Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

I have been putting off this review. I got my copy of this album over a month ago, and I just have not been able to bring myself to start writing the review. There are several reasons for my procrastination. As I am sure most Woods fans already know, David Gold, the man behind Woods, died in a car accident a few months ago right before Christmas. I was already eagerly awaiting the release of this new album when David passed, so to say I was shocked and devastated by the news would be an understatement.

Knowing that this is the last Woods album, barring a trove of unreleased material, gave me pause. My way of thinking was that if I did not write the review I would still have that to look forward to at some point in the future. The thing that held me back the most though, was reading other people’s write-ups of the album. With the exception of one misguided individual, all the reviews I read gave the album extremely high marks. I whole-heartedly agree with these reviews; “Woods 5” is a masterpiece. The part that bothered me was that if I were to write up how I truly feel about this album, that it is likely the metal album of the year for 2012, people might think that I am either jumping on the bandwagon of praising the deceased, or worse, that I am simply being overly respectful of our fallen comrade. I certainly have the greatest respect for David, but alive or dead I would have loved this album. I have been anticipating “Woods 5” since the middle of last year, but when I got my hands on a copy, it took me over a week to be able to listen to it. Again, I knew this would be my last, first time hearing a Woods album. I know I am being overly sentimental, but that is the way I am with the bands I love the most.

People have said that listening to the album is eerie because it comes across as prophetic due to David's death. Death is certainly a prevalent theme on “Woods 5” and many of the lyrics are salt on such a recent wound. However, I do not think David would not want us to be moping about, pining over the loss. “Adora Vivos”, one of the most poignant tracks, schools us that we should not worship the dead, but rather adore the living. That is sound advice on paper, but is much harder to practice in real life. “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” is another track that drives home the loss.

Woods of Ypres started out playing mostly black metal on the first album, “Against the Seasons: Cold Winter Songs from the Dead Summer Heat.” There were some clean vocals, but mostly it was harsh, ripping vocals over chilling Canadian black metal music. The second and third albums, “Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth” and “Woods III: The Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues” started to bring a slower, cleaner doom element to the forefront, as well as a lot more clean vocals mixed with the harsh. By the time “Woods 4: The Green Album” was released, the harsher vocals were taking a backseat to deep clean vocals akin to End of Green and Type O Negative. The music by this time had evolved far beyond the bands early black metal roots.

“Woods 4” to me was simply a phenomenal album. If you look back on the site you can find my review for the album and how enthralled I was with David’s music. I knew “Woods 5” was going to be something truly remarkable, and it is. These are songs which are heavy, melodic, deep and brooding. Harsh vocals still make an appearance, and they sound perfectly natural side by side with the clean and melodic elements. The lyrics are personal and philosophical; these are not songs to play simply for catchy hooks (though they have them), rather these songs take the listener by the hand and guide them down a path of dark introspection. Anyone who dismisses this album has either not listened closely, or is not a fan of dark metal; this album should not be overlooked. Since breaking the seal and listening to the album I have been unable to stop listening to it; I would be surprised if any other album gets more play on m my iPhone this year. I hope “Woods 5” can be enjoyed as the pinnacle of a talented musician’s career and not be overshadowed by the tragedy that looms so large over its release.

The lyrics for “Adora Vivos” include a line which says “don’t wait till death to sing my praise.” Unfortunately, I think the metal music world waited too long to sing David’s praise. I feel that had he lived this album would have established Woods of Ypres as a major player in the metal world. Now, any success the album enjoys feels tainted by the fact that many people were probably drawn to the album because he died. I guess I am glad that the album is receiving more attention, and more people will hear about Woods, but this album could have received this attention on its own merits, without losing David.

I have already purchased two copies of the CD (the second one was bundled with the t-shirt of the album cover that I really wanted) and this morning found out there are limited edition vinyl copies available too. There were four colors available, silver (limited to 100), blue (limited to 200), snow (white, limited to 300) and black (limited to 400.) The silver and blue have sold out, but I picked up one of the white ones, so now I will have three copies. God this album will sound fantastic on vinyl. If you hurry, you might be able to get snow or black before they sell out too.

Check out “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” on YouTube below. Check out the comments section, aside from a few morons there are many positive comments from fans and a few responses from David’s mother, as well. Her comments left me pretty choked up.

For something a little faster paced, check out "Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)"