A Spell for the Death of Man

If a complete stranger or non-metalhead were to come up to me today and ask me “What is Black Metal”? I’d give him this record. Sure there’s all sorts of classic options from Emperor through Marduk, Immortal, Leviathan and such, but as of right now A Spell for the Death of Man, for me, seems to be an album that captures the very essence and spirit of black metal in all its forms. And it’s a one man project.

Yup! This terrific album is the brain child of Xos (or Chris Grigg) and while you’d typically expect the usual depressive lo-fi scrawl from a US (Philadelphia) one man black metal project, Woe turns out to be one of the very best and well done, pure black metal records I’ve heard in quite some time, capturing the misanthropy, tortured melody, scarred atmospherics and introspective, craggy nihilism of the genre in eight perfectly done songs.

The guitar tone is clean but raw and the bass is barely there as a steady background, but the guitars carry the show with a perfectly balanced mix of slice and dice riffs, mid-paced control, carefully placed, seething underlying melodies and just the right amount of ambiance and atmospherics. Grigg’s vocals are a pretty standard screech but are effective in glossing the music with the expected vocal fury that becomes black metal.

From the dreamy throes that delicately start 9-minute opener “Solitude” to fuzzed out, droning feedback of closer “Memento Mori” , A Spell for the Death of Man seems to drip emotion and angst edged with searing melody is a very Weakling sort of way, but with more polish and a more direct, deeply personal level of suffering and suffocating atmosphere. “Alone with Our Failures” and the blistering melody of personal favorite “Longing is All That Will Remain” (the section that starts at 4:23 is just intense) explode from the speakers with a precise contorted sense of precise, slicing harmonies. “Condemned as Prey” sees Xos spiting out some vitriol lyrics before the song unleashes a barrage of tightly wound, scathing but at the same time, depressive harmonies. My other favorite track “I See No Civilization” arguably has the most melodic riff, but it’s rendered with such a tangible sense of angst and emotional depth you can almost see wounds, physically and emotional, open before your eyes.

Behind Krallice’s debut, this had to be one of the most impressive debuts of US black metal and all the more impressive it comes from the mind and hands of one tortured individual without stepping over into full on depressive mopey-ness, but instead self cuts with a vitriolic sense of self loathing. There’s no doubt in my mind if I had heard this earlier it would have been mentioned in my year end list. I just hope Xos can keep this high standard for any forthcoming releases.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 30th, 2009


  1. Commented by: Rev

    Amazing album.

  2. Commented by: Jay L.

    Chris is the man, buy his fucking record.

    Get this project back in the studio.

  3. Commented by: Steve

    Woe is great! Check out this album you’ll be glad you did!

  4. Commented by: Chris

    A very good album indeed.

  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this sounds really good.

  6. Commented by: CHUD

    This album is near perfect. I was excited about this album the way most people were about Barack Obama. It made me proud to be an American. To me this album marked the turning point where I can really say without a doubt the US is leading the world in metal these days. This is the final nail in the coffin of Eupropean musical elitism. Who needs forest isolation to make black metal when you have rust belt desperation?

  7. Commented by: Dimaension X

    yes, this is really an impressive album – great atmosphere, riffs, production, vox, etc.

    it’s all there – the elements that make not only good black metal, but ANY metal.

  8. Commented by: Chris/WOE

    Thank you all very much. If anyone is interested, there is now a pay-what-you-want digital version of the album at http://www.woeunholy.com (follow the link from the front page) as well as a free stream at http://www.last.fm/label/subvert+all+media

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