Quietly, Undramatically harpooned me immediately on a sonic level, with rarefied, transportive riffs, bright production and vivid drumming. As a listening experience, the album is deeply tied into its lyrical content. On the one hand, the album ponders our mournful mortal struggles, and on the other, it tackles beguiling metaphysical quandaries. It takes a lot these days for anything approaching conventional black metal to grab my attention, but Woe have succeeded in branding a black mark in my consciousness.
Riffs always win the day. Chris Grigg delivers a deluge of memorable, melodic and varied guitar work. The mandatory waves of tremolo-picked pandemonium never fade into background noise. These songs demonstrate an ability to channel the tried and true essence of black metal in fresh, if not new, directions. The riffs are comprised of melodies that at times are austere and at others possessed of a bleak emotional undertow. Ghostly lead guitar accents augment some passages and sparing clean arpeggiations fill out the sonic seascape.
Evan Madden delivers an entirely human and entirely complementary drum performance. He eschews robotic blasting for rhythmic diversity and character. The sinuous, organic drums make this music lively and engaging to my ears while inducing much banging of the head. The percussion is forward in the mix, and I find its prominence refreshing. The cataract roils at varying speeds, mostly flowing at a brisk pace. The songs often bob along with a lilt that evokes memories of Enslaved's Eld. Other stretches move with the ambient abandon of Wolves in the Throne Room or the frenetic verve of Krallice.
Chris Grigg's vocals give life to brooding, enigmatic lyrical prognostications. He shifts between a heartier death gurgle and an anguished black metal scream, sometimes augmented by echoing reverb. “The Road From Recovery” examines the tortured path of progress, regression and depression, brought upon ourselves “because this body demands it always lose.” The title track is a meditation on one's own death, explaining how “I focus on the end and how I know that it will take me. Quietly. Undramatically.” This song features a brief presentation of excellent clean vocals, delivered with affecting authority. Their inclusion might repulse a purist, but I enjoy the depth they add to the track.
“A Treatise On Control” ponders our power to control absolutely nothing in this life, while also seeming to deny the power of a divine creator. “Without Logic” explores a knowing disavowal of rational existence, stating that “the world's been explained at the cost of my soul. A predictable planet's preferred by the weak. I look deep inside and refuse now to think.” “Hatred is our Heart” takes a step away from the cerebral proceedings, reading like an indictment of corpse-painted, theatrical black metal. The track, replete with gruff gang vocals, proclaims the integrity of artists who shun pseudonyms and false identities.
Seemingly apropos of nothing in the lyrics, the liner notes conclude with the the statement, “Some things change. Some things stay the same. Woe is Satanic black metal. Hatred is our Heart” I'm not exactly sure what that means anymore in this day and age, but it's quite possible I missed something along the way. Then again, perhaps “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” Either way, this apparent dichotomy does nothing to dull my enjoyment of the album or the sentiments it explores.