Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Woe: Quietly, Undramatically (2010)


Woe is an American (New Jersey/Pennsylvania) black metal band whose second album (and first as a complete band) Quietly, Undramatically got a lot of end-of-year praise in 2010, so I decided to check it out.

Quiety UndramaticallyTheir sound is instantly recognizable as American black metal, inviting comparisons to Instinct: Decay-era Nachtmystium. The band was started by Chris Grigg, who seems to be, spiritually at least, a drummer (he has played drums for Krieg). The drums are very prominent in the mix, and it's a pleasure to hear them. They are interesting throughout the album. The beat is recognizably distinct in each song, there is a wide variety of fills (check out the cleanly sung section in the title track), and they have a perfectly natural tone. They are often the most aggressive instrument on the album.

In contrast to the drums, the guitars tend toward the understated. They generally play at a slower pace, only rarely venturing into full-on tremolo picking territory. The riffs sometimes have a hard rock sensibility (see the opening of the title track). All the guitar work is simple, but there is enough variety to keep things interesting (the hint of dissonance in opener "No Solitude" or the solos to "The Road from Recovery"). The vocals are generally done in a screechy Norwegian style, with the occasional growl and one very well-done cleanly sung section. You probably won't notice the bass except at the end of the epic "Full Circle".

Woe knows how to write a quick, aggressive cut, like "Without Logic" or closer "Hatred Is Our Heart". But longer, sad (woeful, even) tracks like the title track and "Full Circle" are where they really shine. Each instrument has a deceptively simple role to play in these progressively structured songs, which lead you on a journey rather than just assaulting your senses.

The Verdict: This is a very good album, and it's further proof that the American black metal scene is on the rise. I would have been much more impressed by this album if I hadn't already heard Kansas City's Lo-Ruhamah and their amazing The Glory of God (it has a very similar approach, but absolutely blows this album away). But this is good nonetheless. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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