WOODS OF YPRES - Forging On Through The Gates Of Winter

November 14, 2008, 10 years ago

By Carl Begai

woods of ypres feature

Looking back, Woods Of Ypres mastermind / guitarist / vocalist David Gold considers the band’s third album, Woods III; Deepest Roots And Darkest Blues, something of a sonic exorcism. It was a long and sometimes painful journey that heped him work past matters of the heart and soul, concluding with a year long hiatus thousands of kilometers from home (in Seoul, Korea to be exact). During that time the album set a record by becoming the first indie release in the history of The End Records to lay claim to four weeks as the distributor’s #1 top seller, building on the considerable buzz that has surrounded the band since their humble beginnings in 2002. As black metal albums go, however, Woods III was several steps outside the cliché trappings of the genre and Woods Of Ypres’ previous two records, making for a certain amount of online trash talk as well. Gold took it all in stride, particularly since he himself wasn’t 100% convinced the material was up to snuff when all was said and done. He’s satisfied with the end result now, admittedly because enough time has passed since he nailed this particular coffin shut.

“Going into Woods III I always had it in my mind that it would be the hardest record to do,” Gold admits. “Basically, if I make records from now until the day I die, that would be the hardest one just because of what it had to be. There was timing, a few things working against us, and it was this huge gathering of ideas where all of them were brothers of the ideas of the ones beside them. It wasn’t like we could pick and choose 10 songs and leave five of them out that the world never hears. We had to pick up this big giant piece of shit, put it on our back and start walking. That’s the way we kinda looked at it and we knew it was almost kill us to make, but that was the best option at that point. The other alternatives weren’t as attractive.”
“I basically obsessed over for three years, and in the end I gave it all I had but I wasn’t sure if even liked it,” he admits. “It takes about two years after a Woods album is finished for me to be able to listen to it objectively, like a person on the outside. I hadn’t listened to Woods III since about the time we put it out, which was about the end of last year, and I think that’s a healthy thing to do. About two days ago I found a copy here, opened it, and I’ve been playing it in my car for the last day or so, which is really kind of weird. I’m able to listen to it with a different set of ears and dig on it. I’m not listening to too much black metal at home these days, either, unless I’m heading to party to drink. The stuff that I like, latter day Anathema and that kind of vibe, or Hayden out of Vancouver, that’s my kind of listening when I’m driving around.”

Sadly, Gold confirms the reports and rumblings of the past six months that bassist Dan Hulse and keyboardist Jessica Rose are no longer part of Woods Of Ypres. An unfortunate turn of events, but nothing new given the players that have come and gone since Gold launched the band in 2002.

“Let’s say this: Woods as people knew it for the third album came to a crossroads. The band has been Dan, Jessica and myself, and we had a couple guys that filled in on drums and guitar but never came to a point where we felt they were serious enough to even make a permanent offer. We all had to work, we had other lives in Toronto, so we weren’t in a position to be a working, touring band, so the focus was on doing the record; that was the important thing. We decided to do it as a three piece, with me doing guitar, drums and vocals. Doing the record was a three year process, and as it was coming to an end I think all three of us were worn down. It was one of those things where you put the maximum amount of work you can into something but you have yet to receive anything back from it, which is a difficult place to be. I was going to be continuing no matter what, and more and more there was the feeling that the other two didn’t need the band as much as I do. Woods Of Ypres is the biggest part of me, it’s what I do, and as much as those guys are good people and I enjoyed working with them, they don’t need this band as much as I do.”
“Also, I don’t mind imposing this lifestyle on myself, but I’d have a hard time imposing it on people that have alternatives” Gold continues. “If you have an opportunity to work at a job that you enjoy where you’re making pretty good money, and you’ve got a husband or wife and you’re building a life, I’m not going to try and convince you that you should be on the road with me. It came to that point, and I needed to regain some focus on what was going to happen next. I took a year off to regroup and we were all in on it, but as I was gearing up to come home and we were getting offers to play here and there, neither those guys wanted to make a commitmen to any of those plans. There was this silence between the three of us, and in that silence I made some decisions. It came down to, if we can’t do those things as a band then what are we going to do?”

Gold goes on to explain how he effectively conscripted the members of Sault Ste. Marie’s prog-death act Gates Of Winter into becoming the new Woods Of Ypres. All it took was him joining their band first.

