This was my first experience of Woe, a USBM band who feature none other than former Krieg drummer Chris Grigg (and now also Shawn Eldridge of Funebrarum/Disma on drums, though it seems that he doesn’t feature on this, their third full length effort). Unlike their name might suggest the Woe guys don’t deal in the jolly funeral black metal as I’d initially expected, but instead rely on a totally rocking, yet thoroughly engaging force of black metal fury with a few nods to a more hypnotic vibe in some of their arrangements. However, this fuzzy, mesmerizing introspection is without shoegaze style wussing out, or any pulling on of woolly jumpers and acoustic guitars for a bit of an old cry about life. They merely build interesting soundscapes and repetitive riffs to give an overall vibe, much in the way early Wolves in the Throne room did.
Woe’s raison d’être seems to be to focus their energy on a crazed barrage of riffage, whilst retaining a solid ‘song’ base for each of the seven tracks on offer here. The music is summed up as a raging storm of guitars which forms in thick clouds in each song, linked together by the odd bits of thrashy riffage (see ‘Carried by Waves to Remorseless Shores of the Truth’), but always crackling with electrical darkness and a positively unrelenting intent. Melodies shine free, with guitars occasionally interweaving 2 differing melodious riffs at once to make some really interesting musical pieces. There’s plenty of early Nachtmystium to be heard in the riffage, as well as nods to the likes of Krallice whilst maintaining their own comfortable boundaries and vibe. The percussion relies a lot on showering a torrent of unforgiving blasting upon you, which acts as a strong (if not entirely distinctive for the most part) backbone to the riffs, which are the body of the band’s sound, similar in ways to Emperor when they used to go full on, pedal to the metal (just without their ever present accompanying symphonics). The vocals are set pretty low in the mix and sometimes become one with the mass of constantly hissing guitars, but admittedly do stand out when going clean (which they do not often enough for my liking, as they sound very similar to Garm who is one of my favourite BM vocalists of all time, for both clean and harsh styles).
The majority of the music on “Withdrawal” relies on the shimmering guitars which hit you in constant waves, only breaking for a few staccato riffs before going back into their natural wall of tone that generally commands the entire sweeping intensity of the album. All in all, I think there is a lot to like here. Woe offers a blizzard of riffage set to sub zero temperatures, preserving their melodic temperament and solid arrangements. Well worth a gander for any fans of USBM, or any of the aforementioned bands.
(7/10 Lars Christiansen)