Woe – Hope Attrition (2017)

I first remember hearing this (now based in New York) black metal act around 2010 with what is considered to be their major breakout recording, Quietly, Undramatically. That record to me is still a real standout in the genre, mixing fantastic elements of doom and black metal to make something that felt as morose as it was a fierce and nihilistic statement. The band released another album called Withdrawal in 2013, but I can’t say that I can recall anything about it and wasn’t even aware of it until I’d seen it listed on their Metal Archives page. Judging from the rather satisfactory score attached, I don’t feel that it was their best effort either. Regardless of that, these guys simply dusted off their shoulders and set aside some time to really focus on the next release, which I happen to have here in my hands (well, not physically – but you get the idea). Hope Attrition feels very much like Quiety, Undramatically except for the fact that it definitely has a more hardcore feel to the vocal approach, which may (but really shouldn’t, keep reading) turn off a few listeners. Oddly enough, I felt that the album’s opener (Unending Call Of Woe) and it’s closer (Abject In Defeat) were two of the strongest offerings here, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with a solid mix of gritty hardcore machismo and dreary black metal tremolos taking up more than half of the listen. There is “some” acoustic influence, but nothing that I would consider remarkable, nor do I feel that it changes the scope of the recording in any way.

It feels as if frontman Chris Grigg is attempting to meld a black metal scowl with a hardcore vocal grunt in a form that makes it sound a bit more ravenous and less “tough guy.” Even if we’d still think of this offering as that of a rough and tough dude, it’s the type of guy that will eat your face off and carve his intials into your torso, rather than that tattooed bald guy in a hoodie that would make you tapout in an MMA ring. This truly feels like black metal in every sense of the word, which is why I think it is imperative for the hordes to get their hands on it. As I have worked with black metal sections throughout several of our albums, I understand the cold and incredibly bleak vibe that not only the sound of the band should represent, but the atmosphere. When I listen to Grigg’s vocals on this album, I can sense a sort of loss, pain and frustration. Hope Attrition is very much a sort of album for those who feel they’ve lost it all. It is the kind of record that sounds almost beautiful within it’s chaos of despair and anguish, and it doesn’t feel at least even one bit hokey, which is a plus. Woe simply have no desire to sing about demons and monsters and aspects of the occult, because they want to focus on a more down-to-earth and accessible sort of poetry, which comes off as dark and moody as one might expect.

Drummer Lev Weinstein also adds a fine helping of that blast-beat punch that you’re all expecting when you go to purchase a black metal album, so don’t go thinking that you’re getting a mix of Biohazard and Mayhem here. Very few black metal albums seem to really connect me with these days in the way that this one did, and even though I’ve probably missed more than a couple of great ones over the past two months; I can say that Hope Attrition definitely entwined with me at some level that other bands just don’t manage to do in this genre. It’s definitely worth picking up, and you don’t have to take off your shirt and perform a bunch of high kicks to get something out of it either. This isn’t that kind of hardcore. Quite frankly, I would be hard-pressed to call it hardcore at all. Just kinda sounds like black metal, really… and that’s quite alright.

(7 Tracks, 43:00)

9/10

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