When we think about black metal it’s hard to forget all the times we’ve been disappointed by bands whose music we love but whose members we come to find out are piss-poor examples of humanity. While anti-fascist metal exists, it seems to be often drowned out by both right wing extremists and people who would prefer to keep politics out of metal entirely. The fact is, metal has always been a political vehicle, as all art forms have, and the time to be silent about the rise of intolerance in the world has long since passed. Enter New York’s Woe, who return with a scorching new album, Hope Attrition, as a rallying cry to those in the metal scene who would stand up for what is right.
Woe have been making a name for themselves in the US black metal scene for ten years now, albeit in many different shapes and forms. Change seems to be the only constant for Woe; throughout the course of their tenure the band has relocated from New Jersey to Philadelphia to Brooklyn, been through several lineup and label changes, and made both stylistic and lyrical adjustments in their music. Now finding a new home on Germany’s Vendetta Records and benefiting from the move to Brooklyn by incorporating the talents of New York stalwarts Matt Mewton (of Belus) and drummer Lev Weinstein (of just about every band in the greater NYC area), Hope Attrition sees Woe approaching their craft with renewed vigor.
“Hope Attrition is the result of the most intense writing and demoing process since the first album” says Chris Grigg, and that statement definitely shows here. Woe’s brand of black metal is thrashy, more than a little punk-influenced, and wholly recognizable as an American take on the genre, and their signature driving fury and sense of melody are back and sounding more focused than ever. There is a fire present in the seven songs that gets your blood and your fist pumping. Grigg and Matt Mewton’s guitar tracks play flawlessly off each other, and Grzesiek Czapla’s bass work gives real meat to these compositions. I give the bulk of the musical credit, however, to Lev Weinstein here; his laser precision behind the drum kit keeps the rest of the band in lock-step configuration throughout the songs’ many pattern changes, allowing the riffs to hit with maximum impact.
The star of the show here, however, is undoubtedly Grigg’s lyrical content. Written with the 2016 US election as its backdrop, Hope Attrition sees Grigg filled with a righteous fury that stands in stark opposition to the injustices of modern life. “No Blood Has Honor” spits in the face of white supremacy, “The Din of Mourning” condemns those who blindly and stubbornly followed the Republican presidential candidate to the cliff’s edge despite innumerable instances of bigotry and incompetence, and “Drown Us in Greatness” stands as a scathing indictment of the man himself. Hope Attrition is brutally honest and uncompromising in its approach, and that level of commitment is exactly what is necessary in this day and age.
Hope Attrition is a modern black metal triumph, and unquestionably the best album in this band’s long and already fruitful career. It is an album that is shaped very much by the times it was conceived in, and it will be interesting to see what age will do to the perception of these songs, but for now it’s enough to hit play again, bask in the fury, and know there is still some good left out there.