Two long years ago I used to write for a small blog called “Etherised Zine.” Though the blog went nowhere fast, I had the honor of reviewing some very fantastic albums; one being Philadelphia progressive black metal band Woe's “A Spell for the Death of Man,” an album I still love and listen to regularly. Unfortunately, like I said, Etherised Zine went down the tubes within the first year of its existence, so I was left without reviewing new music for a good year or so, maybe writing one or two on my own time without having any published.
That is, until last week, when Chris Grigg, formerly “Xos”, of Woe asked me if I was still doing reviews and if I'd like to review his new (read as: masterpiece) album, “Quietly, Undramatically,” that will be released on the metal megalabel Candlelight Records this coming October. So, essentially, Chris Grigg is the reason as to why “The Inarguable” webzine exists, and for that I extend an internet high five to him and all his badassery as well as a promise that I will eventually visit him (along with a handful of other music friends) in Philadelphia.
Woe has been THE United States black metal band to watch for the past few years, unlike a certain band from Olympia who has stolen many bands' 15 minutes in the spotlight. Constructing gigantic riffs with pummeling drums and maniacal vocals, we have all watched Woe climb the success ladder rung by rung to where this band is today. Woe is Chris Grigg of The Green Evening Requiem, Krieg, Algol, Unrest, and a handful of other projects as well as new drummer Evan Madden, also from The Green Evening Requiem, and his brother Shane Madden on bass. Guitarist Matt Moore of fun-time thrash metal band Rumpelstiltskin Grinder and legendary black metal band Absu contributes a guitar solo and classical guitar to the epic “Full Circle”. Woe plays sporadic live shows and has released a demo, an EP, and the aforementioned debut full length, “A Spell for the Death of Man.”
With “Quietly, Undramatically” we see a more stripped-down and original manifestation of Woe, shedding what Grigg called his “European influences.” From the opener onward, each riff is well crafted and has a mix of the “conservative seriousness” of black metal with a nice mix of what someone could call “fun” (listen to “Without Logic”'s relentless grinding and tell me that you don't think it's fun). Filled to the brim with crowd-pleasing, catchy and anthemic numbers such as the track, “Quietly, Undramatically” (listen to that part with the clean vocals!), for which the album is named, and epic, progressive – even “shimmering” songs (the 13 minute epic “Full Circle” is my personal favorite off of the album) demonstrate that Woe is a band of many faces, and Grigg is able to construct each of these sub-personas with ease and grace. Being able to incorporate all of his influences, ranging from post-punk to the most grim and frostbitten black metal, without leaving the listener confused shows an immense talent in Chris Grigg that will most definitely be recognized through this album.
A highlight I mentioned last time I reviewed Woe was the fantastic drum work, and that still remains a constant. With Madden replacing Grigg behind the kit, the listener is bombarded with complex and technical yet tasteful drum work that adds greatly to the grandiose feel of the entire album. Even as a guitarist with zero knowledge of drum technique, I find myself just as enthralled with the drum work presented in “Quietly..” as much as I am with the intricate guitar work. Evan Madden successfully adds an extra layer of musicality and intensity to the entire album with his fantastic drum work (which can also be heard live with Woods of Ypres, small world).
A problem I can see people having with this album is the mix: it is not the “perfect and clean” sound we see with bands like Alcest and the ilk. Here we have something much more natural; something that can be recreated live without excessive microphone and PA tweaking. In a scene where everything must be pristine and magical-sounding, it is good to hear something with that right amount of grit to bring the listener back to reality.
Over the past 2 years or so of first hearing “A Spell...”, I've watched Woe evolve and mature from a great band to something even better. Woe is definitely one of the highlights of the United States black metal scene, and “Quietly, Undramatically” is definitely a contender, at least in my book, for top metal release of 2010.