Woods 4: The Green Album is a paean to the art of songwriting, a hymn to the almighty riff and a testament to the power of David Gold's voice. The album serves up a smoked metal beast dipped in a batter of doom and blackness. More morose than Katatonia in December and more uplifting than an F5 tornado, Woods 4 demands a front-to-back listen every time I spin it. Originally released in 2009 via Practical Art Records, Woods 4 is getting a much deserved re-issue from Earache.
Calling this music depressive would be an oversimplification. These songs are grim missives on life's inherent misery, but they are also charged with sardonic wit and an empowering poetic strength. Chugging dirges move towards crushing crescendo and lamentations explode into monumental, memorable riffs. You can feel your fists ball up and your head bang unbidden. Give Woods 4 a few listens, and you'll be singing along (albeit poorly, in my case). In the end, this is the sound of triumph, survival and rebirth.
David Gold's vocals are the key to Woods 4's brilliance. Frankly, he's a man's man; his deep, resonant voice will never make you cringe in embarrassment. Like a select pantheon of metal vocalists (Phil Anselmo and Peter Steele come to mind), David Gold can flat-out sing in the lower register. Not all the vocals are clean; there are quite a few passages of growled malevolence, occasionally layered under the singing to create a satisfying tension.
Woods 4 is built on mid-paced compositions, driven by a flawless rhythm section and a near perfect concoction of crunchy distortion. Traditional solos add melodic accents and evoke classic metal memories. Clean guitars are broken out in good measure, along with righteous piano passages and some innocuously executed cello and oboe.
The longest songs are bunched at the beginning of the album, offering a potential barrier to a cursory listen. Wade into and through these songs, and you'll be rewarded. Some of the more compact and concise tracks are the most impressive. “Wet Leather” is an infinitely memorable, thumping little ditty, letting us know that “life is just pain and piss, it's nothing that I will miss.” Slap that on a t-shirt, and I'll take two.
Starting with the agonizing sorrow that is “Shards of Love” and ending with the pulverizing cynicism of “Move On,” Woods 4 is a massive 78 minute journey of discovery. “And I am Pining (For You)” appears to be a simple lament of lost love. In truth it is the ultimate take-down, telling us that “What I thought was so unique about you must be common after all. I am constantly reminded of you, everywhere I go.” Nothing here is simple; nothing can be taken at face value. Grab the lyrics sheet, and ponder this on the tree of woe.
Woods 4 is an album to commune with and devour in the darkness. I've lived with it for the better part of a year, and it maintains every ounce of its power. Shockingly, each and every song is filled with memorable moments; there isn't an ounce of gristle to be found in the album's 16 tracks. Woods of Ypres have concocted an endlessly listenable metal experience; Woods 4 is a masterpiece to my ears.
Woods 4: The Green Album is out via Earache Records on March 14th in Europe and March 22th in North America.
You can hear a couple of choice tracks and check out the video for “I Was Buried In Mount Pleasant Cemetery” below:
Woods of Ypres are heading out on a short tour in support of the Earache release of Woods 4: