The USBM scene has been rather slow this past year – hitting its climactic peak with Wolves in the Throne Room’s “Two Hunters” and stopping while the getting was good (I consider Velnias more doom than anything). A few months ago on MySpace (I know…) a band by the name of Woe added me. Judging by the logo and the title of the then-future release “A Spell for the Death of Man,” I simply passed the band off as either a Darkthrone/Immortal worshipping band, or some sort of hazy bedroom black metal project.
Then, a few weeks ago, Woe main man Xos sent out a notification offering a free promotional digital copy of “Spell” for reviewers, so I decided, what the hell, I might as well give this a try. I needed some more black metal anyway; I’ve been stuck in sort of an indie rock/post-rock/shoegaze rut for the past 2 months or so. Not that that’s a bad thing.
I’m definitely glad I gave Woe a chance – this is by far one of the more crushing and powerful black metal releases I’ve heard.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Woe delivers a highly misanthropic, folk-tinged sort of atmospheric raw black metal, ranging from dreamy stand alone wall-of-noise guitars to blasting full-on oppressive black metal.
In this recording, Xos concentrates more on guitar and drum work above everything, with vocals semi-buried into the mix, sounding like a howling wind (which is very nice, by the way). Emotion is key on this album, accentuating the depression and misanthropy of the author. Yes, I said the taboo word in this review: depression, but this isn’t a “depressive” black metal release per se. It is sad, but not the whole recorded-on-a-4-track-recorder-in-my-bedroom-with-wailing-and-whimpering depressive black metal that everyone immediately thinks of. Imagine Drudkh jamming with Wolves in the Throne Room and a crust punk band, and you’re halfway there.
Xos’s drumming on “Spell” is highly technical; full of blast beats, drum rolls, complex beat changes, and the like. The percussion definitely adds that extra “oomph” when it comes to intensity. Perhaps my favorite moment on the CD is a short burst of almost Envy-like post-hardcore/screamo in “Longing is all that Will Remain.”
Definitely a wonderful start for Woe, and I can’t wait to see what Xos cooks up for future releases.
Recommended for fans of: Panopticon, Drudkh, Wolves in the Throne Room, Darkthrone, early Agalloch, Wrath of the Weak, Njiqahdda, and Velnias