“The way that it came down was, almost immediately after I went abroad the guys from Gates Of Winter contacted me asking if I’d be interested in drumming for them. I told them yes, but that I’d be away for another 10 months; if they could wait that long I’d be interested. At that point they told me that if I could commit to doing it they could wait 10 months. I didn’t commit until Dan and Jessica decided they didn’t want to be a part of Woods, because at that point I could do what I pleased without any guilt. When I came down to do the Gates thing, and we started thinking about the way the math worked out. Had it been any other way one guy would have been left out of the equation, which would have been awkward, but the Woods line-up is now me on guitar and vocals, Evan Madden from Green Eve Requiem on drums, I’m able to plug in the two guitarists from Gates (Bryan Belleau and Lee Maines), Brian (Holmes) on keyboards and Steve (Furgiueli) on bass. And Lee, the singer for Gates, is able to do backing vocals. There are people that’ll criticise, saying it doesn’t make sense to have two bands with the same guys, but to my mind it’s a smart move. I’ll always be impressed when I see someone finding new ways to be innovative or productive bandwise. There’s nothing shameful about finding ways to survive.”
“It’s been one thing to the next since I’ve been back,” Gold continues. “We’d have all kinds of time constraints learning this and that song by a certain time, we’d go do that, and by the time we got back we’d switch gears and begin something else. We had a meeting after we got back from the Calgary thing (Noctis II Festival), and that was the first time I was actually able to catch my breath since I’ve been back in Canada. That’s when I realized I’d only been back for less than three months. I came back, we put together the whole hour long Gates Of Winter set and toured for it, playing about a dozen gigs. I’ve only done the one gig for Woods so far, but bringing that up to proper show level required bring Evan up from Philadelphia twice, rehearsing with him from scratch, and then me sitting down for the millionth time with four brand new guys saying ‘Here’s this riff, here’s that…’”

With two bands on the go and a genuine commitment to both all around, Gold and his bandmates have no choice but to plan well into the future. A new Woods Of Ypres album is being written, but fans will have to wait until 2010 to hear it. In the interim, however, Gold has something special planned for the faithful Woods followers.

“At the end of 2008 we’re showing Against The Seasons to people live, next summer we’re going to do this retrospective of Pursuit Of The Sun, and if things go my way, by next fall we’ll revisit the Woods III stuff, and come spring 2010 there’ll be a brand new Woods record. First thing we’re going to do is finish up the writing and record the new Gates Of Winter album in the spring, and that’ll be out for sure by next summer. We plan to do a lot of touring for that, mostly in July, trying to play as many Canadian shows as we can in 30 days, that kind of thing.”

In spite of what is going to be a long wait, Gold offers a brief overview of how the new song material for Woods Of Ypres’ fourth record is shaping up.

“I’ve got song skeletons at the moment, which are about a dozen groupings of riffs. I could show you the arrangements with one guitar, which would be the length of the album. On the other side I probably have about twice as many little files that could end up being lyrics. It’s going to be its own thing. I had Evan come up here and he’s been putting a lot of work into learning the old songs. But, I’ve been over and over them so I asked him if he wanted to jam on some of the new stuff. We did that, and I could tell at first the music wasn’t at all what he was expecting. I even had to ask him what he thought of the stuff and he tried to find a nice way to say it kind of wasn’t meeting his expectations (laughs). But that’s what I expected. We’re at a point now where he’s picking up on it after a few listens and likes the stuff. The new music is definitely different from what’s on Woods III.”

That said, Woods IV is sure to be another black metal adventure for everyone, Gold in particular.

“I’ve always left the door open in the past to anybody who’s been involved with Woods, but the way it’s gone down is that people have mostly left me alone to do my own thing,” he explains. “But, to be honest, after doing three records like this I kind of like it that way. I discussed this with the Gates guys, and I told them that if they brought ideas to the table I liked that would fit, totally. However, I’m not going to let something come in just to make someone else happy. There’s obviously a lot of stuff that I can’t do that these guys have to contribute for me, though. I’m not a keyboard or piano player, but Brian is a talented guy that has two keyboards to make things sound cool. And Bryan Belleau is a really good lead player, so we might even have real ripping solos for the first time in a Woods song. I’m going to leave that up to him. And for Lee, it’ll probably be the two of us working out riff arrangements. It comes down to the record, and I want these guys on board to make the best possible well rounded record we can make.”

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