Finally, it seems like Woe are gathering momentum. The once lone-man black metal project has slowly but surely blossomed into a fully-fledged band since the release of their attention grabbing second album, Quietly, Undramatically. Once just the solo band of guitarist/vocalist Christ Grigg, the album turned enough heads to bring the band to where they are now – signed with Candlelight and with three other full-time members.
As a result, Withdrawal feels much more like a band. While still helmed very much so by Grigg, Woe sounds more alive on this album than they ever did before. Still essentially a black metal band, the album sees them open the flood barriers a little to allow a sense and influence of crusty hardcore to seep in.
It’s impressive to see a band pull this merger off so seamlessly and make it feel natural, avoiding any pastiche. Blackened hardcore bands have become ten a penny and harder and harder to find something worth your while. The big difference here is that Woe’s craft is black metal momentarily informed by hardcore. Not the other way around. This is still very much a black metal record.
The searing tremolo riffs and frosty vocals of ‘This Is the End of the Story’ are more than evidence of this, making it clear what Woe’s priorities are first and foremost. Despite the harshness of the album, its production still shimmers with a grandiose and sprawling studio job that gives each of the band’s layers the room to unfurl, like ‘Song of My Undoing’s affecting clean vocals. Meanwhile, ‘Exhausted’ is a song laden with devastating emotional intent and fervour, drawing somewhat from the poignant melodic gears of Winterfylleth or Fen.
Withdrawal appears to be the true arrival of Woe, where they realise much of their potential that had been festering under the surface for a while now.