Age of Woe – Envenom Review

Five years ago, Swedish doom peddlers Age of Woe threw down their second album, An Ill Wind Blowing, and I will always associate that album with another ill wind that blew through my home: Hurricane Matthew. Just like the latter ill wind battered and bludgeoned its way through the Bahamas, Haiti, and most of Florida, the former Ill Wind battered and bludgeoned my eardrums with some pretty hefty and sludgy doom goodness. Now with Rotten Sound‘s Keijo Niinimaa replacing longtime guitarist Gonzo Incognito, they’ve come back to batter and bludgeon me once more with Envenom, forty minutes of sludgy, grimy, thunderous doom. “Bring it,” I said.

And “Inferno” brought it shortly upon those two words leaving my lips. Marrying their Gothenburg death metal roots in Sven Lindsten’s At The Gates-style drumming in the verses, the death-‘n-roll of classic Entombed in the riffs and Sonny Stark’s gravely howls, and the overwhelming muck of their prior output, “Inferno” grooves as hard as it pummels, which is to say pretty damn hard. Hell, they were even nice enough to throw in some cowbell for you! You can never go wrong with cowbell, damnit!

You also can’t go wrong with a good hook, which Envenom thankfully possesses in good quantity. “Patriarch” takes its sweet time dragging you along like fresh roadkill, but as it drags you along, you’ll eventually fall into the song’s slow, pummeling groove. “A Feral Swarm,” easily Envenom‘s most straight-forward song, takes the classic Wolverine Blues style, and goes hard and deep with it, ensuring a sprained neck or three. But it’s album highlight (and Song o’ the Year candidate) “Storm” where Age of Woe throws down their best hand. With some of the tightest riffing, an amazing pre-chorus that’s equally heavy and catchy, an even heavier and catchier chorus (“Our time, our storm”) that sees Lindsten going absolutely apeshit on his kit in the final chorus, “Storm” goes for the throat and refuses to let go for the song’s entirety, and stands out as Age of Woe‘s statement of intent.


But a few things hold Envenom back a bit. The three evenly-distributed instrumentals (“Förpestningen,” “Avgrunden,” and “Förbittringen,” in order of appearance) are too short (under a minute each), and don’t have enough in them to justify them being there. In fact, they detract from the overall listening experience. Not as much as the tone of the lead guitar, however. In some instances, it’s fine, but in certain tracks like “Ghosts Who Hunt Alone” and “Patriarch,” it sounds more like a keyboard patch than an actual guitar, which is more than slightly off-putting. Finally, even though it clocks in at a svelte 40 minutes and some change, some songs still outstay their welcome, such as closer “Ljungeld,” which drags on for a bit too long at over seven minutes. It’s an odd thing to say for a relatively short album, but a bit of trimming here and there wouldn’t hurt things.

Don’t let any of the above dissuade you from checking Envenom out, however. The pros far outweigh, outclass, and tower over the cons, and Age of Woe continue to exhibit growth as both musicians and songwriters. Envenom, when it hits, hits hard and with deadly force. Also, if “Storm” is any indication, we could very well have a beast on our hands come the next album. In that case, keep swinging for the fences, guys. I’m digging what I’m hearing, and if you like your sludge to groove and pummel, you will too.

 


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: ageofwoe.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ageofwoe
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

« »