In the Woods… – Cease the Day (Debemur Morti)

Thursday, 3rd January 2019
Rating: 8.5/10

The 2016 return of Norwegian avant-garde innovators In the Woods… was embraced by those who were “in the know” during the 1990s when the band was nothing more than a cult entity as well as the hard-to-please metal elite, no doubt caught off guard by such a novel act. Pure, their first album in 17 years, was the spread-out, darts-to-the-wall effort that brought forth elements of black metal, folk metal and avant-garde. Cease the Day, on the other hand, is an immersive experience — all “songs” here, and lots of savory moments.

To wit, only one member of the band’s classic lineup remains: Drummer Anders Kobro, meaning, In the Woods… is basically a reformatted version that would typically warrant a name change. But, Kobro and vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Mr. Fog (real name: James Fogarty, also of Ewigkeit fame) have given In the Woods… a songwriting overhaul. Once prone to elongated, atmospheric jaunts, the songs on Cease the Day are tight constructs, highlighting Mr. Fog’s soaring vocal approach. There’s a highly effective black metal tangle on opener “Empty Streets,” but it’s hard to not land on “Respect My Solitude” and “Strike Up With the Dawn,” the latter oscillating between the type of black-prog that Borknagar and Enslaved have perfected.

The atmospheric wonder and splendor of yore have largely been updated and recalibrated. There’s not as much of a wooden approach as there is a streamlining of it, working in concert with Mr. Fog’s vocals, which, by and large, are the main attraction now. It all adds up to a body of work with a cinematic quality; beefy songs that are long, but don’t necessarily feel long, if you catch our drift. On Cease the Day, In the Woods… turn the page in a career founded upon exploration. Where they will go next is anyone’s guess, but if it’s anything like Cease the Day…