Futility Report is brilliant in a way that few albums are in any year. As much as anything else, it’s brilliant because in its vaulting inventiveness and unexpected juxtapositions it could have been a train wreck, mangled bodies strewn about like broken toys, and fractured machines burning in a jumble of warped iron and splattered diesel. Instead, like mad scientists who are in fact visionaries, White Ward have produced something through their freakish gene-splicing of genre families that’s utterly mesmerizing.
We’ve had the pleasure of premiering two songs from Futility Report already, and I could hardly be happier that we’ve been asked now to premiere a full stream of this remarkable album on the date of its release.
The first song on the album is named “Deviant Shapes”, and one might be forgiven for borrowing that name as a summing up of the music as a whole, for this Ukrainian band has fashioned songs that deviate from the customary forms of metal in significant ways. You might be able to imagine especially imaginative musicians brainstorming in a rough way the kind of ideas brought to life on this album — during a night of heavy drinking — but the way in which those ideas have been executed, and the life they have been given, really is remarkable.
Another way of making the point: It’s possible to set out on paper (or on this computer screen) a sketch of the musical ingredients that went into whatever alchemist’s cauldron was used to transmute them into gold, but there’s an unbridgeable gap between even the best words and what you’ll actually hear.
And so I can tell you (as I have before) that those ingredients include crystalline, tear-stained notes that echo off the vault of your skull; gales of guitar abrasion; blast-beats and double-bass thunder; slow piano chords clanging over a techno beat; the sounds of a saxophone, alternately moaning like a wounded beast and crooning in a slow, smoky, and soulful voice; streamers of melody that go off like spiraling rockets; pulsing melodic tones that might bring to mind a calliope; a hard-punching/fast-darting/slowly bubbling bass performance; bursts of electronica; rhythms that jump and jolt and flicker and go faster than seems humanly possible, and that will also lull you into a dreamlike trance; agonized howls and tortured shrieks that hurt like a raw wound; and much more.
I can tell you that this concoction involves a constantly morphing amalgam of black metal, jazz, progressive metal, post-punk, and post-metal (and I’m sure I’m leaving something out). I could sum it up with the “avant garde” label, which is a handy device that writers usually apply to music that won’t submit to any other conventions you can think of. I could say that it’s dreamlike and disturbed, danceable and destructive, as seductive as silk and as harsh as a coat of thorns, an inspired vision of ugliness and beauty, a reflection of desperation and triumph, with a particularly urban ambience.
I could (and did) tell you all that, and I’d still only be hinting at what lies ahead. The gulf between the words and the sounds remains.
I should add that I don’t mean to suggest this is a crowd-pleaser. I find the album completely fascinating and so engrossing that every time I hear it, I lose any grip on where I am or what’s around me. I wake from it with a smile on my face, and a contentment from the confirmation that even in these advanced days of the era of metal, creativity is still alive and well. But if you don’t like jazz, you probably won’t like this album. If you’re a black metal purist, you’ll probably scowl and scoff (or worse). If you want to do nothing but headbang or get your head crushed and your body butchered, you’ll probably leave the album before you get very far into it.
And that’s fine. You’ll get no harsh judgments from me on that score. But if you’re the kind of person who revels in finding things that don’t much sound like what you’ve heard before, who relishes the surprise of connections that you couldn’t predict, you might well conclude that you’ve found a rare gem. And you’d be right.
White Ward was formed in 2012, with their origins in the dank earth of raw depressive black metal, though they’ve moved far beyond those roots. They claim inspiration from the books of H.P. Lovecraft and I.M. Banks (the late Scottish author Banks happens to be one of my favorite writers, and this is the first time I can recall a metal band linking their works to his). Here’s the line-up:
Andrew Rodin – vocals
Yurii Kazaryan – guitars
Igor Palamarchuk – guitars
Alexey Iskimzhi – saxophone
Andrey Pechatkin – bass
Yurii Kononov – drums
The lyrics were composed by Alexey Sidorenko. Vladimir Bauer and Alexandr Smirnov also contributed to the compositions. The album was mixed and mastered by Alexey Nagornykh. The artwork was created by Olia Pishchanska.
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