Woe – Legacies of Frailty Review

A catastrophizing depiction of humanity’s mutual destruction greets us, the blazing fire and distraught figures a dramatic allegory for the harm and alienation caused by relentless tribalism. So, at least, Legacies of Frailty purports its art and musical content to revolve around. The personal project of Woe’s founder Chris Gregg, it marks the band’s first solo record since acquiring a full lineup with 2010’s Quietly, Undramatically. These other members pop up here and there, but largely left to his own devices, Gregg is free to go where his passion takes him, regaining the speed and fury from his early work, but maintaining the full-sounding atmosphere of later records. Essentially, then, this is a one-man black metal album, and it’s one of the good ones, eschewing pretentiousness and over-reliance on the musician’s personal idiosyncrasies for solid musical performance.

The name Woe explicitly denotes sadness, but the emotion that more closely defines the sound of Legacies of Frailty is rage. The album is dominated by galloping (“Fresh Chaos Greets the Dawn,” “The Justice of Gnashing Teeth”), charging (“Scavenger Prophets,” “Far Beyond the Fracture of the Sky”) tempos and fiery tremolos. Strongly recalling Wayfarer, Misþyrming, and Decipher these passages carry the music along with enjoyable energy, exhilarating in their energy and ire. Where things slow down (“Shores of Extinction”), anger is tempered by ennui with a stronger feeling of classical black metal, washes of depressive chords and brooding paces channelling a more flexible Mgla. Additionally spliced in, reverberating synth pulses in to provide ambience and a little sombre melody (“Fresh Chaos…,” “Distant Epitaphs,” “Far Beyond…”).

Legacies of Frailty stands most firm when stirred by faster tempos, and it’s the dynamism of this material that lends it its compelling nature. The blazing guitar lines and fluid, roll-over-replete drumming of “Fresh Chaos…” and ” Far Beyond…” push passages into the irresistibly arresting. And when the percussion switches thrillingly into d-beats, here and elsewhere (e.g. “Distant Epitaphs”), the boisterous bounciness makes the blackened fretwork dance with a new energy. Layered and urgent melodies criss-cross and help accentuate the mania (“Scavenger Prophets”) and ardour (“The Justice…”) of howled vocals or simply amp up these pressing, progressive leads (“Fresh Chaos…,” “Distant Epitaphs”). These refrains help pick up some of the slack when more sedate paces take over, sometimes almost mellow (“Scavenger Prophets,” “The Justice…”) but better when mournful and pointed (“Shores of Extinction”).

Holding the record back is the comparative transience of the vigour and excitement that characterises its best parts. For every thrilling, blistering tremolo and blastbeat charge, there are several extended passages of relatively unmemorable riffing. This blander material, though no less competent, connects the “good parts” with overextended repetition. As a result, songs feel bloated, and lose the power their blazing high points generate. While not that long in the grand scheme of things, with most tracks sitting around the seven-eight-minute mark, they would all benefit from a few minutes trimmed away. This is especially so for “The Justice…” which is just shy of ten minutes long, and needlessly stalled by the inclusion of a cute little synth organ over tempered mellow riffs. Additionally, Woe would gain much from greater integration—for more atmosphere—or elimination—for focused fury of the synths, for as it stands, they feel awkwardly infrequent. Despite all this criticism, Woe gets bonus points for full-bodied production that even makes those less exciting moments sound good, deftly avoiding the trap of crusty, washed-out black metal flatness.1

Legacies of Frailty is worth listening to, even if only for its apexes. For the more forgiving, its overall sound will please and reward in equal measure, with its well-balanced mixture of anger and allure. Sure, it’s not the best black metal album of the year, but it is good. And knowing what Woe can do at their best puts them on solid ground in the scene for future success in realization of these potent expressive abilities.

Rating: Good
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records
Websites: woeunholy.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/woeunholyReleases Worldwide: September 29th, 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Celebrating a year of sidebar Tsuki
Next post Unsung Artists: September 2023

Goto Top