Ukrainian sextet White Ward make a furious entrace with their debut album Futility Report, an absolute must listen for fans of jazzy black metal with post-rock and avantgarde influences.
Futility Report stands for the cynical ridicule of the vain effort at maintaining order in the face of certain failure. It is the absolute expression of the magnitude of defeat. It is also the title of the debut album by ukrainian post-black metal six-piece White Ward. Formed in 2012 the band released a split with Silence of the Old Man and Sauroctonos between two EPs, all of which were combined in their 2016 compilation Origins. Now, a year after that White Ward come out with their first full-length album featuring six songs that were written and recorded between 2014 and 2016.
My curiosity for this album was instantly piqued when I read that the band’s music features a saxophone and I was pleased to find out how elegant and generally enriching the instrument’s presence is on this album. White Ward describe their sound as “intensely deviant with a noir shade” which is a very apt description for their style of music. Futility Report is an album that tackles metropolitan despair with its bleak sound and imaginative lyrics that paint surreal scenes of nighttime cityscapes.
Despite the dark palette that the band draws from their songs aren’t simply depressing or jaded. White Ward’s music is visceral and its emotions and themes are expressed to a powerful impact. Stillborn Knowledge was the first track of the album to be released and constitutes the very embodiment of the band’s qualities. A powerful intro launches the song into a furious and infectious black metal section fronted by wild screams. About a quarter into the song the saxophone kicks in, adding a smoky, nocturnal layer to the song’s atmosphere. Around the mid-section a post-rock segment begins, featuring some scattered guitar notes and subtle electronics that set the stage for a saxophone solo. The band kicks back into gear past the halfway point and unleashes a heavy rhythm section as the song gains momentum once more and a fiery guitar solo sets in. The guitars soon make way for the return of the saxophone, this time fronting jazz-influenced drumming and somber piano chords as the song fades out.
The song Black Silent Piers is off to a similarly impactful start, led by vast guitar riffs and supported by a strong rhythmic backbone by the on point bass-play and drumming. Dreary guitars initiate the song’s transition to a mid-paced section that is fronted by the saxophone’s sorrowful wailing. The vocals join back in and slow double-bass drumming pushes the song forward before tremolo-picked guitars build the bridge to a black metal segment. Following that the song fades out on a passionate guitar solo backed by the piano.
White Ward have a very skillful hand for cafting powerful songs that flow and captivate the listener with the black metal parts making for a cathartic contrast to the melancholic post-rock and jazz sections. In all that the saxophone plays an integral role in the band’s sound and makes for a great final touch with how tastefully it is deployed. I do, however, wish that the saxophone-playing was a bit more ambitious on some occasions, such as the song Homecoming, where it feels like the band missed an opportunity for a more intense saxophone section shortly before the last quarter of the song.
Generally speaking, White Ward understand how to write deeply cohesive material with the song Rain as Cure being the only big outlier in terms of the album’s overall sound. Rain as Cure has a strong lounge and smooth-jazz vibe with its slow, swaying saxophone, the snapping fingers and silky bassline. It makes for a brief moment of respite and bridges the gap between the tracks Homecoming and Black Silent Piers, past the halfway point of the album.
White Ward deliver a fantastic debut album and impress with their memorable and ambitious sound that marries jazz and black metal in a combination that has seldomly been more beautiful. This album will make a strong contender for the best album of this year and is sure to establish White Ward as a name to be remembered. Futility Report is an album that goes its own way, passionately telling stories of an absurd modern life, illuminated by the dim glow of the lonely streetlights.