An Abstract Illusion - Woe

10 Sep 2022 - Knut

Atmospheric Progressive Melodic Death Metal/…and more | Willowtip Records | Release date: 09 Sep 2022

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What can be described as a splendid grandeur beauty? This release can. This long musical work of art is such, even if it unveils violence, abuse, despair and rage, although combined with revenge and a glimmer of hope and resilience. The trio follows up their two previous magnificent releases and, unbelievably, exceeds them with a release six years in the making. The haunting cover and title of the record give a hint to the multi-faceted music that unfolds.

These are bold musicians, believing in their vision and creativity. Their history shows that: self-releasing their first EP in 2014, with the first song being fifteen minutes long, and using the same way of publication for their second one, the over one-hour long Illuminate the Path in 2016 with no support from a marketing machine. However, good music finds its way to its lovers and appreciators and it rightfully left an impression with its atmospheric and creative approach to Progressive Melodic Death Metal. While their two first had a shiny layer, the rew record has an irate and dark one. Quite fittingly for our times as we probably are heading for a winter of discontent on many levels.

Their countrymen Opeth, In Flames and At the Gates paved the ground they rise from. But we cannot fence them in that yard, for there are no fences when An Abstract Illusion lets their vision and creative power loose and pours out multilayered music and incorporates adjacent genres to great avail.

Take part three, named ”Tear Down this Mountain”, which has an atmospheric opening, mixing a melodic theme with guitar riffs, synths, a clarinet solo and thundering drums – everything rising up to meet firm spoken words. It changes into Black Metal blast drums with growling vocals, soaring guitars and billowing sonics with fast bass. There is even an organ in the mix. A high-pitched solo guitar leads the pace into staccato dense sonics and then it halts: a wide synth-soundscape lets the sun in and from this a blistering blues guitar solo takes over before the change into a fleeting Progressive Metal part. The blast drums that follow the song throughout might be rooted in Black Metal, but the rest of the song swirls along the progressive path throwing melodic soundscapes at the listener’s ears.

A song like this, and the whole Woe album for that matter, makes me think of the giants of the seventies that fused a lot of different styles and genres. The likes of Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rick Wakeman and early Deep Purple. Just like those bands, this release takes a lot of its structures from classical music, so much that it makes me wonder what this album would sound like if it was transcribed for a symphony orchestra. A symphony it is, with all its ups and downs, the unexpected changes in tonality and soundscapes often made by riffing distorted guitars. There is even an adagio in the middle with soft spoken words in Swedish, the graceful fifth part called ”Blomsterkrans” (“Flower wreath”). It is constructed by neo-classical piano and spoken words reading a poem surrounded by synths and soaring violin.

The same neo-classical piano that opens ”Blomsterkrans” also ends the previous song ”Prosperity”. This is a trademark for all the parts on this album, they change unnoticeable into the next part. Before the piano ends the song, we have been through a beautiful part of music with clean vocals and choir beginning with guitars chugging a staccato rhythm accompanying the vocals. The static sense is lifted by the deep end grooving bass that moves the song forward until a change with blast drums comes up, together with growling vocals embraced by glass clear synths that end in an open clear sunny soundscape to let the air in before the chugging over the deep bass returns. In the mix there are clear, sometimes dissonant, synths stretching long and lifting the staccato mood until it disappears into said neo-classical piano.

But to contrast all the beauty throughout this musical work, there is also violence and abuse as it is sung and played out in the most brutal part, the second one ”Slaves”. The unnoticed transition from the beautiful first part yanks one to a brutal Black Metal start swirling with blast drums and angry and resentful growling vocals; “Killed by rape, blade and stone / Brutally murdered”. The music is filled with anger and tension – quite an uneasy part of this musical work. After this tension comes some release via the piano in the midst of the intense riffing and drumming – the piano crashes in dissonant mode to open for more angry Black Metal. The music races forward with unexpected twists and turns into Progressive Metal with a rapid high-pitched guitar solo that gives nods to Dream Theater’s fastest pieces.

The last words in the last part of the album are ”I rest my head and observe / You weep as I smile”. This part is called ”This Torment Has No End, Only New Beginnings”, a foreboding title that might seem devoid of hope although the lyrics and the music are glimmering with yearning and aspiration. It begins with a cautious acoustic guitar and droplets from the keyboard before synths and extensive drumming once more drag us into Melodic Progressive Death Metal driven by a low-end bass. The acoustic beginning is repeated, but this time with some clear, gentle vocals and a strumming guitar and a choir appears over the slow low-end bass. An organ plays over drums in march tempo and eventually builds up to an immense crescendo accompanied by a doomy organ.

“Words cannot describe…” - how often have we used or heard that phrase? And I will use it for the album I just have tried to describe. And by far have I managed to give all the credit that is due for this release? (I haven´t even mentioned the longest most dizzyingly diverse part ” In The Heavens Above, You Will Become A Monster”). Based on imaginary visions and a seemingly endless flow of creativity, it is so incredibly well done. This is really a milestone and I have not given it justice; only just a whiff of what this is about. This to guide you towards it and experience it for yourself. It is a release that you cannot avoid this year, whatever metal related genres you are interested in.