Right from the first bars of the single guitar intro this self-produced debut makes it clear that the intent is clarity and clarity is only the bedfellow of talent. Everything here is pristine, the separation of instruments is second to none, the distinct tone of both severely downtuned guitars toys with your ears in what is the real conversation of note in these songs and underneath the low end guitars of Ross and Lar the subs of bassist Chris feel like nothing short of an audio titan balancing all the other melody and harmony on giants’ shoulders.
The opening two tracks ‘Final Resistance’ and ‘Serenade of Silence’ stand out as the two singularly unknockable songs, they encapsulate what must, consciously or otherwise, be the ambition of the band; to blend together the sludgy, hazy metal of distinct influences Crobar, the old school crunchy, boozy rock of AC/DC and, most uniquely, the heady, slightly aloof mmmmmm-nice factor of ‘serious’ metal. These guys know metal, they know the metal you love and they know the metal you hate and the greatest obstacle they will face, should they choose to, is to earn the respect of both sides of the metal fence; mainstream and underground.
The mainstream element, the sing along characteristic of every chorus, has been nailed in both the riffing and the vocal department, though unfortunately it may have been nailed a little too deep for some. There are quite a few riffs far too similar for comfort, the second to last riff in ‘Serenade of Silence’ and the opening riff of the next song ‘Hell Again’ and the main riff of ‘A Place In Time’ with ‘City of Doom’. This coupled with the vocal repeats, well, let’s get one thing straight; Carl can sing.
He can sing really, really goddamn well, the closing section of City of Doom ‘this is what you leave me with…nothing!’ is sublimely delivered. My only unavoidable gripe with the vocals is repetitions and confusions in the lyrics and vocal patterns. ‘Blood of the Bad’ (which incidentally starts with a riff that sounds for all the world like Ten era Pearl Jam slowed down ten-fold) and ‘Straight Outta Hell’ suffer particularly badly from this syndrome and I think more than anything it’s the subject matter which means that you just can’t ignore how many times you’re hearing the same words; hell, pain, veins, woe, her face again…these are scattered across various songs giving the impression that the aim was to have a theme between all the lyrics, not quite a concept album theme but along those lines.
The nods to straight metal are really gems of genius throughout and crop up everywhere, you’ll even hear flashes of latter Destruction and Katatonia (Religion) and a killer nod to ‘My Friend of Misery’ in the closing section of ‘City of Doom’. But the real food for metal fans in this album is the solos. Phenomenal. It’s almost like a guest list of the heroes and ghosts of great metal soloing, Chuck (‘Religion’), Dime and Vai mashed as one (‘Blood of the Bad’), Loomis (‘Serenade of Silence’) – they really are the tastiest and most tasteful solos committed to disc by an Irish band that I’ve ever heard and harness composition and execution perfectly.
Let all guitarists please use this album as a 101 of how to get in and the fuck out of a solo section without over staying your welcome. Listen to how short a time a truly accomplished guitarist spends in the spotlight, that right there is commitment to the song that almost none at this level comprehend.
The combination of pure rock’n’roll swagger with ball breaking metal is phenomenally addictive, my head is chock full of new riffs to pass my work day and the chorus melodies of ‘Serenade of Silence’ and ‘Religion’ are hummed subconsciously over and over and little details like the snare rolls repeated later as tom rolls in ‘SoS’ keep the brain engaged throughout.
Two Tales of Woe will always be enjoyed by those who love pumping their fists, banging their heads and tapping their feet and, should they decide to, by exploiting their strengths and working to avoid some of the weaker areas they will find fans flooding in from amongst the most unlikely of the arms folded cliques. In the end what direction they choose to take is up to ‘The Woe’ themselves, they play with pride and a live show is all the convincing you need to see that they’re loving what they’re doing already. Now, I’m going to finish this glass of whiskey over one more listen of acoustic instrumental closer ‘Kerry’. End of conversation.
– Chris Robertson ::: 08/09/03