Written by: Heavy Grinder
What do you do when a band makes music you like but has a name you don’t particularly care for?
You fucking get over it.
Neck of the Woods have a campy band name that seems more apt for a pop country act positioning themselves as the band next door. You know, the one you want to have a beer with and eat fried chicken or whatever. I don’t remember being particularly moved when Sacha Dunable crooned about ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ on Blood from a Stone; a perfect example of why in Metal, idioms and folksy phrases should be used sparingly or avoided.
But we’ll just assume there is something very Metal going on in those woods or there is some profound hidden meaning to the name that eludes my simple mind.
But enough shit-talking the band name, their new album The Annex of Ire is quite good. The band is an aggressive, progressive, melodic metalcore punch that seems to relish in their ability to meld equal parts heavy and melody without losing the edge on either side. The general formula is powerful and appealing; an unrelenting vocal attack complimented by a steady stream of fast and heavy riffs juxtaposed with a consistent supply of very appealing melodic hooks. Underpinning these components is a genre blend that is fairly wide but always conducive to where each song needs to go.
The opening title track invites with a delicious Mastodon-like acoustic guitar that whets the appetite for prog before blasting full speed towards…not prog. Heavy chunk is how I describe the opening section (I’m not at all a dogmatic adherent to syntax and genre definitions!), and within two minutes this transitions to a Swedish melo-death style that will make occasional appearances. Clearly this band is not willing or able to remain grounded within one genre and they excel at the turns. Screwing up tempo or stylistic shifts within a song are vibe killers and there are none of those to be found here (how many times have you heard blast beats where they don’t belong?).
If you were looking for the more progressive elements, you will first find them just past mid-way of the opener as Neck takes you through an acoustic break that teases as if it were going on a journey into Mordor but stops short and returns to familiar ground. There is enough packed in here that by the end of it I felt like I was on a walk and had forgot where I was going. That thread runs through the album as well; they seem to just go in whatever direction they choose, not necessarily aimlessly, but without regard to any sense of predetermined genre-specific limitations. Nor does any particular sound dominate over any other, Neck seems struck with an insatiable need to keep moving on without being pinned down for too long.
On The Annex of Ire, the production is smooth, the songs are varied and forward leaning. The Metal-core stylistics are woven throughout the album, the vocals clearly enunciated and performed with a consistency that doesn’t ever deviate or let up in the slightest. Ambivalence and Vision Loser will please those who prefer start to finish burners (and Vision Loser, in particular, rewards Mastodon fans with a Remission-era scorcher of a riff that is absolutely brutal). The guitars are always doing something interesting, providing a constant source of movement, melody and riffage. In their case it really serves no purpose to gin up bands for comparison as every few bars will catch your ear to another influence. The blend is the benefit Neck provides and they do it seamlessly.
My favorite tracks are Crosshairs Will Shift and The Tower, both of which exemplify perfect execution of timeless melodic Metal riffs that will never go out of style. They are the furthest out Neck pushes from their center but their multi-genre blend is executed so homogenously they never escape orbit and feel foreign to the others. Recommended for just about any metalhead; Neck of the Woods, by commissioning and congealing a wide blend of pathways, carves out their own.
Neck of the Woods - The Annex of Ire will be released March 20th Pelagic Records
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!