The songs are accented with some ambience, occasional reverb-laden clean guitar passages, and clean backing vocals. Although the four long-players format is very popular in the genre, that doesn’t make it easy to execute.
Woman is the Earth has a good sense of when to stir the songs up to an appropriate zenith, and as a result this album progresses from one idea to another fluidly (its full-circle structure helps as well). However, due to limitations in production, a lot of the bands’ intended changes in feel and speed are lost in the noise. Once the guitars and wailing vocals erupt in full force, the drums are just a component of the overwhelming distortion. This obscures the fact that the drumming on this album is not simply an afterthought while the listener is whisked away on a wave of hypnotic tremolo picking. If the numerous changes had more of an impact, the movements of the songs would be clearer, allowing for greater impact.
Woman is the Earth spent considerable time writing and making This Place that Contains My Spirit
, and that is evident in the connections of the song themes to their sounds as well as the album’s holistic, cyclical approach. The nearly 8 minutes of dark ambience, feedback, and rustling percussion that close out the album echo the finality and death part of the narrative, leading to the circle of life beginning again. If this lyrical journey sounds familiar, it’s because it is a staple of this quickly expanding style of black metal. Despite the home-made (literally) production values, This Place that Contains My Spirit
is a well-constructed and enjoyable album for fans of this style, if nothing ground breaking.