Friday, January 28, 2011

Woe--Quietly, Undramatically

Black metal has often mystified me with how terrible it is and how devoted its collective fan base is.  My earliest excursions into black metal were in high school, when my good buddy Ed and I would hang out in his garage and listen to Burzum and Mayhem albums for some reason.  I remember very clearly that I hated both of these bands; the buzzsaw guitars and lo-fi recording styles were unsettling and only held the most superficial and oblique resemblance to music (at least to my then-unrefined ear).  I recently got the gumption to go back and revisit these tomes with my newer, fancier, 6-million-dollar ear and higher tolerance for abrasiveness, and lo and behold, Burzum and Mayhem still suck.  Like, hard.  I guess I'll never grow out of my youthful distaste for shitty music.  I wanted to appear like this (to avoid ridicule for something that people seemed to like):

 You pigs don't know the feeling of true hate or liberation through Satan

But I actually felt like this:
My resemblance to a gorilla has always been striking

American black metal, however, tends to be something that I can stomach much better.  Nachtmystium have a couple of albums that I really enjoyed, and their live show is a lot of fun (though I don't think I've ever seen them live without being at least 4 beers deep).  I've gotten to meet Blake Judd a handful of times and he seems pleasant enough for someone with a self-professed drug problem.  The point is that American black metal takes more chances and generally seems to forsake the tr00ness of its Scandinavian counterpart in favor of writing good songs with good riffs.  Such a disparity between music of the same genre seems to be nonexistent across other forms of metal; black metal has become a malleable form of entertainment that has no real defining characteristics other than hissing vocals and (usually) a couple of parts with washing-machine blast beats.  Look at Kvelertak and Alcest.  They aren't even metal!  But they get black metal cred just because they use the flaming pterodactyl vocal attack that is inextricably tied to the grimmest music that white people could devise.

Which brings me, finally, to Woe.

Woe is a Pennsylvania-based American (duh) black metal band that I actually love.  Their album Quietly, Undramatically knocked my socks off the first time I heard it, during a brief overnight excursion to Slam Antonio to hang with my grimmest Cake-bro Van Damned.  After a night of drinking and watching a set by a Dad-Rock band (all blues, all poorly played, all the time), we settled in to his apartment to drink Four Loko and listen to the hottest new tracks.  Van was ranting and raving about this new band he had found, and how they had written the most awesome song ever.  He put it on, and the title track from Quietly, Undramatically started pumping through the speakers.  As soon as I could, I picked up the album.

Woe shrug off the shackles of black metal and, instead of being slave to grimness, write songs.  Songs that rule.  Worry not; they are still pretty grim.  But the music is not a lo-fi series of tracks that sound like somebody being attacked at a beekeeper's ranch, but a series of dynamic and arresting songs.  And, much to my delight, they languish in D-beat.  And you know how I feel about D-beat.  I'm staunchly in favor of it!  It's a welcome change of pace for my D-boner to be corpsepainted and frowning rather than just regular old angry. 

I alluded to the title track being awesome above, remember?  It totally is.  And the album is full of really great music with good riffs and even *gasp* well-executed and appropriate CLEAN SINGING.  I feel odd talking about well-executed and appropriate clean singing; it's like having a sexual attraction to the Bigfoot in those blurry old photos.  Such feelings toward the mythical North American Ape Man shouldn't exist, and neither should good clean singing, particularly within the confines of black metal.  But lo and behold, Woe joins the ranks of Anaal Nathrakh by including acceptable forays into clean singing, and I find myself more and more willing to ignore the earthy stink of a hairy man-beast so that I may learn more of his primitive tenderness and simple, taking-a-dump-in-the-forest lifestyle.
Teach me to love again, and also how to find the tastiest variety of tree root
It's beautiful.

Quietly, Undramatically is a dynamic and textured foray into The Grim.  The frowning visages of the practitioners of black metal may put you off, but I feel like smiling when I listen to Woe, because somebody is finally doing it right.  Find it to steal for yourself; I have a date with a bipedal man-beast.

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