Review Summary: A conversation about stuff.
I’d like to think that David Gold was the same as me, growing up. I want to believe that he was that awkward freshman that hugged onto a worn, slightly-torn pull-up hoodie like a life support, clinging to secluded corners in every room as if they held a sanctuary to cloak an overwhelming loneliness. Maybe, as he tried to reach out, his hands got chewed up by the same negative feedback loop, friends jumping off the sinking ship of depression left and right. Then, that vicious loop turned into scars, literal and figurative, developing a brand that may as well have been burned upon his chest. I hope that he struggled through a sequence of failed relationships. In those endeavors, he perhaps found genuine connection, only to witness its eventual descent into flames, leaving broken ties in its wake. He could have sought out for some comforting voice in the soulful poetry of Isaac Brock, or maybe emptied his emotions out through spinning a vinyl disc of Home, Like NoPlace is There. And as those memories and other instances piled on, one after the other, I need to know that he came to the same conclusion: that those occurrences, ranging in their impact, their meaning, the associated players—regardless of circumstances, they would remain. Even if the ‘moving on’ process was set into motion, those choice happenings persisted; they were an ugly, unforgettable part of his personality, trapping half of it in the past while the other lingered in purgatory-like state in the present. I need this from David Gold, because when I slinked across the nooks and crannies of high school, my loneliness may have been as perpetual as the one spelled out in Grey Skies & Electric Light
Projecting myself onto a man now deceased for more than five years reads as a gross disgrace to his legacy. Essentially, for the purposes of my own emotional odyssey, I’m manipulating the very fabric of his existence and the work left behind. Yet, I get the impression that that was the intent of Woods V
all along—to extract out all the stuff
, all the cluttered-up bull*** that resides in the depths of our consciousness, making no judgement towards whoever lends an ear. David Gold’s distinctive bass singing rings from the margins, the metaphorical abyss of society where it had been cast away to. Whether or not the individual listener has actually experienced the sensation of embodying an ‘outcast,’ Gold beckons them to walk in his shoes, embarking through the “Lightning & Snow” abound in his personal experiences. Every note and every lyric delivered unearths another portion of his soul, revealing bit by bit until Grey Skies…
morphs into the musical equivalent of an Operation board game. It involves a full bearing of insecurities, of doubts, of frustration and crippling sadness. As much as I love this album and respect all its meant to me, I can’t avoid the fact that it can be uncomfortable. Years and years of throwing myself back through the same old journey have taught me, however, that it’s to be expected. Woods V
aims to unpack every ounce of baggage, that aforementioned stuff
, and it ain’t pretty. It was never supposed to be.
Gold attempts to convey the pain through a variety of means—Woods of Ypres snatch influences from doom, black metal, rock, and a handful of other genres mixed in an eclectic manner—but it all equates to the same thing: pure, undisguised, un-beautiful pain. Words are not selected to form the most eloquent lines, vocal carriages run the gamut from impossibly-low bass growls to aggressive shouts, and the previously cited instrumental motifs jump around as they please. All of it is coupled under a slightly-hazy, uneven production, quietly occupying the background space of any given song. It’s difficult to even begin to describe a record that can muse about the presence of lack thereof of God in the gut-wrenching “Traveling Alone,” then on a later tune launch through an explosive, melodic riff while Gold bellows out an almost laughable chorus of “career suicide isn’t real suicide—it’s not real suicide at all.” But I’m brought back to that Operation board and the idea that each track is not some mismanaged foray, instead representing another facet of David Gold’s deconstructed personality, another discussion he holds with the audience as they have their glance through the window of his own perspective. If, to accomplish this, Woods of Ypres require a groovy, bass-supported guitar rhythm, or a piano, or a couple of additional string arrangements, then those elements are introduced without fear of consequence. There lingers a sense that such decisions are completely purposeful and, despite how they appear on paper, they work out in the band’s favor.
Black-metal-tinged opener “Lightning & Snow” strikes ferociously, David’s harsh performance perfectly illustrating the agony that accompanies a lost love—the kind that enters and exits so quickly it was almost never there, a “shock and awe” serving only as a prelude to “years of sorrow.” The track’s ending is punctuated by a scream of anguish from Gold: “I only had one life to live, and life said ‘no’.” Contrastingly, the inspiring “Death Is Not An Exit” resonates as hopeful, speaking against the option of suicide as an escape from problems, presenting the idea that all can be overcome through perserverance. These incongruities populate the album and serve as a central theme: the tug-of-war between succumbing to high school bull***, taking a bow from this mortal coil, or gritting your teeth and breaking through the muck. One combats having “never carved a place in society” in the despondent “Traveling Alone,” only to then be urged to love everyone and everything around you before it’s too late in the fast-tempo demonstration displayed in “Adora Vivos.” To complete the paradoxical relationships Grey Skies…
revels in, “Silver” ‘s reflections on a distant, unrequited affection—portrayed as inevitable through B-movie-worthy lines of “when you’re silver, you never come first”—are immediately blasted out of the way by the anthemic, ‘pick yourself up by your bootstraps’ number “Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide).” Keys are inserted, guitars maneuver between differing tones and progressions, percussion varies from abrasive to restrained, unconventional phrases are uttered… it might as well be called a mess.
