Woods of Desolation – The Falling Tide

Are Deaf Heaven interlopers in the black metal scene? If your answer to that is a resounding yes, you’ll have no time for Woods of Desolation. If you appreciate the artistic vision and sophistication of blackgaze, you’ll be much more positive towards The Falling Tide. Now on his fourth album since 2008, Australian multi-instrumentalist, D., is back with the drummer from Drudkh and a wider palette of shoegaze and post-rock stylings to add to his molten aggression. Take out the hostile distortion and screaming and you have The Cure with occasional blast beats.

Raw emotion is the essential component of Woods of Desolation. Whether it be heart-puncturing sorrow or impulsive rage, the key here is how the music communicates to those senses waiting to break down your civilised exterior. Opener, ‘Far from Here’, has all the pros and cons of blackgaze in seven minutes of impenetrable noise clouds that never open. Indeed, the ethereal guitar melodies in the intro could be from The Cure’s 1992 Wish album before they explode into a high-gain frenzy of atonal tremolo picking. Of course, you can’t hear the blast beats. This is the lo-fi ‘necro’ sound of black metal that likes to keep the snare drum blunted in the mix so you can only hear a timid ride cymbal burrowing away under the distortion. You’ll enjoy it if you like to pass the day listening to the motor of a vacuum cleaner for entertainment, yet there’s no doubt it also has an epic gallop among the layers of incorporeal noise.

Sometimes, Woods of Desolation hit the mark. ‘Beneath a Sea of Stars’ is an excellent piece of post-metal musing with a drum combination borrowed from punk. This is far easier to digest. It could even fit onto a Neurosis album for its emotional fever. The white-hot aggression trumps any criticism you might have for the shapeless guitars – this is art. Is it atmospheric black metal, post-black metal, blackgaze or all three in one unique cauldron? D. would rather you not devalue his music with meaningless semantics. So, why does The Falling Tide present us with the strange prospect of judging a metal album by the efficacy of its melodies? The title track could be from any My Bloody Valentine or Swervedriver album. Hopeful shoegaze colours light up ‘Anew’ under the execution of major seventh and major ninth chords. It’s not anything new in guitar music, but it still sounds alien to the ears of your average metalhead.

We’ve said it many times, but this type of ethereal noise should be at the forefront of contemporary metal. Instead, its protagonists struggle to translate it from theory into practice. Dissonant chords, high-treble amp settings, ghostly melodies, blast beats, impulsive screaming – you can find all these in Deaf Heaven and An Autumn for Crippled Children records, none of which achieve their true potential. Only Constellatia seem capable of achieving something close to intelligible while remaining abstract.

Black metal has an abundance of atavistic bands, and Woods of Desolation are not one of them, but we should be asking how the genre can evolve if this is the best it can produce from the avant-garde fringes of the spectrum.



Release Date: 09/12/2022

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: Beneath a Sea of Stars; The Falling Tide; The Passing

Suggested Further Listening: The Cure – 4:13 Dream (2008), An Autumn for Crippled Children – As the Morning Dawns We Close Our Eyes (2021), Swervedriver – Mezcal Head (1993)