Release Date: 05/12/17
Ukrainian black metal band White Ward’s debut album, Futility Report, is an eclectic exercise in what’s possible to accomplish under the black metal umbrella.
The lead-off track, “Deviant Shapes”, covers an astonishing amount of ground: there’s electronics and drum machines before heading into more standard black metal fare. But then it quiets down, and in comes, get this, a sax solo. Saxophone winds up appearing on every track on this album, by the way. This is followed up by a rapid hi-hat hit early-to-mid-2000’s Indie drum beat before another sax lead comes in. In fact, I hear more early-to-mid 2000’s influence in this song around the six-minute mark as well. This part reminds me of some stripe of post-hardcore that you’d hear in local scenes all over in that time period, and since I was in bands from between 2003-2007, this is an unmistakable element for me. There has to be a band member or two who’s connected to this era of music, because this particular mixture rears its head at least a couple more times throughout the album. I’d be more surprised if this were unintentional. The song and album are really all over the place in the best kind of way. The overall atmosphere, emotional tone and consistent use of instrumentation lends to a solid overall sense of cohesion, however, so it never feels like a slipshod collection of moments and songs.
Many of the same elements that make up the first song, are found in the second: it’s epic, it’s eclectic, it’s built upon a base of black metal. The band often eschews black metal genre norms though, much to its benefit. Around the 5-minute mark, I’m again hearing early-2000’s post-hardcore. It’s a surprising combination, yet it works so incredibly well, that it’s stunning no one has done this yet. This whole section is undoubtedly one of the album’s highlights. I might be stepping into even crazier territory here, but the guitar solo reminds me of something Jade Puget would’ve played on AFI’s Sing the Sorrow. If you’re a guitarist who’s heard this album, this is indeed a compliment.
Speaking of cohesion, “Homecoming” keeps the ball rolling in much the same fashion as the previous two tracks, though I’d say this one skews a bit more towards the modern atmospheric black metal side of things. There’s a bit less outside these bounds on this track. It doesn’t remain this way for long though, the ambient instrumental “Rain as Cure”, again with electronics, programmed drums, and saxophone, keeps the listener inside the proverbial atmospheric bubble the band has expertly crafted here.
“Black Silent Piers” features some of the more emotive and morose sounding passages found here. The first two minutes or so is unrelenting sadness. By the time the blast beats come in around 4 minutes in, you’re ready for just that kind of cathartic explosion. There aren’t too many blast beats on this album, so coming in at such a powerful moment during such a moody song really exemplifies the bands excellent taste. For the first time, during the songs outro, a new flavor is added to the musical palette too – piano, which comes off as a well-considered addition.
The album’s title track “Futility Report” ends things off in epic fashion, again bringing together all the things that make this release special and unique. From the slow build-up of the intro, replete with a saxophone lead; the increasing intensity featuring some tremolo’d guitar lines and rapid-fire double bass drum; then some of those aforementioned 2000’s chord progressions; followed by blast beats, and later, blast beats with saxophone, followed by a lead by some other string instrument I’m not finding easy to identify; and finally, a sinister, prototypical black metal riff over programmed electronic drums. The band really does effortlessly cover a lot of ground.
This is a highly promising debut album, as the band is already pretty much fully realized in their current iteration. Fortunately, the wait for album two shouldn’t be too long, as according to the band’s Facebook page, the second album is currently being worked on!
Highlights: “Deviant Shapes”, “Stillborn Knowledge”, “Black Silent Piers”, “Futility Report”