'Woods IV: The Green Album' - Woods of Ypres (9/10)
Even months after his passing, the metal world still mourns the loss of Woods of Ypres founder and frontman David Gold. For a man whose work often revolved around death and sadness, it seems tragically ironic that he would be taken so relatively early in his life. I was not much of a fan of their sound the last time Woods toured through Vancouver, and- to my chagrin in retrospect- I did not see them live. Finally listening to Woods of Ypres' "Green Album", I'm now painfully aware of what the metal scene lost on Dec. 23, 2011. Distancing themselves from the black metal style they had developed on their first three records, "The Green Album" is an emotionally-heavy display of doom and grief, made even moreso by Gold's early passing.
I had the misconception that Woods of Ypres were some kind of Canadian Agalloch, and for the sake of their earlier material, that claim may have weight to it. In the case of "The Green Album" (and the posthumous "Grey Skies & Electric Light), Katatonia, Type O Negative, and My Dying Bride come to mind. The same grizzly atmosphere of their previous work is here, but it's conveyed through downtempo riffs and a much heavier presence of David's clean vocals than before. If anything, this evolution has made Woods of Ypre's music more depressive and bleak. Though David's deep-yet-melodic voice takes a couple of listens to grow, there's something about it that conveys incredible emotion. Comparisons can be drawn to a higher register Peter Steele (of Type O Negative), or lower register Jonas Renske (of Katatonia). Gold isn't a technically-proficient singer in any sense of the word, instead getting a warm, singer-songwriter approach across with his vocals. It's a little strange to have that style imposed overtop crushing doom riffs, but it works wonderfully.
The songwriting is memorable, but permanently clouded with melancholy and despair. The gloominess is taken to such a point where it may have even sounded cheesy, were it not for the unspoken seal of sincerity. "I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery" and "By The Time You Read This" are both examples of this, telling stories without a douse of light or humour to them. As the album progresses however, the music lightens up, if only a little. Gold himself admitted to the album getting more 'rocking' as it comes along. "Wet Leather" kicks up the tempo, and by "Natural Technologies", Woods of Ypres starts flirting with the realm of melodic death metal. Although the quality is relatively consistent throughout, "The Green Album"s 80 minute length could have used some culling, especially towards the latter half. The first side of the album is virtually perfect, but by the time "Mirror Reflection & The Hammer Reinvention" rolls around, there's a sense that Woods of Ypres could have conveyed the same amount of emotion without going so all-out. The second, 'rocking' half of the album isn't quite as impressive, but the closing track "Move On!" is as fitting an end to this album as I can imagine.
Woods of Ypres may not be around any longer, but I imagine that "The Green Album" will only gain reverence as the years go by. It may alienate the black metal purists, but the same atmosphere and longing is here, and as severe as ever. Tonight, I will drink to David Gold.