Loudly, dramatically.

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Brooklyn’s black metal act Woe has been to the top of the mountain and the bottom of the valley. From stunning debut as a one man black metal act almost a decade ago, to almost breaking up, founder Chris Grigg has seen it all. After a 4 year layoff, Grigg is back with a new album, some new members and the return in “Hope Attrition”, which drips with a cathartic venom of a man and a band that has something to prove. Ive known Chris for a few years, back when he was called “Xos”, and thought I’d reach out to see how hte new album and lineup came about as well as the last couple of albums….

Hope Attrition seems very…cathartic and redemptive. Would you agree and why? 

I can say that it has been cathartic, in a sense. There was a lot to get out and after so much time away from playing, it was fulfilling to see that, yeah, we still got this. There were moments where I worried that it would never be finished or never get heard by anyone. It was good to be so wrong.

There was a 4 year wait for the new album, and while that’s not a super long time between albums. it seems like Woe was completely out of the limelight for the whole time- was Woe close to being done in that time?

We were very “done” in the sense that there was no activity for most of that time, but there was never a point where I thought it was necessary to make any kind of dramatic pronouncement about the state of the band or its future. That shit is too showy for me. We’re fortunate to not have to tour full-time or work on anyone else’s schedules. With no expectations or obligations, there will probably not ever be a reason to say “we are done,” so we just kept kicking it down the road until we were ready. 

Was the reaction to Withdrawal part of your time away? It seems like after 2 albums that had you on the cusp of USBM ‘stardom’, things fell off a bit.

The reaction to Withdrawal was strong — stronger overall than Quietly, Undramatically, which was an extremely polarizing album. The writing, recording, and touring process for Withdrawal spanned from 2012 until the very end of 2013. After that, my mother got sick, I needed a career change, and the band lost two members. I needed time away without having to think about music at all, I just did not have the bandwidth for it.

There is no such thing as USBM ‘stardom’ as far as I am concerned. I can think of maybe three black metal-rooted bands in the entire country who are able to shower regularly on US tours. We were never close to that and I doubt that we ever will be, which is fine.

 Looking back at Withdrawal, is there anything you would have done differently? it seems like the scene and sound at the time played into that album a little bit.

Each Woe album was what it was supposed to be and what it needed to be in order for us to get to where we are now. The scene and the sound at the time never influenced anything at all and still doesn’t; in fact, a fair amount of the riffs on Withdrawal were written around the time I was writing Quietly. The songwriting influences have always been consistent, but I experimented more with dynamics and the balance between the metal and non-metal influences, and that led to some weird places. They’re not my favorites to listen to but I’m still proud of them for what they are.

After a truly stellar debut as a one man project, has there been any internal discussion of returning to a one man project or will Woe be a full on band from now on?

I doubt it. Playing live is too important and I like being able to narrow my focus and trust everyone else to do their parts better than I could. I’m still doing all the writing, but having the other guys to give feedback and call me on any bullshit is great. The band experience is more fulfilling than working solo.

Why the change from Xos for the debut to your real name?

Haha! I fucking hated going by a black metal name. So fucking uncomfortable. I did it in the beginning cause I was young and it was the black metal thing to do, especially at that time. But I realized quickly that there was no better way to feel like a fucking idiot than by using a fake name, especially since the songs were coming from such real places. This isn’t an indictment of anyone who wants to use a metal name, I think it’s totally metal and the right thing to do in some contexts, but it was not right for Woe. Dropping it was an important step in being willing to create my own sound and identify for the band.

The new album feature 2 new members Lev Wienstein (drums) and Matt Mewton (guitars)- how did they contribute to the album or is this all you, and they play what you write?

I wrote and demoed the entire album before the guys learned it, but I knew that they’d be playing on it and tried to keep their preferences in mind as I worked. Lev and Matt always called me out if I went too Deftones with anything, so I’d sometimes fall back on that as a way to justify cutting a riff or pushing a song in one direction or another.

But there was more to it than that. There is one song, “The Ones We Lost,” that the three of us (G lives in Philly still and wasn’t at rehearsal that night) collaborated on to improve the instrumental section before the vocals start, which is why they have a writing credit in the album. Matt and I worked on some leads, he also wrote his solo in “No Blood has Honor.” Everyone got links to every iteration of every song, so they were able to give as much feedback as they wanted throughout the process, which they did to some extent. Grzesiek (Czapla) was truly a co-producer and helped shape the feel of every song in really critical ways.

Talk a little bit about the album title and the cover there seem to be some very real world, ominous messages in there.

The title, the art, and the album are reflections of profound powerlessness in the face of uncaring force. I could say “systems of oppression,” which might sound awfully punk rock, but it’s bigger than any one political, religious, or social system. It’s about the way we organize ourselves to trample on others. Each song deals with this in different ways, but it all circles around the same themes.

The song “The Ones we Lost” seems very somber and personal, lyrically and in style compared to the rest of the album- is it about someone in particular?

I and a few of the other band members lost some family and friends in the past few years. It was motivated by them and I tend to think about different people every time I play it, but it’s not about anyone. It’s about the cognitive dissonance between your physical reaction to a loved one’s death and the world’s lack of registering the change.

Is Woe ‘back’? What can we expect for the immediate and distant future for the band? 

We’re as “back” as we can be. We just returned from two weeks in Europe with Ultha. Some of the other guys have other recording and touring obligations, so we’re taking a few months off, then we’ll be playing at Shadow Woods Festival in September. We’re kicking around some other tour ideas and I’ve already started working on some new material. We don’t promise or trust anything that we can’t see, but it does seem safe to say that we will keep doing this shit until we have a good reason to hit the brakes.

http://www.woeunholy.com/

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