White Ward sure is a band that can hardly fit into one category. So what would be the best way to describe them? Well, imagine you walk into a jazz bar and the band starts to play some calm jazz until they suddenly switch to black metal. That would be the best description of their music because it is a way more sophisticated form of black metal. One could say that they are not far from what Imperial Triumphant has been doing. However, Imperial Triumphant are way more on avant-garde/technical side of things, while White Ward are more on progressive/post-black metal side of things. It is like an unlikely mix of Imperial Triumphant, Deafheaven, Mgła and Lifelover into one band.
The band started out in 2012, but the first time they gained a wider attention was in 2017 with release of their debut album “Futility Report”. Now 2 years later, the band released a second album called “Love Exchange Failure”. The album was acclaimed by the critics and fans alike. Now we shall see how this album holds up.
The album starts with a title track. The track starts with a piano intro, which features sirens wailing in the background. Later backed up by slow drumming and saxophone creates a rather somber atmosphere until blowing into a black metal hitter. The riffs are the perfect combination of atmospheric and aggressive and vocals, which are a bit reminiscent of Deafheaven’s George Clarke, blended perfectly into the mix. This is not specifically a case for this song only, but for the most of the album as well, with a few exceptions I will discuss later on. The band makes a perfect balance between slower jazzier passages and more aggressive black metal ones. From the album’s artwork it’s pretty much clear that the album dwells on themes like urban decay and existentialism. This is another thing by which this band can be compared to the aforementioned Imperial Triumphant.
Regarding the album’s structure it seems as if the album is divided into two parts. The first part consisting of more straightforward post-black metal tracks, while the second goes into a bit more experimental territory and features some clean vocals as well. The dividing line between the two parts would be the track “Shelter”. This song is pretty much a piano instrumental with spoken and screamed passages in the background. It perfectly indicated in which direction the rest of the album will go. “No Cure for Pain” starts as a slow jazz song with saxophone and piano in the background until switching into a standard post-black metal tune. The culmination when clean vocals, which are very reminiscent of late David Gold, backed up by choirs kick in and create a Woods of Ypres-like atmosphere. The following track “Surfaces and Depths” has nothing to do with metal whatsoever. It is sung solely by clean female vocals accompanied by bass, drums, piano and saxophone with guitars reduced to a bare minimum. It works perfectly as an experimental jazz/rock track and saxophone solos really shine in this one. The last song of the album “Uncanny Delusions” follows the structure set by the most of the album. It features some of the most aggressive riffing on the album and features some spoken clean vocal passages. It goes into a slow saxophone driven territory by the end, until transforming into some old radio transmission and on that note the album ends.
Judging by the music presented here, “Love Exchange Failure” holds up very well in comparison to their debut. It is a very entertaining listen without any boring moments. It isn’t the most original thing out there because you can clearly hear that parts of their songs sound a lot like they came from some of the aforementioned bands. Whether it being from Imperial Triumphant, Deafheaven, Mgła, Lifelover or even Woods of Ypres, it is pretty obvious that this band took a lot of inspiration from those bands. But the way this band is trying to combine those influences into their own style is rather charming and definitely deserves a chance. So I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this album and if you really like it you can also check out the band’s live performance in Močvara with Ultha. The price of entry is rather cheap for two such bands.