Woods of Ypres // Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Reflections on a grave
Label: Earache Records
Websites: myspace.com
Release Dates: EU: 2012.02.03 | US: 03.06.2012 (?)

Life (and death) can certainly be strange. How else do you explain one of 2011’s most unfortunate events giving rise to 2012’s most unusual listening experience. As you may know, Woods of Ypres singer/guitarist David Gold was killed in a car accident late last year, shortly after completing work on this album, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light. Those familiar with the group’s material and Gold’s songwriting, know there was always a lyrical preoccupation with loss and death and Gold frequently wrote about his own demise. These morbid reflections continue here, and with his passing, many of the songs take on an eerie, prophetic quality that’s tough to overlook. In essence, this feels like an album written in full awareness the end was near and intended as a posthumous goodbye. Trying to look beyond the dark cloud hanging over this release is ultimately impossible due to the subject matter, lyrics and overall mood of the thing itself.

Though once a black metal unit, Woods has slowly moved into a more doom-centric space and Woods 5 is morose doom rock with only faint black metal inflections remaining. The sound is much closer to that of Sentenced, Cemetary, Charon and Type O Negative and seems like a logical progression from 2009’s Woods 4. The songs are mostly downcast, depressing examinations of emotional isolation, personal loss and coming to terms with death. Many of them are painstakingly poignant and raw, even heartbreaking. The realization that this is the last we’ll hear from Woods of Ypres as we know them, and that the fate of the band is in limbo without Gold, is unpleasant to be sure. Thankfully, this is an outstanding release and a fitting  close to a chapter, come what may.

Woods of Ypres opts to get the only “light” song over with immediately and “Career Suicide (is Not Real Suicide)” is a fast paced, goth-doom rocker much like what Sentenced was penning during their Cold White Light period. It’s catchy and amusing in a wry, sardonic way and gives a false impression of good times ahead. Once that ends, the remainder of Woods 5 is an exceedingly dark journey to unhappy places, with Gold acting as glum tour guide. “Traveling Alone” sets the tone with one of Woods of Ypres finest moments of songcraft. Gold delivers a vocal and lyrical performance more grim, cold and depressive than anything the most obscure, basement dwelling black metal band could ever create, yet it remains memorable and catchy. Likewise, “Alternate Ending” and “Finality” are gut-wrenching odes to despondency and misery with lyrics that make you shake your head at how insightful they came to be (the closing of “Alternate Ending” is particularly emotional). Even the songs that are “pro-life” like “Death is Not an Exit” and “Adora Vivos” are still bleak in their own way (not to mention, darkly ironic).

The album closes with the two-part opus “Kiss My Ashes Goodbye” (no, I’m not making this up). While Woods explored this territory before on such uplifting classics as “I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetary” and “By The Time You Read This (I Will Already Be Dead),” it’s much more difficult now (for me at least) to listen to Gold’s “when I’m gone” lyrics. Not feel good material by any stretch, but its powerful and intriguing in a way few other songs will ever be.

As a doom album, this works so well due to Gold’s emotional delivery and his deep, baritone vocals, reminiscent of the late, great Peter Steele. He rarely employs harsh vocals since the bulk of Woods 5 is somber, introspective music, ill-suited to scalding black rasps. The guitar-work by Joel Violette and Gold is appropriately doomy and mournful, only occasionally ramping up to aggressive tempos. The inclusion of violins on “Finality” and the slight orchestration on “Kiss My Ashes” really ups the ante on gloom and despair and will likely kill whatever hope the listener has left. Likewise, the subtle piano segments are effectively glum. Despite these frills, Woods 5 still feels like a very minimalist, stripped-down record. It’s simple, uncomplicated and direct in its approach and benefits greatly from it.

There’s no denying Woods 5 gained significant emotional weight due to events preceding its release. Though its destined to be Gold’s “ghost” album from here on, it would have been a very impressive release anyway and arguably their best to date. There won’t be many other albums this emotionally crippling, that’s for sure. At the end of things, this stands as a most fitting headstone for the man, and possibly the band. R.I.P. David Gold.