If I allow myself to once more place myself firmly inside the very essence of David Gold, I’d venture to hypothesize that this is all the internal dialogue. I can’t guarantee that he has truly understood what a street looks like from a certain height, nor can I rightfully assume he has dealt with self-harm in those close to himself and inside his own body. When the crushing beat of “Modern Life Architecture” crashes down on my back, however, I think I feel David standing next to me. Like some kind of cliché film scene, our voices are united as one, joined in a mutual loneliness generated from a shared corner.
When we’re young, we design a plan - We work, we build, we make it real.
The words emerge from my throat as clearly as they do from that gorgeous, practically inhuman bass speech emanating from the headphones over my ears. When I was young, awkward and isolated as one can be, I had my dreams, manifesting in some career or a group of people or someone who caught my heart. Try as hard as I might—try as hard as David did—it collapsed into a heap, lost.
There is always hope of course - That one day, we will rise again
It was not meant to be, in the end. That modern life architecture, as sound in concept as it may have been, crumbled “under the weight of the world”—the weight of that stuff
. That internal dialogue Woods of Ypres host on Grey Skies…
reigns in my mind. Back and forth the conversation proceeds, evaluating the options; the allure of a defeated exodus from troubles in a downpour of snow enunciated by the crack of lightning summons me, barely controlled by a fragment of fighting spirit desiring to power on. The fictional war of motives is debilitating, causing me to stand frozen in spot, my legs rooted to the surface as stubbornly as weeds. Just as much as I want to step forward, I want to step back. In this minute of weakness, this second of inaction, the soft piano of “Finality” slowly wraps around, gently placing a hand on my shoulder. I can’t attach a quantifiable number to the amount of times that elegant melody embraced me. All I know is that it makes me break down and cry. Every damn time.
I still went peacefully, quietly – With you still firmly in my heart
And I will wait forever - I wait…
Poetry this is not. Lyrically stunning—not necessarily. But it is unequivocally brutal in its honesty. No other song has so immaculately crafted a feeling of loss, of despair, and eventual acceptance, and in such a relatively short duration. The delicate cello composition cuts far below the surface and evokes sensations incomparable to fellow albums, artists, and so on. The depressing truth echoed in those concluding moments of “Finality,” strangely enough, provides that closure I yearn for. I am granted the ability to uproot my limbs, gradually walk away, and throw on some more coals to fuel that side of my disfigured, albeit resilient personality willing to get black and blue but still stay standing.
Appropriately, Woods V
ultimately culminates in the uplifting strings of “Alternate Ending.” True to the dominating disparities, David Gold calls out the apparently hopeless sentence of “holding on to a dream – when the end couldn’t come slow enough for me.” Instruments recede in a series of graceful swells, “holding on” repeating overtop. The enduring effect remains motivational still; the conclusion of the relationship defined in the track and the result of it are to be accepted, comprehended, and then permitted to drift into the rearview mirror. Misery may bring forth motivation to hastily depart and its temptation can be exponential—frightening, even, in its deceptive sincerity, the promise of bliss—but it can be avoided. Trauma can reach terrifying heights, the mental chat can attain volumes unbearable, and so on and so on. The specifics do not matter; the mountain can be climbed.
Analogies can continue and expand in their absurdity and pretentiousness, but there’s no point in prolonging the charade. Grey Skies & Electric Light
contains access to my every thought more so than anything else, defying the passage of time. I’ve matured and grown up since secondary education days; yet, acting like a ghost haunting an abandoned home, that deserted freshman still hides in some sharp angle. Maybe David Gold discovered a method to expunge that same phantom adolescent that may or may not have taken up residence inside his own struggle. Maybe Woods V
was the vehicle through which he accomplished this feat, similar to how it dependably does the same for me. Should worry, distress, anxiety, sadness, anger—that ***ing stuff
—crawl out from the woodwork, should a fraudulent exit open its door, there is an album that can unburden the load. It’s not an easy LP to be devoted to, possessing an emotional cost that often feels difficult to pay forth. So long as it works, however, and so long as that uncomfortable, uncompromising honesty speaks to me, I’ll keep the ongoing practice of taking an imaginary stroll with David Gold. I believe—I hope—he’d like to keep by my side, too.