The songs here are slow and slightly depressive, much like their previous works. Beautiful piano and string segments augment the quiet, lonely feelings the music evokes so well. Woods have often been called black metal or melodic black metal, but over the years they have drifted further into a kind of doom metal that verges on Gothic at times. Gold's vocals have found a deep, slow, clean place that sounds very similar to the late Peter Steele of Type O Negative. The guitars generally maintain a very slow and open sound, leaving lots of room for the atmospheric instruments to wander freely through the songs like travelers strolling along meandering paths through an ancient forest. There are still harsh and heavy moments on this album, but they're just that: moments. Rarely do the aggressive vocals or riffs linger for long before slipping back beneath the surface and vanishing.
I have always found listening to Woods of Ypres to be a very emotional experience, as many of the songs are deeply somber and introspective. Mortality often plays a major role in their lyrics, and that is true again on this record. Listening to the album with the thought hanging over my head that the man whose voice I was hearing had just died himself, though, really brought this effect to a head. It gave the entire listening experience a feeling of haunting prescience, as though he were telling the listeners that he knew he would be dead by the time they heard his words. Maybe I'm just a little too emotionally sensitive, but there were points in the record where I was honestly on the brink of tears. I don't expect that this album will affect most people that way, but it did me.
Yes, I'm biased. Still, this is an early contender for my pick as album of the year for 2012.