The third full-length release from Australia's Woods of Desolation is as much stargaze as it is blackgaze. As The Stars is a strange, shimmering musical beast, with moments of delicate, stunning beauty suddenly giving way to huge, soaring soundscapes; it's a record as subtle and intricate as it is powerful. The LP plays carefully and intelligently with overwhelming emotion as a creative palette, clearly influenced by French magicians Alcest, but their compositions are more broad-stroke and sweeping, more actively adventurous than wandering and exploratory.
Woods of Desolation is primarily the work of band mastermind D., but As The Stars was recorded with several session members: Vlad from Drudkh on drums, Luke Mills from Nazxul on bass, and Old from Drohtnung contributing vocals. The slanted, autumnal light often conjured by Drudkh compliments D.'s instrumentation well, and the vital energy of the record is contrasted extremely productively by Old's wry, wraith-like performance. It's a devastating record from an emotional standpoint; while a lot of metal merely seeks to rend or pummel, Woods of Desolation want to leave you emotionally wrecked.
Heart-rending, arterial and woundingly authentic, As The Stars is a hell of a record to drop on Valentine's day. (Northern Silence Productions)