I’m guessing that you asked twenty random metal bloggers why they do what they do, you’d probably end up getting a decent variety of answers. This is actually something I spend a fair amount of time thinking about myself – why I do the Vault, whether I do it for the ‘right’ reason, etc. In reality, there are probably very few ‘wrong’ reasons to write about metal aside from either doing it to get free shit or using the platform primarily to discuss things other than this music we all love so fucking much (and if you do either of those things, PLEASE knock that shit off).
For my part, the things I think I value the most about doing IMV – the things that keeps me going through the burnout and near-perpetual feelings of being over-extended – are the relationships that I’ve been able to build with the labels and bands we’ve worked closely with over the last couple of years. At first, we grew alongside some of the labels and bands we regularly covered. Now I try to use my thimbleful of influence to spotlight the people and projects that I don’t think get anywhere near the attention they deserve.
Very high up on that list is UK-based YYLVA, which is a name that should definitely be familiar to our loyal Vault Hunters. For those who may be new here (or don’t have the best memories), here’s a brief recap. I first encountered Clare Webster’s one-woman, Celtic harp-led folk/black metal project back in March, when the video for her first single “A Sidhe in Throes” appeared in my inbox. I fell in love with the song pretty much instantly, and interviewed both Webster and Kathryn Gee of ZenZero Images, who directed the video, shortly thereafter. Fast forward to May, and we were given the privilege of premiering the stunning lyric video for YYLVA’s gorgeous second single “Aurorae.” Both songs come from YYLVA’s debut album The Wood Beyond the World, which will be available on September 22 (preorder here). When the opportunity to stream the album in its entirety was presented to IMV, we didn’t even have to think about it – of course we said yes.
After nearly six months of only hearing The Wood Beyond the World in small pieces,I was pretty damned excited to finally be able to experience the entirety of Webster’s musical vision, and it’s even more remarkable than what the two early singles had me anticipating. With seven tracks and nearly full hour run time, there’s a lot of music here, and while it’s not Webster’s first musical output–she’s also released two albums with her gothic/doom band Edenfall, whose members Sean Brazil (bass guitar & violin) and Rob George (guitars) also appear on this album–it is the first time she’s gone it alone in terms of the songwriting. Given the scope of what she was attempting to do on the record, there could have very easily been the occasional bit of disconnect between the musical ideas and their execution. Such fates have been known to befall musicians, after all…
Luckily, that couldn’t be further from the case on The Wood Beyond the World. In fact, there honestly isn’t a superfluous note anywhere on the album, which makes choosing highlights a bit of a challenge. If I had to label one song as the standout, though, it’d be “Tears of Awakening.” There’s something about the combination of the main riff, the clean vocal melody, the layering of harsh vocals in certain parts, and that sweet stutter-step riff in certain sections make it not only my favorite track on the album, but also one of my favorite songs of 2018.
One last note before I wrap this up: lest anyone be preemptively put off by the idea of a Celtic harp being the main instrument on the album, Webster’s approach to the instrument reminds me a fair bit of some of the more Celtic-influenced or even Medieval dungeon synth bands. Except she plays, like…an actual harp, and doesn’t reproduce those sounds using a synth pad. If you’ve ever gotten into Acheulean Forests, Fief, or even Sequestered Keep, you should certainly give this one a try.
When I asked Webster if she wanted to say anything about the album for this stream, she offered the following:
When asked to describe what the content of The Wood Beyond the World is all about, or where my inspirations for writing the album came from, I find it hard to answer definitively. It tells of a journey: a transition through one world or state to the next. It speaks of suffering and deliverance, but mostly of the fact that one cannot be without the other. The world holds pain and beauty in equal measures, but it is all part of the journey we’re always travelling. This album was born into a very difficult and turbulent time in my personal life, and its development has come through my own flourishing. Perhaps that’s why I can’t summarize this work in a few clear words: I truly hope that others can find my music meaningful in their own way, and that it perhaps assists them on their travels, too.
We here at the Vault are honored that we’ve been able to be a small part of that journey, and we could not be more thrilled to invite you to listen to The Wood Beyond the World in its entirety below.