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  • I preorderd the album a while back…and release date in march?! Gahhhh Oh well, good review man! sucks i only heard about this band when David gold sadly past away, I heard some songs on there and to be honest i cried a bit. I never cried over music. This is some seriously powerful music. That grips the soul and make a grown man cry.

    • No doubt, Eddy, it’s an emotionally raw piece of music.

  • Great review. You actually put more depth in your review then I did mine because I struggled with coming up with the right words to reflect the emotions this album drew out of me. I was in the midst of talks with David about an interview shortly before  his passing and still have the correspondence so that personal level really resonated strongly when listening to this. On that note this album easily has become one of my top 5 albums I’ve ever listened too if i was to ever make a list. Highly recommended.

    • Thanks, Rob. It was a tough review to write.

  • Anonymous

    I heard only about this band after the singer died, and I only listened to the previous album, IV. Even when this is not my favorite kind of music, I have to say that it is a very good worked material, and I want to try the new release as soon as I can.

  • So far this is my favorite album of the year. So glad to see you guys liked it too!!

  • Juular

    Great review. I think you handled it a lot better than most others have (including myself).

  • David Damien

     Excellent review of an excellent album. I’ve had high hopes for this band for a while and when they finally make the record I knew they had in them it’s most likely their last. It’s also difficult to listen to this album without feeling emotionally raped at times due to the tragic death of David Gold and it’s foreshadowing in almost every song. One of my Favorite Metal vocalists is Peter Steele and one of the thing’s that first drew me in to this band was Gold’s ability to sing in the same range as Steele and now they’re both gone. And what’s strange is both vocalists Wrote many songs about their own demise and death in general. It’s a strange fuckin’ world.

  • I’m at a loss for words. That was crushingly beautiful. I’ve always liked music that could garner an emotional response, but I’ve never felt it to such a degree.  Great review Mr. Druhm. R.I.P. David Gold.

  • Incredible cd.  So terrible a loss.  RIP…

  • Anonymous

    never heard of these guys before, wow amazing.
    i was checking out the album on you tube, listed to Death is not an exit….
    a relative of mine committed suicide a day ago…….  

    full on……

    • Wow, very sorry for your loss. This is a very depressive album, thats for sure.

      • Anonymous

        thanks for your kind words,

        the really crap thing will be, because im stuck in Australia i bet you it will be almost impossible to buy the album. why make the legal way a thousand times harder then the illegal way!!!!!

        • Doesn’t it show up on itunes or something?

          • Anonymous

            if they dont have a record label that distributes to OZ then nope(most “non popular” metal bands dont)…..  unless i run itunes via a US proxy/etc. But they watch for these, so you really have to buy a VPS (virtual private server) and setup a proxy yourself.  normally cant buy off Amazon/etc either.

            some times i get lucky and i can get it off cdbaby

          • That really sucks! I didn’t realize it was still such a challenge to get albums in the age of MP3 and downloads.

  • OzanCan

    definitely the album of the month! Great band, great albums, and a great loss unfortunately :(

  • OzanCan

    definitely the album of the month! Great band, great albums, and a great loss unfortunately :(

  • Andrew Austin

    Finally giving this a listen after just having had “Travelling Alone” in my head for a while… it was worth the wait. Definitely worth the 4.5.

  • Well I bought it and…musically its okay. But the lyrics and context made it a truly harrowing listen.   And the lyrics even explicitly states that he thinks that its pointless to revere the dead because they dont exist.

    So it is some kind off double standard from fans that David Gold’s death changes the whole listening experience?
    It just felt uncomfortable to listen too and it made you think. 
    The music didnt stick with me though. Doesnt quite have the same melodic savvy as ToN for example. Maybe I should listen to it again.
    Its a record that adresses and foreshadows Gold’s death.