In The Woods…
(Debemur Morti Productions)
It’s been a great past couple years for unexpected comebacks (Carcass, At The Gates) and proggy “dark metal” groups (Novembre, Swallow the Sun). Norway’s In The Woods… offer up an example of both camps and do so with aplomb on their very long-awaited release Pure. I used the dark metal term because it’s quite the accurate, if unusual, descriptor. In The Woods… started out as a black metal band before delving into prog, psych, and doom-y waters throughout their earlier works. Pure is really interesting for how it fits into their discography while also carving out its own niche. The record sounds like if newer Enslaved listened to a lot of death/doom and 70s prog. The result is something that feels much more retro metal than it should- Pure is definitely a modern metal album, but it gets there through its love of early prog and proto-metal.
Like the best of prog and metal from long ago, Pure is best digested whole and without too many notions of what to expect. Individual songs don’t really stand out (though there are definitely haunting melodies aplenty), leaving an album that feels a lot like one long song (it’s a really damn great song, though). There are a few chilly, blackened sections that gloriously weave themselves in and out of the proceedings, but they are merely an icing (get it?) on the cake. ITW employ a keen sense of atmosphere and melody, which certainly contributes to the continuity of the album. Vocalist James Fogarty has one of those forlorn voices that is perfect for this style of music, and while his baritone won’t win everyone over, he does a fantastic job of conveying emotion throughout.
What a comeback from a band that few expected to see again. ITW are clearly one of those older groups that took a lifetime between releases, but there’s no dust or kinks to work out on Pure. Just purely enjoyable progressive blackened doom-y metal.