As a fan of the website, a small part of me wishes that DeviantArt had a section dedicated to unorthodox musical talent. Somewhere where “deviants” can let their creative juices flow, sonically applying brush elements, performing nebula manipulation or perhaps adding a little lens flare. In my mind, this would be where I’d expect to find White Ward. Hailing from Odessa in the Ukraine, White Ward play “deviant music of a noir shade” that roots itself in depressive and Norwegian-styled black metal, post-metal and instrumental jazz. With a series of demo’s and EP’s under their belt, and only lukewarm response thus far, I picked up Futility Report based on its billing as the metallic version of Ulver‘s Perdition City – How could I resist checking that out.
You first make White Ward‘s acquaintance through “Deviant Shapes.” The song introduces itself as a slow and meticulous blending of Obscure Sphinx, Melencolia Estatica and just enough Lifelover to set tiny hairs on the back of your neck twitching. As the track progresses, integrated synth effects stand out more prominently, and clear-cut parallels develop between this and Perdition City. Vocals begin as a convincingly depressive monologue, escalating quickly into traditional monochromatic black metal croaks. The monotony didn’t bother me in the slightest and I tend to believe that excessive vocal theatrics on the part of Andrew Rodin would have detracted from the instrumental infusions. The vocal limitations only serve to prove that White Ward know when to reign themselves in.
Around the 2.29 minute mark, “Deviant Shapes” makes an abrupt change, incorporating Alexey Iskimzhi’s jazz-oriented sax contributions, reminiscent of say, Steely Dan. Perfectly constructed, each note washes over you effortlessly, smooth-as-silk. Though large sections of the song play out as an instrumental, what White Ward are doing is appreciable and not atypical of what you’d get in a more traditional jazz environment. Expect a track that’s uncrowded by unnecessary vocals giving you some much needed mental down-time, a more focused listening experience, letting each note set the mood.
“Stillborn Knowledge” sets the tone of what you can expect from the rest of the album. A handful of songs totaling a nice manageable 40 minutes, all of varied length, beginning in the slow to mid-tempo range with great use of post-metal peaks and valleys. The big focal point of “Stillborn Knowledge” is the death-doom riffing, so distinctly Insomnium, used in the first third of the track. Then there’s the moody intro to “Black Silent Piers” that comes very close to sounding as though it should have been a part of Lake of Tears‘ Black Brick Road sojourn. And finally there’s the contrasting start and finish of the title track. Beginning with a nod to My Dying Bride (Dreadful Hours), the song wraps up with a synth and noise experimental piece as comfortable here as it would be in Ulver‘s discography.
White Ward have used a modern production style, that shifts organically to accommodate the variety of Futility Report. There’s nothing wrong with the production per se, and it’s not a victim of the loudness treatment. That said, only “Rain as a Cure” possesses the dynamics I’d expect of such an “instrumentally focused” release. A part of me is left wishing I could hear a version of Futility Report with all the tracks lifted to this DR9 level or above. Setting this aside, my biggest gripe at the end of my 3-week stint with White Ward is that “Rain as a Cure” has a tendency to become swallowed by “Black Silent Piers,” the former suffering some identity crisis and “Black Silent Piers” becoming a little bloated as a result. It’s a small complaint in the grand scheme of things. Beautiful song construction, varied song lengths and logical flow from one idea to the next, leave you feeling that Futility Report is White Ward‘s finest undertaking thus far. This heartbreaking and adventurous experiment could very well reappear come year end.