The eternal return–we are doomed to repeat our own history; the horrors of humankind resurface time and time again. This is our legacy, one of destruction, callousness, and self-aggrandizement in the face of our species' worst accomplishments. At the precipice of chaos, destruction, and hopelessness is New York-based black metal band Woe, whose new album–the band's first proper album since 2017's Hope Attrition–shows multi-instrumentalist Chris Grigg at his most rejuvenated and feral.
Legacies of Frailty is the result of a few choice things. Helming the project by himself in near-isolation, Grigg methodically and near-completely took over the recording, his first solo album since 2007's A Spell for the Death of Man. Though this seems like a brash move, having had a full band since 2010, Grigg's control of the songwriting process has been a consistent element in Woe's existence.
Taking a darker, faster, and even more aggressive approach this time around, Legacies of Frailty's concept mirrors Grigg's performance and songwriting. Co-produced by Grigg and longtime collaborator Grzesiek Czapla, this album's immensity is augmented by a fitting, just-clear-enough mix and master to give Woe a sharp sonic edge. Encouraged by his bandmates Czapla, Matt Mewton, and Lev Weinstein, who is featured at choice moments, Grigg's songwriting and conceptual vision overtook Woe, resulting in a powerful, furious album.
A concept album concerning itself with humankind's self-centered propensity and ruinous tendencies, Legacies of Frailty's ferocious sound is as incensed as it is mired in tragedy. Following a conceptual arc which leaves humankind's future with nothing to inherit, Grigg's disgust with the cyclic repetition of historic horrors manifests in Woe's most aggressive album to date, but also the band's most complex work.
Using many layers of overdubs, the atmosphere laid forth on Legacies of Frailty is unlike other Woe albums. Eschewing the sinewy, lean sound that defines this band's preceding discography, Grigg's sumptuous approach and near-progressive use of leads, synthesizers, and other ambient elements shows Woe at its most exuberant and over-the-top. Even so, this is not an "atmospheric black metal" album, and Grigg's fury is more than palpable across the album's six songs.
What fully encapsulates this album as a whole both conceptually and as a definer of mood is the front and back cover art. A veritable Guernica, Serbian artist Khaos Dictator Designs painted a tragic scene of a city ablaze, a mother carrying her child in the foreground. All is lost as we destroy each other, and Legacies of Frailty as an album is represented in full through this catastrophic representation.
With a new epoch comes a new visual identity, and thus gives birth to Stephen Wilson's (Unknown Relic) new take on the classic Woe logo, emblazoned on the front cover. Though still clearly inspired by the band's original logo, Wilson's interpretation is damaged and frayed. Woe has been around a long time now, over fifteen years, and Wilson's new logo shows an unraveling that mirror's Grigg's emotive display. Complete with a trinity of upside down crosses, it is clear where Grigg's anger is pointed.
Slated for release through the venerable Vendetta Records, Woe's return to the fold with Legacies of Frailty is a re-cementing of this band as one of the States' finest acts, but also on a global scale. Chris Grigg is an unholy riff machine and is, if you weren't already aware, clearly a talent not to ignore.
Legacies of Frailty releases September 29th, 2023 via Vendetta Records on CD, LP, cassette, and digital formats.
- Jon Rosenthal