In the Woods… – Pure (Debemur Morti Productions)

Tuesday, 4th October 2016
Rating: 8/10

As one of the forerunners to the various mutations, permutations, and sub-fields that have come to define black metal, Norway’s In the Woods… were the embodiment of evolution in the ‘90s. Their steady expansion starting with 1995’s vital Heart of the Ages, through the atmospheric force-field of Omnio, up to their subsequent last album effort, 1999’s Strange in Stereo, found the Nords rifling through sonic changes as if they were a pair of socks. In earnest, none of the band’s albums sounded the same. Their 2000 split after Strange in Stereo saw several of its members head over to Green Carnation, but a 2014 reformation coupled with the release of Pure has prompted many to re-evaluate the band’s stock.

The reunion bug sees In the Woods…bringing back 3/5’s of the Strange in Stereo lineup, the most notable absence being vocalist Jan Kenneth Transeth. In his place is Ewigkeit throat James Fogarty. Fogarty, also tasked with keyboards and second guitars, comes across as a reliable fit. His rich tenor is often put to use on the album’s straight-ahead areas, like “Devil’s at the Door” and “The Cave of Dreams,” a song perhaps most reminiscent of the band’s late-‘90s work. Fogarty’s vocals work so well because In the Woods… have mostly done away with their BM edge (there’s a few twinges left), with a lot of cuts having a noticeable, deep atmospheric blend with mounds of keyboards, clean guitar work, and melancholic/doom-oriented riffing. Indeed rather than tracing back, In the Woods… have started with a brand new piece of paper.

Really, the imagination and fundamental exercise in individuality on Pure is impossible to ignore. Reunions, as per habit, are often a Catch-22, but In the Woods… have never been short on ideas, further cementing their status as one of Scandinavia’s true groundbreakers. After Pure catches on and a wrap-around on the band’s back catalog takes place by those on the outside, In the Woods… will no longer be considered unsung.

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