“White Ward perform intensely deviant music of a noir shade”, I read. From Odessa in Ukraine, they have been doing their post black metal thing since 2012, have released a couple of EP’s and are now releasing their second album.
This gnaws away at the brain like tooth decay. The title track starts with sirens and sinister piano sounds. A sad and distant saxophone signals the image of urban decay, rain, and glistening empty pavements, a view reinforced by the drab picture on the album cover. This is very reminiscent of Netra’s Sørbyen. The scene explodes and turns into a violent exposé of post black metal. It is dynamic. That utterly sinister sax infused scene finally returns us to gloom and greyness, before the track ends with shivering and indistinct cosmic sounds. Powerful intensity mixes with the melancholy of the distant saxophone. “Dead Heart Confession” continues to fuel the fire with its thunderous start but this post metal is not the kind that builds up gradually. Passages sway between fiery anger and obscure greyness. There are rampant guitar passages but they never detract from the overall aura. Our mind is made to work, as another gloomy score with a faintly distinguishable voice mixes with the black scene. That lonely sounding piano then sets the tone for the sinister echoes of “Shelter”. If the intended effect is to disturb us, it works. The piano becomes more bizarre, and the echoing wall of sound in the background becomes more piercing and extreme. Strange. As “Shelter” is disturbed, “No Cure for Pain” is depressing. The slow sax line that starts it reeks mourning, death and decay. All the while it is about loneliness, grey solitary rooms and sadness. But then three and a half minutes in, there is an explosion of fiery black metal anger. Musically it’s powerful and epic, developing at one point into a highly charged rock solo.
Stylistically it’s a mix as effect takes precedence over generic style, and accordingly “No Cure for Pain” is a dynamic track of twelve minutes duration. All these movements may be too much for some, but it’s all within the framework of epic black metal intensity. The flames are fanned finally, and the saxophone leads us out with another melancholic jazz sequence, this time evolving into an epic finale. Melancholia returns very quickly with the edgy and tense “Surfaces and Depths”. This time we have a vulnerable clean vocal. There’s something old-fashioned about this. The archaic piano adds to the atmosphere. The drum adds authority and calm, while the saxophone creates visions of despair and hopelessness. “Surfaces and Depths” shows another side of this multi-faceted band. The song ends in epic style. As if White Ward haven’t played with enough, a lonely echoing voice starts the final monstrous twelve minute piece “Uncanny Delusions”. The harsh growls cut in. The saxophone plays its tune before the song switches over to raw and harsh black metal and a dark spoken section. I suppose the band could be accused of making all these changes without rhyme or reason, and in pure terms the structure could be more cohesive, but this is an epic work and we are taken to different emotional heights and depths. From fire and anger we go back to anguish and despair, and the nocturnal melancholy of that haunting saxophone, and one final off the wall contribution from White Ward, who may depict boring worlds but themselves have imaginative energy in abundance.
So many moods, so many ideas. This is a remarkable album. It is angry. It is depressive. It is melancholic. It is epic. “Love Exchange Failure” is thought-provoking, absorbing and hugely atmospheric.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)