After being suitably impressed with the band’s 2015 self-titled EP, I must admit that I’ve been quite excited and looking forward to hearing some more material from them.
Neck of the Woods produce the kind of forward-thinking metal that I can’t help but fall for. With both style and substance, their music is a seemingly effortless blend of aggressive attitude, emotive expression, progressive intellect, and modern flair.
Although progressive metal is a suitable genre tag in many ways, it doesn’t tell the whole story here. Progressive death metal might be more suitable I suppose, but this is also misleading as this isn’t really death metal per se, but mixed with the progressive tag it’s probably more accurate than just calling them progressive metal. Maybe. Bah, what’s in a name, anyway? The truth is that Neck of the Woods are not an easy band to categorise, as they have a lot going on in their music, and progressive metal is vague enough to cover them all. Probably. Anyway; combing many different elements from equally many different influences, the music is a mixture of multiple sub-styles and sub-genres, including progressive, modern, melodic, technical, death, and post-metal. All this crammed into a mere 35 or so minutes. Phew.
Speaking of the length of the album; as their EP was a hefty 29 minutes long, there’s only marginally more material here. With none of the songs on The Passenger reaching the lengths of the opener or closer of the EP, the album demonstrates that the band have streamlined their delivery into high-impact, hard-hitting tracks. Thankfully, the band’s depth of delivery and diversity of intent hasn’t been lost though, it’s just that Neck of the Woods now have a greater awareness of how they want to sound and what they want to do with their airtime.
The singer’s passionately harsh vocals sound better than ever too. His growling assault strikes the right balance between articulate and savage, acting as a great focal point for the band’s intelligently aggressive music.
The songs are very well-written and realised, bringing together the band’s different influences well over the course of the songs. With variety and depth, the music is an extremely satisfying exploration of what it means to play modern heavy music in 2017. Taking from multiple eras and styles, drop in at almost any point and you might hear some Death-inspired technical death metal, complete with wandering bass lines, or you might hear some modern progressive forays into emotive metal à la Between the Buried and Me. Maybe you’ll discover some tasty melodic riffs that would do Mastodon proud, or maybe something more along the lines of the ones employed by a band like The Faceless? Maybe you’ll hear some building, brooding post-metal the likes of which Cult of Luna create so effortlessly? You might even hear some stirring melodic death metal similar to Carnifex or The Black Dahlia Murder, or maybe just some crushing blast beats that would make Cannibal Corpse proud.
It should go without saying, (but I’m going to say it anyway), that all of these aforementioned bands are just reference points, and overall Neck of the Woods don’t really sound like any of them in particular. Neck of the Woods sound like an amalgamation of all of these, and more, all stamped with their own individual charisma and personality, which is exactly what you want from a metal band like this.
The Passenger has been worth the wait. Neck of the Woods have refined their sound and honed its delivery for this album. Impressive, satisfying, and very, very enjoyable, The Passenger is damn near mandatory listening for anyone into modern heavy music.
Do not let this pass you by.