We rarely turn back in time for the metal releases we review at this site, instead spending most of our time focusing on what’s coming in the future. And when I recently began listening to Woudloper’s self-titled demo (which seems to have been originally self-released about a year ago, and then was distributed on cassette by the Dutch label Breathe Plastic Records earlier this year), I didn’t mean to write a review. I thought perhaps I would include a mention of it in one of our Shades of Black round-ups. But this small obsidian gem is so good that I thought it deserved a stand-alone feature.
The band is the solo project of a Dutch musician named Erik B., and this demo consists of two long songs, denominated only by number. If you’re interested in a genre description, the music crosses boundaries, fusing together elements of atmospheric black metal, sludgy doom, and post-metal. It’s staggeringly heavy and manages to be both mesmerizing and frightening.
The pacing of the music varies, though never reaches top speed. At times, the songs sound like glacial dirges, wretchedly mournful and anchored by massive ice-bound riffs. At other times, Woudloper moves into mid-paced rocking rhythms, no less titanic in their impact and the music no less dismal, oppressive, and spectral in its atmosphere. And to add further interest, some unusual drum rhythms also enter the picture; blast-beats explode occasionally, but rarely.
While the main riffs in the songs are mountainous and drenched in sludge, the high, eerie lead-guitar melodies — which are bleak, hallucinatory, and often painfully beautiful — echo like chimes ringing in a vaulted crypt and ripple like astral transmisisons.
The music’s overarching sense of anguished loss and supernatural menace is enhanced by the harrowing, ear-shredding, demonic quality of the vocal shrieking and by the appearance (especially at the end of the songs) of discordant feedback and strange ambient sounds — though it was a nice touch to add a few isolated acoustic notes as this demo fades away into oblivion at the end.
This is a very strong debut from a creative composer who knows how to carry the minds of listeners away into his own dark world and leave them changed by the trip. I’m looking forward to what come next from Woudloper, while continuing to enjoy the staying power of this demo.
If any tapes are left, they can be ordered through the Bandcamp pages of Breathe Plastic Records and Woudloper, and they may be available through other distros as well. In addition, a digital-only version of the demo can be downloaded at Woudloper’s Bandcamp. Links are below, along with a music stream.