NECK OF THE WOODS – The Annex Of Ire

NECK OF THE WOODS – The Annex Of Ire

While I appreciate bands who always splendidly deliver what I expect of them (Testament, Kreator, Evergrey, etc.) the primary reason while I love being a reviewer is the perpetual opportunity to discover fresh, innovative approach to heavy music. One of such bands was, and still is, the New Zealander deathsters Ulcerate, whose every album is a true adventure in musica. This month, the Canadian progressive deathsters, Neck Of The Woods, maybe signalling another "shock to the system", to quote from Fear Factory, with approach most akin to Between The Buried And Me in terms of creativity, complexity and instant memorability, "The Annex Of Ire", their 2nd LP, one of the finest metal albums in recent memory.

Neck Of The Woods formed in 2013 in Vancouver, Canada, immediately debuting with a demo (2013), followed by eponymous EP (2015), and the acclaimed first album, "The Passenger" (2017). For the recording of this, the 2nd album, the ensemble featured Jeff Radomsky (vocals), Dave Carr (guitar), Travis Hein (guitar), Jordan Kemp (bass) and Jeremy Gilmartin (drums). While Neck Of The Woods is definitely progressive death metal, their unique sound has elements of thrash and hardcore which enhance the compositions. This sound could roughly be described as Misery Signals through Mastodon by way of Revocation built on a solid Between The Buried And Me/Becoming The Archetype foundation, so you get an idea how versatile this material is. Accordingly, volatile vocalist, Jeff Radomsky, is an amalgamate of Revocation’s David Davidson, Karl Schubach (ex-Misery Signals) and Jason Wisdom (ex-Becoming The Archetype), which adds to the uniqueness and strength of this material, and, needless to say, all remaining performances are as top notch as they are mind boggling. Again, the aforementioned Ulcerate comes to mind in terms of this complexity.

While all of the tracks are excellent, I was particularly impressed with the opener/title track – with gorgeous Opeth-ian acoustics and In Mourning-like guitar wailing, topped with the excellent solo, which, together with the ending riff, recalls Pantera’s "Far Beyond Driven", the insanely jazzy and fiercely original "Crosshair Will Shift" – where the thrashy guitars bring God Forbid’s "Gone Forever" to mind, and the "you have to hear it to believe it" fantastic closer "The Tower" – highly reminiscent of recent Revocation, Trivium-ish melodic rhythm as well as the end of Immolation’s "The Devil I Know"/"Failures For Gods" album. And these are just the choice cuts!

While all of the tracks are excellent, 2 songs, "Ambivalence" and "Strange Consolation", are not as intricate although, I freely confess that it’s a very close call. They seem simpler, more concise and don’t give me quite as much of a headache from vainly trying to wrap my mind around the time signatures. Particularly in "Ambivalence" I hear a strong groove a’la Lamb Of God’s "Sacrament" which makes me think the two tracks are designed for more accesibility in order to prevent listener’s burnout from "thinking in jazz". But this is not a criticism but rather a small excuse why I won’t give this fantastic album a perfect score for one ought to be given.

In a sea of settled and claimed territory in extreme metal, these Canadians arrive with fantastic material to be enjoyed, consumed, studied and vainly emulated by generations to come. A future classic, "The Annex Of Ire" is for both those who love metal for its hooks and those who appreciate complexity and sheer power of original expression. Very highly recommended.