Here we have a black metal album that has a decidedly American flavour to it that includes some minor aspects of post-black metal, hardcore and a pinch of death metal.
The album is heavy, oppressive, full of pissed-off rage and dark atmospheres. The distorted onslaught of compressed blackness is near-relentless – short of a brief interlude, this is an album where the bleak heaviosity of it all is its own reward and the band, quite rightly, don’t ever feel the need to reign this in.
The music alternates between savagely vicious and emotively crushing. To put it another way – the guitars are either scythe-sharp and honed to a frosted killing point, or atmospheric walls of distortion brimming with emotion. The vocals follow a similar route – high pitched screams full of bile and venom, or deep growls charged with negative energy.
Of course, the band mix this up a bit across the album, and it’s not always an either/or scenario, but these are the two main modes in which Woe operate, and both of them are done really, really well. Other aspects of black metal’s canon and vocal styles are touched upon here and there too, for some extra depth of delivery.
When the band concentrate on playing fast and aggressive, the music blurs by in an apoplectic fury. When they slow things down some, they’re no less impressive, with atmospherically emotive riffs ruling the airwaves and really making an impact on the listener.
There’s a lot of engaging content on Hope Attrition, and it’s easy to get your fix of abrasive extremity no matter what your tastes lean to in black metal. Woe play their brutality and aggression just as well as they do their atmosphere and mood. You could quite happily call Hope Attrition ultra-aggressive atmospheric black metal, I suppose, as the album really does combine these two aspects superbly. The key lies in the riffs, more than anything else, and the way they’re put together. The guitars, and the songs by extension, just drip with raw emotion, be that inward-facing negativity or outward-facing anger. Either way, Woe channel these emotions so potently that they simply blow you away with their intensity of feeling.
I should also mention the use of melody on this album – it’s not always in-your-face, but it’s used so well that it feels a natural by-product of the band’s main assault. These melodies, sometimes subtle and sometimes not, are your frequent companions through the darkness that Woe spew forth. They light the way when all hope feels lost and provide misery-tinged solace for the broken minds and damaged personalities that you feel you encounter as you journey through Hope Attrition.
And here’s the thing – like the very best of albums Hope Attrition is a journey. Where to? What will you see? What will you learn? How does it end? Well, the journey is different for everyone, of course, but all I know is that Hope Attrition is a special journey. Woe have done everything right to guide you along it with their harrowing fourth album.
Hope Attrition has blown me away. I’m hooked.