Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

Woods of Ypres

Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light
Whatever talk of this album there may be in future, the only certainty is that it will be forever overshadowed by the death of Woods of Ypres’ primary creative force, David Gold, who died prior to the album’s release when he was hit by a car whilst walking down Highway 400 in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, near the end of 2011. Their deal with Earache should have been the beginning of a new chapter in the Woods of Ypres’ story. Now, it’s almost certainly the epilogue, brought to a tragic, abrupt and premature end. Woods of Ypres were certainly lauded in the underground for their effective blackened doom metal, but that reputation and recent events alone shouldn’t have any bearing on whether the fifth Woods of Ypres album, ‘Grey Skies & Electric Light‘, produces the results that Digby Pearson foresaw upon signing the band to Earache.

There is no doubt that some purists will be disappointed with the band’s decision to largely ditch the blackened stuff for sorrowful doom, although ‘Adora Vivos’ provides a blinding mix of the two, an undeniably amazing moment occurring as Gold gnarls ‘under grey skies and electric light!‘. Whether you’ll enjoy much of the rest of the record is down to how much of the dark stuff you’ll be able to stomach. As it is, while lyrically it is one of the bleakest records I’ve ever heard, Gold conveys it very well in my opinion, and by and large gets its right. The largely concise tracklisting – compared to most doom releases, at least – gives each song a certain punctuality. They don’t get lost in bleak meandering – even the longest song on the record ‘Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)’ remains fully interesting throughout thanks to its progressive nature, merged into one song from the two parts that took up the promo version of this record.

Whether it was intended or not, ‘Grey Skies‘ reads an awful lot like a death note. Lyrically it’s one of the most striking albums I’ve ever come across, regardless of the events prior to its release. Through many of the tracks, there’s a real sense of closure, indeed finality – certainly not something that was intended to be so real. Yet you can’t deny how eerie some of the lyrics are, particularly ‘Back on the highway, under the moon, my final moments, still wondering about you…‘ (from ‘Alternate Ending’). There’s much more within that I won’t go into now by my word, its powerful stuff.

This was surely only to be the beginning of a successful relationship between Woods of Ypres and Earache which had the potential to bear many fruits. David Gold and Woods of Ypres were already revered before they signed with Earache and released ‘Grey Skies‘. This was to be the record that spread their name a little, to propel them to new heights/depths. Alas, what conspired that January evening was to cut any new promise short. Nonetheless, ‘Grey Skies‘ is a phenomenal album, a fitting epitaph to a band and a frontman who will surely take their place in cult metal folklore.
Peter Clegg