I don’t think you need me to tell you that Cold Soil isn’t exactly a cheerful listen; even a quick glance at the song titles and lyrics will make that very clear. The macabre artwork might be a little OTT, but rest assured, the music contained within sees Woes offer up 11 minutes of gritty blackened crust, undeniably raw but with just the right level of melody to keep things listenable. It’s a very punishing listen though, the band packing more vitriol and fury in to these short songs than most so-called hardcore bands do in their entire discographies. And as such, if you’re looking for a short, sharp fix of cathartic rage, then Woes have got you covered. But what makes this EP really worthwhile is what it hints at for the future.
The sound of blackened crust has been fairly well established right from when it first crawled out of whatever filth-filled pit it spawned from. Woes manage to find ways to stand out from the crowd though, with moments that bring to mind the way Tragedy pushed at the boundaries of modern crust on their last album – it’s not simply crust played with moments of tremolo picking and raw vocals, as much blackened crust feels like. Opener “Woebegone” has a strong modern crust feel for the most part, dirty and vicious, full of negative energy, with the black metal influence most obvious in the opening moments and breakdown before the song moves towards its conclusion. “Fear” keeps things moving in dark directions, recalling the way bands like Oathbreaker have been blurring the lines between hardcore and extreme metal in recent years, both in sound and atmosphere, with greater use of dynamics in both tempo and musical weight giving the song extra power. Meanwhile, “Wrongdoer” takes a slower, more bruising approach, feeling all the heavier for it, and the punishing hardcore vibe is delightful in the most malicious of ways. Closer “Pale Death” is the longest song on here at just shy of four minutes, and packs plenty of shifts, twists and turns in to its running time, rarely sitting still and keeping the listener off-balance. It’s the most obvious example on here that the band are capable of writing strong, interesting songs as well as battering the listener in to a pulp. I can’t help but feel that the ending could have been drawn out a bit longer, though – the descent in to drone and church bells is effective, but would have been even more so if it went on that bit longer.
Don’t let that take away from how strong Cold Soil is, though. It’s a remarkably assured debut, full of bad blood and even worse intentions, with subtle moments that push at the boundaries of blackened crust whilst still firmly belonging to the style. Rather than throwing in lazy tremolo-picked leads and calling it a day, it feels as if the band have given the songs extra time and thought, constructing strong riffs and movements based around them. And whilst it may not be a game-changer in itself, much like the early works of Young And In The Way, it makes clear that the potential is there for something very special in the years to come. Hopefully Woes can make good on the promise hinted at here, as this bodes very well for the future.
Cold Soil can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.