Woods of Ypres - _Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth_
(Krankenhaus Records, 2004)
by: T. DePalma (4 out of 10)
Much has changed for Canada's Woods of Ypres since 2002's _Against All Seasons_ was released and showered with praise for its blend of melodic black metal with a pensive doom quality. In the time that followed various complications grew to the band being put on hold, and as other members eventually left, Woods of Ypres was shaved down to its backbone: founder/drummer David Gold, who according to the liner notes has written and performed everything for this full-length release with the exception of keyboards played by Jessica Ross.

_Pursuit of the Sun..._ is a concept album of ten tracks that the artist recommends to stay with from start to finish upon the first listen. These new recordings reflect a definite sharpening of vision dubbed "Summer Black Metal" -- but while this latest categorical tag may raise a few eyebrows, it is ultimately unconvincing. In fact, there is little here to connect with black metal as a genre -- save the occasionally aggressive passage that resembles the demo material, though now wrapped in a more separate atmosphere, leaving the phrase a kind of shallow enterprising. On the upside, it can be said that this new sound more adequately matches the lyrics, which continue to convey Woods of Ypres' sentimentalist philosophy, and though there are noticeably strong influences throughout, the music may be coming more appropriately into its own. That aside, I found difficulty in keeping to Gold's instruction.

Performance wise, almost every bit this album, from ringing nylon to rumbling bass, is performed with a high quality of musicianship, and easily noticeable due to the unclouded production standards. Only the vocals are distracting in terms of actual execution, but they eventually work to impede on _Pursuits_ attractiveness. It's safe to say that once you're within the range of the album's fifth track (already 25 minutes in) you will be impressed enough to go on or be almost excruciatingly bored by these iterate ballads.

The formulaic path that each song continues off on consists of acoustic interludes that enter with the echoes of rustling distortion in tow, tailing the dreamy, golden aesthetic of those slowly pondering notes. "The Looming of Dust in the Dark" and "The Will to Give" capture this slow building atmosphere of personal reflection perfectly, and with a more forceful tone than anything else that follows, with the latter track having an anthemic, nearly power metal feel. The essence of this music is not dark, but moody and blue. The vocals which propel this narrative predominantly dwell in the lower pitch of monotonous Vintersorg worship and sound straining as well as occasionally off key. The theme here seems to be a miscue of judgment, not absence of skill -- Gold is capable of singing clean, but sounds much more convincing when screaming or growling, and no matter what part of the writing process has called for the former to be used in its excess, it exposes him as overextended. Similar in this respect is the album's constant falling back on the garish effect of the acoustic guitar -- strumming pretty, hopeful verses that fade in every five minutes or so, in one case following a session of Immortal-esque storm blasting ("Dragged Across a Forest Floor"). There's a disingenuous quality at play here, not for the mere pairing of these generally polar voices, and not because these more subtle moments of introspection are perhaps beautiful, but because they are a cliché of "beautiful".

At the heart of _Pursuit of the Sun..._ is an episodic statement of will in the face of severed relationships, but it's apparent sincerity becomes a cloying, dull expression of torrid metaphors. At over an hour's length, the album provides a handful of interesting tracks that may find an ear with fans of the band's demo; however, this new sound will most likely find more of connection among those already enjoying similar projects like Agalloch and Opeth.

Contact: http://www.woodsofypres.ca

(article published 19/11/2004)


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