White Ward master depressive experimentalism

“Futility Report” gives a multifaceted perspective on mental illness and inner negativity through an unmistakable sound.



Maxwell Heilman, Writer

Formed in 2012 with the intention of creating “intensely deviant music of a noir shade,” Ukraine’s White Ward have spent the past five years perfecting their brand of extreme expression. Incrementally adding glitchy electronics, immersive soundscapes and melodious passages, White Ward showed no intention of curbing their creativity — which reaches critical mass in “Futility Report.”

dazzlingly morose tirades

Clocking in at 40 minutes, this debut LP features six dazzlingly morose tirades through the darkest and strangest vistas of human consciousness. “Futility Report” sheds normativity like an outgrown exoskeleton, emerging in majestic new life. Vibrant hues of modern melodic metal illuminate an abyssal post-black metal canvas, while elements of trip-hop, post-punk, darkwave and even fusion jazz give it magnificent texture. Amazingly, White Ward maintains cohesion and tasteful songwriting within supreme eclecticity.

Never one to jump straight into the fray, White Ward takes their time to set the mood of opener “Deviant Shapes.” A heartbreaking soliloquy from a desperate soul plays over trap-influenced hi-hats and glacial guitar strains before Yurii Kononov’s bass drum cues in the opening ruff. With frenzied blast-beats and rushing tremolo-picked guitars topped by Andrew Rodin’s hair-raising snarls, one might lose memory of the unorthodox intro before the band derails expectations with the first taste of Alexey Iskimizhi’s saxophone.

London’s King Crimson and Norway’s Shining contend for the transcendence of brass instruments as novelty within a metallic context, but White Ward seamlessly integrates saxophone into their sound like no one else. Instead of shredding or soloing, Iskimizhi adds melodic structure and distinguishes jazz elements with somber, compellingly simple lines and developed vibrato.

“Futility Report’s” incredible production and conceptual approach keeps their eclectic style from becoming jarring. Each chord, beat, soundscape and melody more than earns its place on the record. One might not expect the moody crossover jazz interlude “Rain As Cure” to transition into the galloping riff kickstarting “Black Silent Piers,” but White Ward’s musicality — especially noticeable in Andrey Pechatkin’s intuitively changing his bass technique with the rest of the band’s fluctuation — allows them to tastefully transcend labels.

jagged rhythm changes and skull-bashing riffs

White Ward has no problem delving into jagged rhythm changes and skull-bashing riffs. Besides the synchronized guitar and double kick drum concluding “Deviant Shapes,” guitarists Igor Palamarchuk and Yurii Kazaryan contrast dream drowsy tremolo picking with syncopated riffage, melodious arpeggiations and blistering guitar solos in “Stillborn Knowledge” and “Homecoming.” However, this does not come at the expense of their blackened elements — frigid tremolo lines and morose modulations couple with Rodin’s unapologetically grievously screamed lyrics.

As each song phases through minimalist electronics, sensual saxophone melodies and immersive ambience sandwiched between an intoxicating metallic hybrid, Rodin’s lyrics explore the mentality of a man at the end of his rope. Hopelessness and uncertainty pervade throughout the album, whether he recounts an asylum patient’s violent escape from his captors and ultimately his life or the final musings of one willfully drowning. Rodin does not pander to the faint of heart, pulling “Futility Report” together as a harsh narrative on human suffering.

“Futility Report” comes to a stunning conclusion, with every member pouring their entirety into the title track. With a spellbinding crescendo ushering in doomy riffage with soaring saxophone leading to wonderfully varied passages of proggy, anthemic and anomalously bludgeoning post-black metal. The album’s emotional climax comes with a massive build to Rodin’s despairing tagline: “All efforts are futile.” However, what seems like the end of the track metamorphoses into a two-minute darkwave jam. An odd-timed breakbeat slowly envelops looping chords in noise, making for an unexpected end to an unpredictable record.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of White Ward’s debut is how consistent it remains. “Stillborn Knowledge” shredding listeners into oblivion before dropping into a bouncy waltz just scratches the surface of how much they throw out there, but these evolutions flow with persistent smoothness. White Ward’s powerfully honest portrait of inner anguish grounds “Futility Report” in accursed narrative, forcing listeners to acknowledge the silent distress many feel every day and giving an essential catharsis for those suffering within.

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