Woe – “Exhausted” (Stereogum Premiere)

You would expect a song called “Exhausted” on an album titled Withdrawal to be slow or somehow diminished, a dirge maybe, somebody moaning over a drop-tempo heartbeat. You would expect something weary at best.

Not even close.

In the hands of Philadelphia black metal quartet Woe, “Exhausted” is a dead sprint and an arms race at once. Drums barrel full speed ahead, keeping pace with the wall of guitars as they shred further, faster, and harder, only to twist into a serrated melody — it isn’t until a mid-song break that we get clarity or context, and by then we’ve earned ourselves that fleeting moment of rest. And maybe that’s the point, to leave us exhausted.

Woe has been a fundamental part of the American black metal scene (USBM) for years, with a trajectory that mirrors the evolution of the scene as a whole. Starting as a one-man bedroom project in 2007, Woe expanded to a full band with the release of 2010’s Quietly, Undramatically, which saw the birth of a new hybrid of emotional, expressive black metal. Forthcoming LP Withdrawal (the first release from which ranked at No. 2 in the February installment of our new metal column, The Black Market) sees the band moving in a different direction, in the process creating a new kind of hybrid: introspective black metal made heavy. Listen.

Withdrawal is out 4/22 on Candlelight Records.

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