Woburn House
Sleep Summer Storm

Metal fans listen to their favorite genre for many different emotional responses. Some of us seek an exhilarating high from its more epic and powerful expressions. Others find an outlet for frustration and aggression from its visceral, blackened and bludgeoning strains. And some enjoy the intellectual immersion and awe that comes from its most ambitious and compositionally complex variants.

As for myself, I enjoy all of the above, but if there’s one emotional response I generally don’t seek out, it’s the crushing despair that comes from the darkest, most funereal depths of doom. It makes me wonder, though: do most of you heavy doom fans submerge yourselves in sadness as a way to echo and release your pain? Or do you simply like it down there?

Whatever your answer, you might want to try the new release from Germany’s Woburn House the next time you need to bum yourself out. It’s fucking miserable.

And not miserable in the way that most funeral doom evokes those waves of suffocating despair. This is nowhere near as crushing; in fact, its vaguely glimmering, chiming guitar tone offers an experience at once bright and bleak. Instead, its misery comes from an unending tension between hopelessness and relief. Almost every song on Sleep Summer Storm seems to yearn towards some kind of salvation, yet it can only graze it with its fingertips.

Musically, I was reminded of a lot of terrific acts while picking my way through the gloomy tangle. I heard the lush and loping goth rock of Fields of the Nephilim in opener “Willow,” the hypnotic drone of early Katatonia in “Rain Keeps Falling Down” and “Behind You,” and earthy dark-country act 16 Horsepower in the dissonance of “Clash” and the lullaby-like title track. There’s even a Tangerine Dream-like synth that drones beneath many of the tracks; an unexpected touch that adds the right air of alien coldness. However, Woburn House doesn’t really sound like any of these bands. They’ve crafted their own unique palette and writing approach; at once warm and dead.

A huge part of the impact is delivered by vocalist Christian Kolf, also of Valborg and Island. He stays at a low croak (Peter Steele and Layne Staley both come to mind) for much of the album, but crests into a ragged and insistent wail when it seems as if he’s about to break free of his misery. Of course, the well he’s trying to climb is slick and difficult, and he slides back down, again and again. He’s occasionally joined by another lost soul as well – a ghostly falsetto vocal that only appears in wisps and faint laments. Whenever it appears, the effect is chilling and unsettling.

Ultimately, this isn’t an album I’ll play often – perhaps never again – simply because it’s just so draining. It’s excellently crafted though, and far more of an artistic statement than the new Klabautamann album (also from Florian Toyka and Zeitgeister). If you’re the kind of doom fan that needs to wallow in your despair before rising up to face the day (or if you simply prefer to hole up in the gloom), then step into this Woburn House, lock the door and close the shutters. By the time you reach the brief and cathartic respite of the closing track, “Hood,” you might be ready to come out again.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 2nd, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: legumbrera

    I like all the bands that this germans have: Woburn House, Island, Klabautamann, Valborg!!


  2. Commented by: Stiffy

    This sounds like my kind of thing. I’ll have to check it out.


  3. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    Love this band, album and label.


  4. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    sounds right up my alley


  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    yeah, this is super. I like it a lot. great atmospheric parts.


  6. Commented by: Clauricaune

    “do most of you heavy doom fans submerge yourselves in sadness as a way to echo and release your pain? Or do you simply like it down there?”

    Both.

    I just checked this band out and I’m loving it. Great review, Jordan!


  7. Commented by: gordeth

    Catharsis is just one of the reasons I enjoy depressing music like this. Another is simply to evoke intense emotions. Obviously depression is bad if it gets out of control, but it can be good in small doses for contemplation. Also, feeling negative emotions and then taking control of them is a source of strength.


  8. Commented by: David Stoller

    Violent and despairing music has been absolutely essential in maintaining my will to live. It has served as an invaluable vehicle to express despair. If it wasn’t for the outlet of Converge, Isis, Totalselfhatred, Dazzling Killmen and others, I wouldn’t have had the strength to get through the darkest days.


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