It’s as if a new black metal band emerges from America every day, always with long song lengths and minimalistic ideas. Before I know it, a band is in their third album cycle before I’ve given them the time of day, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to care about every other Ash Borer clone that pops out of the wilderness. But this band deserves attention because they’re one of the few to really get what music like this should be about – energy and atmosphere.
Music like this is arguably unambitious, but Woman is the Earth excel not due to their lack of ambition, but for their use of brevity in a positive way. By the end of the 24 minutes of Depths, I didn’t once feel cheated, or that the album needed more content. I have no doubt that other bands with stylistic similarities would have doubled the length of their album, but using the same amount of ideas Woman is the Earth utilize here. The simplistic nature of this album is complimented by their concise approach, and it’s about time more bands of this ilk understood this.
There’s little complexity to the compositions here, and that’s okay, because it isn’t dragged into the fourteenth hour like Fell Voices and Encircling Sea would do. It’s as straight-forward as black metal gets for most of its runtime, but it has a genuinely enthralling atmosphere due to the raw production that compliments the organic, unrefined energy the album radiates. It’s compelling right from the beginning and it dispels whatever triteness the music might have suffered from, thereby allowing the music to shine through. It would be rather easy for Depths to fall into crudeness due to how unrefined it is, which is what ruined the first Wolves in the Throne Room demo. Not so though – if you look for it, there is a fair amount of diversity and decent songwriting twists, all of which are handled admirably.
The first of the two longer tracks is the most immediate; “Crown & Bone/Dreamer” creates a wall of dark cosmic and blistering black metal. But it’s as exhilarating as it is easy to get lost in – you blink and you’re suddenly eight minutes in, wondering where the time went. The song moves naturally into a slower, more melancholic hymn with an undercurrent of beauty countering the darkness ever so well, reminding strongly of Xasthur, but with an oddly uplifting spin. “Child of Sky” really brings this uplifting feel to the forefront and it’s absolutely glorious, and very effective after the atmosphere the first two tracks established. The song is filled to the brim with soaring riffs which are as evocative as they are huge, and you’ll want to spin the it again when it ends.
With the ten minute tracks surrounding it, you may be forgiven for thinking track two, “Lifted”, is a mere four minute interlude, but that would be a mistake. It is instead an essential part that the album would be lost without. The clean guitars keep the raw aesthetic going, a rough-around-the-edges tinge contrasting the beautiful melodies and interplay between them. The other two songs feature similarly minimalistic black metal with an often blistering pace, highly distorted rhythm work and without much leadwork to speak of (perhaps one of this album’s few weaknesses). They do, however, make up for this with subtle synths that float over the maelstrom and add a much-appreciated cloud of melancholy. The vocals, highly obscured by the haze of lo-fi production and the general bombast of the rest of the instrumentation, add a visceral energy to the experience, despite not playing the most active of roles.
In its simplest terms, Depths is a well thought out and passionate album with no bells and whistles. It doesn’t need to be anything more and I’m thankful it isn’t. Not only is it refreshing in its succinctness for even the most seasoned of USBM fans, but it’s also a perfect starting point for the genre. A great effort from a band to watch.