White Ward – Futility Report

Rating: 5/5
Distributor/Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Distributor/Label URL: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/
Released: 2017
Buy Album: https://whiteward.bandcamp.com/
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/whitewardofficial/

BAND LINE-UP:

Andrew Rodin – Vocals,
Yurii Kazaryan – Guitars,
Igor Palamarchuk – Guitars,
Alexey Iskimzhi – Saxophone,
Andrey Pechatkin – Bass,
Yurii Kononov – Drums.

TRACK LISTING:

1. Deviant Shapes
2. Stillborn Knowledge
3. Homecoming
4. Rain As Cure
5. Black Silent Piers
6. Futility Report

REVIEW

The history of black metal is a long and storied tale that has meandered on and splintered as the years rolled by. Where others are content to stay trve and kvlt to the genre’s origins, some bands opt to push the boundaries and move further into uncharted territory. The exploration of sonic possibilities will birth new ideas and greater divergence that only serves to better the genre. Those progressive elements are often decried by the trve, but when it comes to writing great music, exploration is a good thing. Enter WHITE WARD.

The Одесса, Ukraine natives have been in existence since 2012, so it seems rather astonishing that it’s five years down the line that they emerge with their debut album. Not that the band have been silent in the ensuing half decade, far from it, with a smattering of demos, splits, EPs and a compilation to boast of. But like a long-term relationship, it was surely time to settle down to a full-length and step out into the unforgiving metal world. But what a way to make yourself known.

“Futility Report” begins life not with an explosion but a few embers smouldering away in a deep, dark pit; chords chiming evilly amidst samples and electronics that lure you in like a will o’ the wisp. Once suitably ensnared, opener “Deviant Shapes” bursts into black metal fury with an impressive youthful vigour, far and above the almost-stock tremolo fun times most black metal bands pedal. It’s nothing short of breathtaking. There’s a certain life about WHITE WARD’s prowess that feels so much more potent than most other acts and compels you forward.

Yet that’s not quite enough for these Ukrainians. Their ace up the sleeve comes in the form of haunting saxophone melodies, well-placed and effectively fired off to create an oppressive and nightmarish atmosphere. The brooding instrumental “Rain As Cure” is a prime example of this. Eschewing black metal for pseudo-lounge jazz, it mournfully honks along in a hypnotic fashion making for an infectious, if depressing, dirge. A hallmark of a good melody is the ability to repeat it after an initial listen and this certainly matches the criteria. It’s nothing complex, but it will bore itself into your brain soon enough and make itself comfortable for some time after.

However, the crown jewel in the resplendent crown of “Futility Report” comes in the form of “Black Silent Piers”. Fans of IHSAHN, and in particular the “After” album, will feel right at home with this. With harrowing, rasping vocals, it is a crushingly heavy, doom-laden romp along a barren shore that utilises simple arpeggiated riffs alongside those sorrowful brass melodies to stunning effect. Where many black metal band would simply fire furious tremolo riff after furious tremolo riff, WHITE WARD can slow it and groove where needed – proof that writing good music is, in actuality, an art form.

Saxophone in metal is nothing new, as fans of SIGH and IHSAHN (amongst many others) can attest to. Nor are the riffs on display in “Futility Report” particularly new, innovative or complex. The band won’t be winning awards for innovation, but that’s not the point here. The execution is everything and the crafting of this debut album makes the five years it took seem like time well-spent. Enabled by a crisp yet not-too-polished production, everything has its place – even the few guitar solos that make an appearance – and the jazz influences are embedded well into the fold. There’s a fine balance of life and craft about the album that’s seldom seen in a debut, but one that is most certainly welcome.

It’s one of those rare occasions when writing about an album fails to do it justice. Not to decry the purpose of this critique, but writing about it is in itself a futility report – you need to give WHITE WARD’s debut a listen to fully appreciate it. It took five long years of maturation to get to this point, but “Futility Report” is a vast-sounding, masterfully-crafted cut of post-black metal; the embodiment of a grasping, despicable howl of despair in the night. Sublime.

REVIEW BY: LEE CARTER
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