Woods 4 was a resplendent, sprawling and morose masterpiece. Its protagonist, ultimately, was victorious in his travails, leaving the listener in a state of transcendent triumph. Woods 5 cannot enjoy the same benefit; this album is inseparable in tone and spirit from its creator’s untimely passing. More pithy and focused than its predecessor, Woods 5 delves deep into the dealings of death. Many of these songs are concerned with life’s sudden cessation; that their content should be prophetic is really, truly and almost unbearably sad.
Woods 4 was an interstellar leap for Woods of Ypres. Woods 5 is a logical progression, a honing of the unique style the band had carved and a consolidation of David Gold's skills and prowess. The album represents a searing synergy of songwriting mastery, righteous riffs and fathomless vocals. The shorter compositions are tightly focused, circling closely around the band’s mid-paced, blackened doom prerogative.
“Lightning and Snow” and “Adora Vivos” display the full strength of David Gold’s vision, melding an almost nonchalant, chugging black metal vibe with screamed vocals. “Traveling Alone” and “Silver” are marked by irresistible and unforgettable vocal performances; rhythms, riffs and lead guitars melt together in the absolute purpose of song. Joel Violet’s excellent melodic leads are woven into the fabric of “Death is not an Exit,” its mid-paced march directly evoking Katatonia. Some tracks, like “Alternate Ending” and “Finality” are driven almost entirely by Joel Violet’s piano and David Gold's superlative drumming; the guitars are absent or buried deep in bereavement.
Woods 5 sees David Gold harmonizing against himself continually, overlaying deep prognostications with singing in a higher octave. The effect is spectacular and unique, marred only rarely by moments where the vocals reach for an impossibly low note and come up just short. David Gold also performed all of the drumming on the album; the rhythms are nuanced and organic with an almost impatient punk bounce. Even at its slowest moment of dirge, Woods 5 is still filled with a rhythmic urgency that deflects any funereal fatigue.
Woods 5 wraps sorrow and loss in sonic explosives; this is an album that begs for blasting and demands banging of the head. It stands as a reflection of its creator's indomitable spirit that such staunch morosity is so utterly uplifting. David Gold was a songwriter of the utmost skill; Woods 5 is an indelible, infectious sign of his craft. RIP David Gold.
Woods 5 is available now via Earache Records.