Woods of Desolation, As the Stars, Northern Silence Productions, digiCD / LP NSP 119 (2014)
At least the fellow behind Woods of Desolation has a great sense of humour in releasing this album on St Valentine’s Day in 2014. This recording, the third full-length for this Australian act, is set in the realm of depressive ambient black metal, with longing and a sense of the impermanence of things and of nature being strong themes here. At the same time there are signs of hope and movement towards a brighter, more radiant world. There is beauty of a mellow and introspective kind present in the music, both BM and clean-toned, and the guitar layers have a shimmering brightness. Drumming by guest musician Vlad (of Ukrainian band Drudkh) is steady and anchors the music, allowing WoD main-man D to throw all his energies into maintaining a good flow and a substantial ambience throughout the recording.
“Like Falling Leaves” introduces the album in grand style: there’s a slight melodic folk element in some of the instrumental passages and the song vibrates with a rich shimmering almost-summery texture. The vocals are not too clear but they are very harsh and tend to blend in with the music so they become an additional musical element rather than something separate. Each succeeding song has its own mood and ambience though the change in atmosphere from one track to the next is not abrupt or jarring. “Unfold” continues some of the grandness of the first song and adds an uplifing feel in the riffing and rhythms. This spirit of richness and radiance continues in the next couple of tracks.
“Anamnesis” is a weak link in its repetition and for not substituting something original for missing vocals – an opportunity for the band to break out of a rut and explore different if related musical territory is lost here. “Withering Fields” is a solid track that restores the album’s flow and richness but it falls to outro track “Ad Infinitum” to recall the majesty of the earlier tracks: it does so in a rousing way with shrill vibrato guitar lines, moments of quiet solitude and an underlying message of hope and optimism.
The band has crafted an album strong on atmosphere, melodic layered grandeur and a hopeful, positive mood. Radiant beauty is to be found right across all tracks in the music and its ambience. However over the course of the album the band does not build much on the foundation of a rich layered music and this makes for an above-average recording of consistent performance rather than a really outstanding work of originality and heightened emotion with peaks and troughs. Originality and a risk-taking approach that might include additional instrumentation, an extra vocalist or some deliberate toying around with the band’s essential black metal / post-rock style would have been welcome.
Contact: Northern Silence Productions