Review Summary: Bohren & Der Weg Einer Freiheit
The most prevalent criticism of White Ward I hear from their detractors and skeptics is that the addition of prominent saxophone to their sound feels gimmicky, and to be honest, I still don't get it. Both before and since White Ward's 2017 debut Futility Report
, the combination of jazz and heavy music has had plenty of opportunities to prove itself and numerous successes, from Kayo Dot, through Bohren & Der Club of Gore and Colin Stetson's Ex Eye project, to KEN mode's most recent effort. Love Exchange Failure
is far from an experiment or a proof of concept. Its true triumph is not in its novelty, but in perfecting the delicate balance between the two disparate elements.
There are a handful of moments strewn throughout Love Exchange Failure
that lean heavily on the jazz--the first few minutes of the opener, for example, would not be out of place on an early Bohren album--but the prevailing aesthetic of the album is crisp, explosive black metal in the vein of Der Weg Einer Freiheit or Bosse-de-Nage. And White Ward's brand of metal is just as staggering as the aforementioned bands. Drummer Evgeny Karamushko keeps the album moving at a blistering pace, and the interweaving guitars pull off both anguished chord progressions and furious solos with prowess and aplomb. But ultimately, Love Exchange Failure
can only succeed as it does because of Dima Dudko's sublime saxophone, which lends White Ward's metal a profoundly refreshing texture heretofore unheard. About halfway through the opener, the saxophone wails to life, unfurling the track until it suddenly sounds several times its previous size. As the guitars keep "Dead Heart Confession" tethered to the sticking place, Dudko flails for a grip as he spins out of control. The saxophone enhances Love Exchange Failure
in much the same way a theremin enhanced Jane Doe
, underscoring and amplifying its most essential qualities whenever they need to make the biggest impact.
When balanced this impeccably, all of these elements come together to form an arresting experience wrought with despair, from the quiet sorrow of slow jazz to the shrieking desperation of whirlwind black metal. As vocalist Andrii Pechatkin narrates a "global cataclysm destroy[ing] the worlds" on closer "Uncanny Delusions," the music conjures an image of great flames consuming the urban landscape on the cover and crumbling it to ash. It's a harrowing vision, yet the sheer grace with which White Ward execute it makes it paradoxically gorgeous.