Woman is the Earth aren’t a new prospect, but latest record Torch of Our Final Night is a massive step forward for them in sound and scope and so, quite rightly, they are suddenly gaining traction in the underground. This Place That Contains My Spirit from 2012, and 2014s follow-up, Depths, are tremendous albums, but this new work is infinitely more thrilling, emotive, and expansive than previously heard from this South Dakota trio. American black metal is seeing a tremendous shift currently, and Woman is the Earth are using warmer, more organic sounds, rather than borrowing heavily from the European side of the genre, in order to give them a distinctive and nuanced aura.
Gorgeous, sorrowful guitar leads cascade through songs in powerful movements, leaving traces of sadness filtering through the warm, full production. Highlights are plenty and without stepping too far into hyperbolic territory, Torch of Our Final Night is worthy of multiple “album of the year” accolades. Beginning on the gentle simplicity of “Triumph of the Sun,” Woman is the Earth set out their manifesto early on. Beautiful, post-rock style guitars play into first track “Brother of Black Smoke” and while the initial mood is one of melancholy, the song soon segues into harder moments and harsh, raw vocals. Lush soundscapes permeate the otherwise aggressive progression and choral vocals often underpin the severity. Shimmering guitars overlay deeply rhythmic patterns and lift the music into headier ground. It’s truly mesmerising and evokes an array of keenly felt images of spirituality and a sense of being at one with nature and the world.
Torch of Our Final Night calls to mind the Cascadian sound of Wolves in the Throne Room and the aggressive tendencies of Panopticon, but Woman is the Earth tread their own path and in their third full length, they hit a stride that will be the making of them. “Broken Hands” falls into doomier responses with softer moments that echo Pallbearer’s sadness while “Sorrow and the Floods” steps into dreamier lands and incorporates a synthesised sound that resonates with mournful grace and paints the song with heartache before ripping any semblance of peace from the seams and bursting into life once again.
The quiet/loud dynamic is one that is used throughout, but it never feels overplayed or unimaginative. The softer sections are used to create atmosphere and build tension and the louder parts and harsh vocals serve to push the emotive aspect even further. “Lungcrusher” displays this contrast in fine detail with a gorgeous, acoustic led introduction that tips the balance in favour of regret and hopelessness, before the electric vibrations spill out and imbue the song with haunting despondency. Vocals are stripped to ghostly remains and echo over the iridescent guitars leaving a shadow of desperation imprinted on the mind long after the closing sounds fade.
8.5 / 10
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