Woods Of Desolation - As The Stars

In December’s Black Market, I mentioned As The Stars — the remarkable forthcoming LP from Australian band Woods Of Desolation — as being one of the most exciting releases of early 2014, as well as my favorite album of the very young year. It’s only been two weeks, but as of today, it’s the one to beat. That’s no small praise — As The Stars is already up against some stiff competition, yet the more time I spend with it, the more impressive it grows in my estimation. Nominally “depressive black metal,” Woods Of Desolation’s music is really more in line with some of the bands I discussed in our recent Deconstructing: Alcest’s Shelter And Metal In A Post-Deafheaven World: It’s surging, soaring, anthemic, melodic black metal greatly influenced by high-contrast post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai.

Woods Of Desolation is masterminded by guitarist D (just D), who employs a small stable of scene luminaries to fill out his band — past WOD lineups have included Mitchell “Desolate” Keepin and Tim “Sorrow” Yatras, who previously played together in the pioneering Australian depressive black metal band Austere, perhaps WOD’s primary reference point. But As The Stars features D alongside a whole new cast, including Vlad from Drudkh on drums, Luke Mills from Nazxul and Pestilential Shadows on bass, and Old from Drohtnung on vocals. All the players involved deliver key performances, especially Old, whose tortured, shapeless roar is pushed to the back of the mix but achieves perhaps increased potency for so fully occupying the space between, above, and around the crisp instrumental interplay. The star here, though, is plainly D, from his obscenely catchy, dramatic riffs to his squealing leads; D’s guitars both give the songs structure and momentum and push them to tenser, higher extremes. (The best example of this dynamic is probably the album’s first single, “This Autumn Light.”)

As The Stars is Woods Of Desolation’s third album, following 2008 debut Toward The Depths and 2011′s Torn Beyond Reason. Unlike many other post-rock-influenced black metal albums, As The Stars feels ragged and lo-fi, somewhat belying — or at least attempting to obscure — the songs’ breathtaking magnitude. But these melodies would be instantly audible and ear-catching under a hiss-fog much denser than this; these peaks are simply higher than any clouds that might surround them. At seven songs over 34 minutes, As The Stars may appear to be a brief album, but those songs are filled with highlights, and in those minutes time appears to stop, or fast-forward, or rush outward in every direction, demanding rewinds and replays and slack-jawed awe; in fact, it is nothing short of massive.

As The Stars is out next month via the great German label Northern Silence Productions, but we’re streaming it in full for you to listen to right now. I wholly encourage you to do just that.

As The Stars is out 2/14 via Northern Silence.

Comments (23)
  1. This album is awesome–definitely worth spending some time with.

  2. This is the record I am most looking forward to.
    I fully intend(ed) a focused & serious Valentine’s Day listening session
    ( ’cause nothing says romance quite like black metal!)
    Not sure I have the restraint to wait…

  3. This kind of post-rock inspired melodic black metal is growing on me but I’m still more fond of the raw, dissonant riffs. Either way, this is a pretty great album. Going to give it some more listens, see if I can dig deeper into it. Favorite track right now would be “And If All the Stars Faded Away.”

    Side note: why doesn’t SoundCloud have a volume adjustment in its embedded players? They always play at full at volume and it’s really startling/too loud. I probably woke my neighbors up this morning when I hit play.

  4. So….Michael:
    How hard was it to compose that intro without mentioning the Deaf-word?
    The similarities to Sunbather are striking (sans any pink affectations)

    • Ha! Honestly, I didn’t want to talk about it in the context of Sunbather because Woods Of Desolation predate Deafheaven by like half a decade, and it would be easy to wrongly infer that they’re creating this music in Deafheaven’s shadow. But I do think fans of Sunbather would do well to listen to Woods Of Desolation. I also think that people who didn’t like Sunbather might still like this record, because it’s much rawer, and the vocals aren’t as prominent in the mix, but it has those anthemic melodies and progressions.

      • Play “The Pecan Tree” back to back with anything on As The Stars. It is uncanny.

        • As Michael said, WoD predates Deafheaven by several years and have been making music like this for longer, if anything one should compare Deafheaven’s sound to WoD. It would be more accurate to compare this album to Sorh as it sounds more like that album than Torn Beyond Reason, to me at least.

  5. With just two listens, I think it’s just as great as Sunbather. Hope it will get the same recognition.

  6. 1,880 now.
    Act fast! Operators are standing by.

    “many thanks for your order!!”

  7. I get the aesthetic and all, but I wish I could at least hear a some of the kick drum. Otherwise sounds awesome!

  8. Hands down, a masterpiece of its genre and a must buy for me. If you guys like the kind of music WoD produce, you should also try the French band Alcest.

  9. Good stuff, but IMHO it won’t ascend to Sunbather’s heights because 1) the songs are too short for the emo effect to set in (they also tend to fade out rather abruptly), 2) the guitar tones are a bit too harsh for the non-metal audience, and 3) the mix is a little too traditionally black metal (trashy drums, buried vocals, etc.). Sunbather did what it did because DH put a cherry on top. You can feel the kick drum, the guitars are subtle, and the whole thing hangs together from song to song. Love this record, but a mainstream breakthrough it ain’t. And that’s just fine with me.

    • I agree with all that. I think song for song though it might actually be better than Sunbather but it aspires to something much different, and I definitely don’t think the mainstream media will pick up on it the same way. But I also think it’s a genuinely great record and the kind of thing that will be a genre touchstone almost instantly, and it will probably find a lot of fans outside the genre, too, because it provides such an immediate rush and continues to deliver new thrills after many listens.

  10. This is a huge fucking bummer. Just got this email from D. Be advised.

    “IMPORTANT! An inferior quality stolen version of “As The Stars” has been illegally uploaded along with fake (stolen) artwork to Itunes by someone not connected to the label or WOD. Action is being taken against this thief as I type this. If you have purchased this version, you are advised to lodge a complaint to Itunes immediately and demand a full refund. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! I repeat: The ONLY digital versions are available via woodsofdesolation.bandcamp.com – DO NOT SUPPORT THESE CRIMINALS! / D.”

  11. I guess all of you guys who are drooling over this and comparing it to Sunbather must not be listening to the drumming. It’s not just a question of whether you can HEAR the kick drum. Drummer for WoD mostly switches between extremely boring post-rock style beats, and generic and not particularly competent blasting. If all you listen to is the layered guitar melodies than maybe this album is comparable, but there’s more than one instrument in a band. If you actually care about musical interplay Sunbather wipes the floor with this tripe.

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