Weald and Woe, once a solo project but now a complete quartet, are based in Boise, Idaho, but in their music they have more than one foot planted in Britain and Europe as they existed 1000 years ago, give or take. Their current label, Fiadh Productions, puts it well in describing the band’s new album For the Good of the Realm:
“Weald and Woe combines the majesty of the medieval era with the ferocity of classic black metal inspired by Obsequiae, Véhémence, Darkenhöld, Immortal, Ensiferum and many others….
“The new full-length is both dreamy and intense, capturing bygone eras of courtly love and epic battles. The band’s music walks a fine line between triumphant and sophisticated choruses balanced with frigid, breakneck riffing that paints an often elegant but bleak soundscape as the listener is transported to a different time. Swords not optional!”
In traversing the time-traveling soundscapes of the new album’s eight songs those contrasts previewed above stand out.
Tones of lutes, lyres, and hand-drums might introduce a melody, and then it’s handed forward across centuries, the baton picked up by skirling guitars that sound like bagpipes and others that discharge grand blasts of sound or fevered convulsions. Modern drums hammer, and a voice snarls, screams, and roars in ways that never would have been heard so long ago, even in the bloody heat of conflict.
And that’s just the first song, “Bless the Stone“, and really only part of it. It creates a sprawling panoramic epic, intertwining emotional sensations of grim determination, undaunted ferocity, triumph, and downfall. The layering of the guitars creates moments of wonder and sheer exhilaration as well as loss, while the rhythm section march and race with pulse-pounding effects.
It’s no wonder Weald and Woe began the album with such an enthralling extravaganza. It’s an ideal way to set the stage for the saga of the album as a whole. And the album as a whole, when experienced front to back, does seem like a mythic narrative.
It includes episodes of dire conflict, driven by punishing drum-blasts, vicious thrashing riffage, and scorching, throat-ripping vocals, but the music also elevates into the magnificence of waving banners and steel shining in the sun, with dramatic synths unfurling above the host and solos that spiral upward and flicker like druid sorcery.
Massed growls seem to give voice to the taunts of combatants as they prepare for an onslaught, and lilting instrumentals with an old tone create visions of elegant dances in castle halls. Sizzling fretwork and jolting grooves transmit the heat of blood ready to be shed, sometimes in a lost cause, while fanfare-like chords herald the advance of eminent lords and fiery gallops see steeds charging across verdant plains.
Throughout, the guitar tones range widely, often returning to the resonance of pipers and horns in advancing ranks, or offering the trill of old acoustic instruments providing moments of solemnity or the joy of a peasant dance. And there’s a very fine rhythm section at work as well, benefiting from a mix that allows them to shine right along with all the guitar spectacles.
To be sure, the songs also create grim and grievous moods, and moments that might spawn visions of terrible mayhem or corpses strewn across ruined fields. But the overused yet still apt word “epic” keeps coming to mind, because there’s nothing remotely mundane about this music. It’s an elaborate and thoroughly ravishing pageant unfolding on a vast scale, in a time long lost to the ages.
Oh, before we close, we should mention that there’s plenty of times when the music is likely to stir up a very modern mosh pit in a live setting (check out “Trees of Silver and Gold“, for example).
We’re genuinely thrilled to bring you the whole album today, and hope you’ll be thrilled too:
WEALD AND WOE is:
Jeff Young – Guitar, vocals and programming
Brent Ruddy – Guitar and vocals
Zak Darbin – Bass
Isiah Fletcher – Drums
For the Good of the Realm will be released digitally and on cassette and CD on September 1st. The album cover was designed by Jeff Black, using a painting called “Stitching The Standard” by Edmund Blair Leighton (1911).
We should also mention that the album’s fantastic penultimate track, “Lord Mayo“, which will send your heart into your throat, is a classic Celtic folk tune, with an arrangement based on Joanie Madden’s 1996 version from Song of the Irish Whistle. And if that song doesn’t put your heart in your throat, the closer “Rite of Thorns” damned well will.