Fury & forgiveness.
Y'know, I don’t know how I initially came across WOWOD, but I’m glad I did. Thanks to the generosity of the Almighty Algorithm, the relatively unknown and self-described ‘blackened band’ from Saint Petersburg somehow slid into my YouTube recommendation DMs. and that was all it took.
From the opening moments of lead single ‘Proshchenie,’ pulled from the group’s forthcoming second album, ‘Yarost’ I Proshchenie,’ I was utterly enthralled. Distorted, serpentine riffage. A driving and propulsive rhythm section. Hypnotic clean vocals. The sudden eruption of that thunderous bottom end. Crashing crescendos. Brutal, cavernous bellows. This seven-minute lamentation transported me to a different place and time when a younger, more naïve version of myself was cut to the core by the abrasive and expansive textures of albums like ‘Perfect Pitch Black,’ ‘Somewhere Along The Highway,’ and the gigantic ‘Panopticon’. Somehow, WOWOD had tapped that experiential vein and flushed it with new blood. Everything about the song sounded vibrant, alive, and utterly essential.
To that end, merely labelling this Russian quintet as a ‘blackened band’ is, in my humble opinion, a great disservice. While I can’t speak to the group’s origin or back catalogue, there’s certainly more going on under the hood of ‘Yarost’ I Proshchenie.’ For one thing, there’s that title, which, loosely translated to English, reads as "Fury and Forgiveness." Two concepts that don’t scream out at me as standard subject matter for a blackened hardcore outfit or a European black metal project — at least not together, or as components of a holistic enterprise. The former is the product of anger and rage, a violent outward expression of hostility; the latter is a process of acceptance and reconciliation, the internal act of ‘letting go’. As it turns out, understanding the contrast between these concepts is the emotional key to unlocking WOWOD and their sprawling sonic labyrinth.
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This distinction explains why ‘Yarost’ I Proshchenie’ begins with the eleven-minute doom opus ‘Rekviem.’ The track is powered by haunting atmospherics and warbling synth electronics, as a slow, enveloping wave of murky bottom-end smothers everything it touches. Serving as a palette cleanser of sorts, the doomgaze dirge primes the listener for the sudden shock and sensation of the vitriolic outburst to come. ‘Tanec Yarosti’ (‘Dance of Fury’) is a frightening and malevolent force, angular and cutting with serrated guitar riffs, cannon-like percussion and pained shrieks. Only two minutes in length, the track’s briskness may feel like a welcome reprieve, but it’s an exercise in well-intentioned restraint.
With the adrenaline subsiding, the album then flows directly into ‘Proshchenie,’ as the listener is caught in the ebb and flow of WOWOD’s powerful fusion of post-rock and metal. This momentary solitude, however, is short-lived. ‘Zhazhda’ (‘Thirst’) ripples and crumbles with quaking blast-beats and a background haze of eerie distortion and effects. Rumbling bass notes and Swedish-influenced d-beat riffs dart and lance around one another with a ravenous intensity. The towering and epic guitar lead that closes the track accentuates the portent of gravel-throated bellows, evoking images of a charred wasteland and piles of rubble. This haunting vision then transitions into the mournful ‘Chornaya Zemlya’ (‘Black Land’), a lumbering elegy to the dead. Around the track’s mid-point, the percussion takes on an almost industrial sheen, precise and calculated in every gloomy kick, snare hit and cymbal crash.
With the listener lulled into a false sense of certainty, the morose mood is torn wide open and shredded to pieces by the ferocious fusillade of the penultimate ‘Zov Tysyachi Nozhey’ (‘Call of a Thousand Knives’). The primal fury of WOWOD’s d-beat machinations strikes here once more, fusing and melting into a molten core of aural violence and pent-up aggression. ‘Top’ is then left to pull together the record’s disparate themes as the ender — fury and forgiveness, baby— which it does so admirably and in glorious fashion. Melodic and mesmeric clean vocals rise and soar atop elegiac guitar leads and hypnotic rhythms. Simultaneously, a background wash of heady synth fills the composition with ethereal warmth, like a burst of light straining to pierce through the darkness.
In a delightful video on the Church Road Records channel, album artist Elena Zaikina mentions that her dark, striking painting was selected as the album’s cover because of how WOWOD felt it suited the album’s material. In Zaikina’s (albeit translated) words, the painting allowed her to “sublimate some kind of anger and aggression into creativity.” And that’s an apt description of what WOWOD have achieved on their second full-length album musically, a record that deserves recognition and reverence within any and all post-metal circles. It’s been far too long since I found myself completely lost in an album, ready and willing for each composition to take me in new and uncertain directions. In this way, listening to ‘Yarost’ I Proshchenie’ is less of a choice and more of an obligation.
‘Yarost’ I Proshchenie’ is out January 29th through Church Road Records. You can find the record here.