Woods of Ypres - IV: The Green Album (Earache/Riot)

Unrelentingly soul-destroying, the Canadian quartet's fourth offering (even as a re-release from 2009) is a slab of innovative yet infinitely intriguing doom metal depression.

Interestingly, Woods of Ypres seem like a band that merely stands on the shoulder of giants upon initial listens. There are hints of Katatonia’s urban melancholy here, Novembers Doom style crushing riffery there and My Dying Bride overwhelming gloom thrown in for good measure. But once you delve beyond the artifice, this Canadian gothic doom quartet has an uncanny mastery on misery from the minute to the magnificent. The opener Shards of Love is shrouded in bleakness lamenting the loss of a love made relevant for the 21st Century – it’s a mood that few bands can manage to evoke with even a modicum of realism, especially in the emasculating fashion that the band attempts to communicate.

From the funereal piano-driven I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery and right through to the end, it’s this new decade’s answer to Green Carnation’s evocative magnum opus Light of Day, Day of Darkness. There’s an overarching and overt cynicism that anchors this disc that’s equal parts seething anger and morose despondence. The uplifting track Wet Leather sums up their outlook succinctly in a brutally simplistic fashion – “Life is just pain and piss – it’s nothing that I will miss and everything is a scam.”

The potential drawbacks to this record are the indie approach to the lyricism – although I found it refreshing not being bombarded by bogus Baudelaire every ten seconds. Woods of Ypres have eked out every potential lick of contemporary longing and emptiness through heavy assaults of mammoth riffs, clean acoustic lamentations and even choice lashings of oboe and cello. David Gold’s resonant clean bass-register singing almost steamrolls anything that Aaron Stainthorpe or Nick Holmes have produced in recent times (as much as I loathe to admit it), leaving instead a minimalistic approach to growls as accompaniment, punctuating riffs at opportune moments.

It’s hard to say I felt excited over this record despite the consistent and almost life-dragging grimness that flows through the entire disc – but it’s a testament to the longevity of doom metal in its almost half century (if we’re counting Black Sabbath as the original doom metal band, that is) and is certainly a worthy addition to the exalted doom metal canon.