The Smashing Skull Sessions

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White Ward - False Light

That’s the beauty of music. They can't get that from you...haven't you ever felt that way about music? Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget. Forget that...there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside...that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours…. Hope

A beautiful phrase that painfully proves it’s truth right now for this band living in Ukraine. A phrase they most likely weren’t consciously thinking of while writing and creating their third album because then their country wasn’t in war yet. False Light is out now approximately six weeks and the way it’s been received sure will give hope to the band since it’s just massive. And rightfully so.

On the first two full-length albums (Futility Report and Love Exchange Failure) WHITE WARD already showed that they are a different breed and they put themselves on the radar for everyone to keep an eye on in the future. Well, the future is now, and music-wise the world lies open for them. With this gem they draw attention from all kinds of music lovers. Their deviant style of black metal develops real fast and they dared to experiment even further with different instruments, vocals and arrangements. The use of a saxophone or brass instruments in general is something that more extreme newschool bands incorporate (Rivers of Nihil, Five the Hierophant or Aetheria Conscientia to name a few) and that’s an interesting development and one can only be curious what the next step in evolution is going to be on that front.

On this album WW wanted to address certain topics and themes they needed the world to know about such as government-sanctioned murders, domestic abuse, police brutality, overconsumption and environmental catastrophes. The album opener Leviathan thematically continues where Love Exchange Faillure ended and builds a bridge between that album and False Light. You know you’re into something special when an album begins with a thirteen minutes song. After a peaceful synth opening suddenly the guitars and sax kick in massively and we’re off. The pace is thriving with the drums going beserk, the riffs and melodies are as tight and swinging as ever before and the vocals are harsh. Midway the song fades into silence. A clean guitar lick interludes a wonderful minutes-long trumpet passage played by Jerome Burns. This sounds so open and pure. With the eyes closed one can see a silhouette standing and blowing the trumpet in the middle of a desolated street in an Ukranian ghosttown… Then the same riffs that opened the song kick in again to continue the second half towards another fade as a finish.The bar is set very high.

Second song Salt Paradise differs quite from the rest at first listen, but after each rotation it fits more and more since the use of clean vocals occurs more often in various ways later on the album. Third song Phoenix tells the story of Kateryna Handziuk, an Ukrainian activist who was investigating the mass forest fires in the Kherson region when she suddenly died after an acid attack. The song has the same built up: easy listening, fast aggressive, jazzy midpart and then built up again to full throttle with great synth and aggressive multiple backing vocals along the way.

Silence Circles also starts off tranquilo, silence before the storm. Sax, keyboard (by Mykola Lebed) and samples are altered with heavy and filthy guitars, blasting drums, and grunts go hand in hand with blackened screams and clean vocals. The dark jazzy instrumental Echoes in Eternity is strategically placed as a winddown after those intense longer songs and in the same time also placed before another two heavy songs that follow after.

Cronus starts off with clean vocals by Vitaliy Harvilenko, who can also be heard on the song No Cure for Pain on the previous album. His sound gives the song a certain post-punk/wave start before the blasting takes over. The intense lyrics deal about the dead of a five year old boy who got shot by a police officer. Just like on the entire album the lyrics go as deep and high as the music, completing eachother perfectly. Title song False Light leans more towards death metal with the grunting and blastbeats. And then with another easy-listening instrumental Downfall, although accompanied again with deep-thinking voice over samples, one can take a deep breath and reflect while the album slowely comes to and end. Whoeha, what a ride.

False Light is an album with so many well-thought directions and layers, touching base on all kinds of musical subgenres performed on such a high-quality level, with a fantastic production and similar artwork (Lucas DeShazer), resulting in a near perfect masterpiece. I cannot see another band surpassing this brilliance in the coming months to dethrone False Light as my AOTY. I believe this band isn’t even at their peak yet. Can you imagine what their next album is going to sound like after the war is done and they are going to process all the horrors and emotions into their music? Hope is a good thing. Let’s hope they can start writing that album as soon as possible. In the meantime let the world embrace and immerse in this modern classic.