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Woe - "A Spell For The Death of Man" (CD)

Woe - "A Spell For The Death of Man" CD cover image

"A Spell For The Death of Man" track listing:

1. Solitude (9:01)
2. Alone With Our Failures (4:03)
3. Longing Is All That Will Remain (7:16)
4. Condemned as Prey (5:04)
5. I See No Civilization (7:54)
6. Wake in Mourning (4:18)
7. Memento Mori (5:36)

Reviewed by on June 19, 2009

"'A Spell For The Death of Man' doesn’t redefine the genre or shatter its boundaries, but for a first full-length album it absolutely gives black metal fans a reason to add another bleak and hate filled composition to their collection."

One man black metal bands seem to be on the rise these days, as musicians discover that they would rather have the luxury of producing a single focused idea that they can have complete control over. While there are plenty of misses in underground U.S. black metal, some of them by exceedingly wide margins, Woe is without question one of the hits that keeps faith in the genre alive. “A Spell For The Death of Man” doesn’t redefine the genre or shatter its boundaries, but for a first full-length album it absolutely gives black metal fans a reason to add another bleak and hate filled composition to their collection.

The most surprising element of “A Spell For The Death Of Man” is how well all the elements come together. Considering every instrument was recorded by a single person without the backing of a big label the album easily could have joined the ranks of the shoddy lo-fi masses. The drumming is exceptional for a one man act, and the way the instruments interact with each other make it nearly impossible to tell there aren’t three or four guys behind the music.

“Solitude” starts the album with a two minute intro segment to ease the listener into the music. Unlike many other intros or interludes that can be found in black metal, there is nary a keyboard to be heard. In fact, Woe doesn’t even bother with synths at all. Much like with the opening segment, the entire album uses changes in guitar tone and distortion to create its atmosphere. The introduction also bucks the trends by using only a single guitar and no other instruments. There is so much emptiness surrounding the guitar sounds that the listener can’t help but feel a little more alone in the world, which sets up the tone for the upcoming tracks that deal heavily with devastation and loss.

The majority of the vocals keep to the indecipherable black metal rasp heard by many of the originators of the genre, and they fit the dark feeling of the music well. For some added variation, and to change up the mood every now and again when the guitar tone shifts, there will also be a tortured yell torn from the darkest pits of the vocalist’s inner turmoil. The vocals at the beginning of the track “Condemned As Prey” are also worth calling attention to, as they have such an intense rasp that one has to wonder exactly how much blood was coughed up after the recording was done.

As far as production goes, Woe has found the sweet spot for black metal. The drums and guitars come out loud and clear, while the vocals are just slightly muffled. The bass is almost entirely lost somewhere in all the other sounds, but considering how that’s basically a staple of black metal, it can’t really be construed as too harsh a criticism. In general the only real issues with “A Spell For The Death of Man” are problems found throughout black metal in general, and not with Woe’s individual interpretation of the genre.

“A Spell For The Death of Man” plays like a full-force, non-stop black metal release but has quite a bit of melody interjected in unexpected places to keep it from getting too overbearing. Black metal fans will have no doubt found a new talent to eagerly anticipate upcoming releases from, while metal heads who haven’t cared as much for the style may want to check it out at least once just to see if it changes their minds.

Highs: Excellent vocal work, great atmosphere achieved only by guitar, surprisingly good production.

Lows: Sticks to the standard black metal issues of inaudible bass and some repetitive blast beating.

Bottom line: A bleak and hate-filled black metal debut from a rising talent worth paying attention to.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)