Woods of Ypres — Against the Seasons (Krankenhaus Records)
The five-song EP Against the Seasons was Woods of Ypres’ first foray into their world of summer black metal, a theme established by the subtitle, “Cold Winter Songs from the Dead Summer Heat.” Recorded in 2002 and released the following year, it’s now undergone a remix from producer (and current WoY bassist) Dan Hulse, who did such a great job on Wetwork’s album last year, along with classy new artwork. The music on this 30-minute EP shows a raw-yet-focused approach that formed the basis for the refinements and diversification of their superb Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth album from last year. Extremity abounds, emphasizing the blast and the rasp, while still leaving room for acoustic passages, melodic vocals and tempo shifts, sombre arpeggios mingling with fierce blasting (executed with more enthusiasm than perfection, admittedly)—the elements the band fully realized in the more varied songs on the follow-up album. The black metal influence is more pronounced here, recalling Satyricon, Immortal and Primordial—particularly the latter band’s fondness for triplet-feel tempos. I like the symmetrical running order of the tracks, with two shorter songs framing three epics. "A Meeting Place and Time" stands out for its memorable clean-sung passages, as does "Awaiting the Inevitable," which features some terrific riffs in its doomy intro and mid-song death-metal breakdown, complete with a patented Tom G. Warrior death-grunt! Great stuff. Considering that two-thirds of the band on this EP didn’t appear on Pursuit…, the sound and approach between the two releases are remarkably consistent. This is probably down to drummer/songwriter David Gold’s vision…a uniquely Canadian vision, I should add, tied intimately to our geography and the correlation between climate and emotion. (If ever a metal band could be diagnosed with S.A.D., WoY would be it.) The recording-in-progress reports for WoY III indicate that its musical direction follows this EP more closely than Pursuit…, making Against the Seasons not a curio of juvenilia like many debut releases, but a key work in the band’s young discography.