It’s probably considered bad form to use the term “wow” to describe a what is essentially a doom metal album but… well… wow. Not since Theatre Tragedy’s first two albums – which aren’t nearly as gothic as folks like to think – has a gloom laden record dug its hooks in this deep and dragged me in so completely. A lush and epic soundtrack to personal demise, Woods 4 features frontman / founder David Gold twisting things in unexpected fashion, having exchanged the black metal-inspired vibe of Woods III: Deepest Roots And Darkest Blues for a oft-times slower, brazenly progressive and ultimately heavier album. Very Devin Townsend of him in fact, as Gold continues his own tradition of not playing to expectation. Lines can be drawn to Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus in particular, and the Theatre Of Tragedy comparison holds merit in that one doesn’t have to be a fan of the deep and dark to get into Woods IV. The band has concocted a record that blurs the “doom” line without disrespecting the required genre dynamics as outlined by the purists. Some will bitch of course, but I’m currently looking into patenting can-openers for the mind.
With the exception of a handful of songs – most notably ‘Wet Leather’, the bookend for ‘Your Ontario Town Is A Burial Ground’ from the last record and future crowd pleaser – Woods 4 is a slow-to-mid tempo record big on atmosphere even when it’s beating you about the head. Gold’s clean voice is front and center from beginning to end, thus reducing the black metal attack some fans were anticipating, but his growls do make welcome appearances throughout. See ‘Halves And Quarters’ and ‘Natural Technologies’ for the full treatment. Lead-off track ‘Shards Of Love’ is a slow hook-laden build into the proceedings featuring a vocal performance that would make Crash Test Dummies singer Brad Roberts envious, keeping things swamp heavy through ‘Everything I Touch Turns To Gold’ and ‘By The Time You Read This’ before opening up in classic Solitude Aeturnus fashion on ‘I Was Buried In Mount Pleasant Cemetery’ (Gold’s trademark per-album Canadiana shout-out). From there it’s impossible to predict where the music will go, as Woods Of Ypres flirt with everything from strains of folk (‘You Are Here With Me’) to pre-hype Type O Negative (‘Don’t Open The Wounds’) to black metal (‘Natural Technologies’) and full-on street level shred. Yes indeed; guitars everywhere, leads and solos abound. Special mention goes to ‘Dirty Window Of Opportunity’, the mid-album point of light that offers an unintentional musical summary of the entire record during its four minute stretch.
The Green Album is a grower, no pun intended, and like it’s humble slide into gear it does so slowly. It’s foolish to assume, however, that because you don’t care for doom metal you won’t find anything of worth inside. On the contrary, stick around long enough and you’ll wonder why Woods Of Ypres continue to be an unsigned act in an industry choked by bands / artists that don’t even come close to this level of creativity.