I like to think we justify our 5/5 reviews. Hell, I didn’t personally yield until Baroness released Blue Record in 2009. High ratings result from the full realization of what a band is trying to accomplish at a given time. While this review was worrisome because sentimentality threatened objectivity, after a slow digestion I can proudly announce Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light as the finest Woods of Ypres album, and ultimate expression from the late David Gold.
Exact details surrounding Gold’s death are unclear, but any time a young talent is taken in their prime, “sad” isn’t enough and “bittersweet” rolls off the tongue wrong. Though honestly, the more I think about it, after two months of listening to the promo graciously released by Earache, I feel better about the circumstances. Everyone wants a perfect dénouement when you involve your heart and soul, body and mind—whether it’s for fun or work or love. David Gold was an artist wholly focused on depression, loss, sorrow, strife—his unexpected demise shortly before the release of this magnum opus is as tragically poetic as it gets.
Here’s what bothers me. When I was reading a blog post from the label, I saw this:
“The first time we noticed something was amiss was when metal journalists reported back to us in mid-December, genuinely worried about David’s severely downbeat and world-weary outlook during their phone interview. A few days later David Gold was tragically killed on the highway outside Barrie, Ontario in his homeland of Canada.”
When I spoke with David back in April 2011, I heard no negativity (listen for yourself). Then again, I haven’t caught these other chats, and the interviewers could have been stupid or awkward or just big ol’ twats… but many months passed, so who knows? Like they say in lead single “Lightning and Snow” (which features my favorite drum performance from Gold): “T’was just a moment of change / Before years of sorrow” — sometimes a moment is all it takes. And of course, only one person knew how David felt completely.
Actually, there’s a second thing that bothers me: Several changes between the final track listing and the advance “work-in-progress” version have me conflicted about which to review. I’m going with the early promo because that’s what I know best, but there may be a companion revisit in the future because I like David’s planned sequence. Also, things like the 15-20 seconds of silence at the end of “Finality” make more sense, as it leads into a most chilling segment with intended closer “Alternate Ending” with lines like “Back on the highway / Under the moon / My final moments” echoing eerily close to actual incidents.
But I can’t say enough kind words about Grey Skies & Electric Light. Take the oft-posted “Adora Vivos” for a glorious exercise in not-so-subtlety. The tune welcomes back blackened blasts and rasps from the band’s origins, and even effective touches of darkwave amidst the plaintive melodic doom. The pendulum swung far in the latter direction on Woods 4: The Green Album; by grasping their roots and shaving twenty minutes off the total running time, a true 2012 classic is revealed in Woods 5.
Also, remember the name Joel Violette, folks—his contributions on lead guitar, bass, and piano were instrumental in shaping the finished product. Check this out:
I love David’s simple honesty. It shines in that message, and still emanates through Woods of Ypres. His words were hardly metaphorical; David Gold wore his life on his record sleeves. This was originally supposed to be a straight review, but as you’ve read, it became a reflection on our Metal brother. I could feel it happening, and embraced the switch. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I believe the same thing happened with this band, and especially this album. Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light is a melancholic manifesto of torture and tumult, with the fruits of beauty and waters of solace brushed by the fragile fingers of Tantalus-turned-Gold.
Donations can be made to support his funeral costs through his Paypal account at firstname.lastname@example.org.