In the Woods… – Let There Be Pure Light

Monday, 17th October 2016

To proclaim one selves as different yet truly be are two different things. The world of black metal often encourages such claims, where bands can either go to the end of the earth or succeed while doing so (Deathspell Omega) or comfortably fall in with scene norms, something that happens rather frequently, regardless of sub-genre distinction. But, what does one do when starting out as black metal only to find there’s much more terrain to explore? Norway’s In the Woods…have already answered that question as far back as 20 years ago.

Starting with 1995’s dense, atmospheric Heart of the Ages, In the Woods…were already plugging their sound with expressive melodies and clean vocals, something that was expanded upon with 1997’s Omnio, which furthered the band’s pursuit of functioning beyond parameters. By then, avant-garde leanings have enveloped their sound, and were taken to new levels on 1999’s Strange in Stereo. However, the band called it a day a year after, leaving their legacy open for interpretation. While it took 14 years for In the Woods… to reform, their stature has only increased, further accentuated by their new album, Pure, which was released in September via Debemur Morti.

“We always knew that we were making something different to everyone else – even when we were working in the black metal music scene,” begins the band in a joint response. “It’s really great that other people have been able to see that – but as artists, we can’t allow recognition of that to affect us. We graciously acknowledge this, and keep on moving forwards. When others were more interested to be perceived as being ‘evil’ and playing at 300mph, we were just interested in creating cool music. This why we had largely transcended the extreme metal scene by the time our first album had been written. We incorporate the parts of extreme metal that we like (guitars and some drumming), but we are explorers – and you don’t explore very far if you are in a cul-de-sac.”

The creation process for Pure was guided by guitarist Christian Botteri, who was tasked with writing the bulk of the album’s riffs. Therefore, the familiar In the Woods… touchstones—prog-ish melodies, deft use of clean guitars, angular riffs—are in full swing, making Pure the swirling combination of the band’s past three albums, buoyed by modern production techniques. According to the band, the manner in which they wrote and recorded the album was as unconventional as their sound. “Our intention was to compose 10 songs in chronological order. This is also how it was recorded. This gives a natural progression throughout the album. It’s very pleasing to us that the end of the album sounds more fresh to our ears, but this is probably because they are the newest to us too. Pure is a journey – if you miss out any section, then you may not understand how we got to the destination.”

One of the defining elements of pure is the vocals of James Fogarty (aka ‘Mr. Fog’), who was tapped to replace Jan Kenneth Transeth. Originally enlisted to handle keyboard duties, Fogarty’s booming, flexible vocal arrangements are a worthy successor to Transeth’s chameleon voice manifestations. Beyond that, he’s a key cog in the creative process for In the Woods…

“If James hadn’t contributed, then the album may have fewer details, as he added a lot of these (guitar and vocal hooks). There aren’t many people who would be able to contribute this much, and we may have had to incorporate two or three other musicians (which would then complicate matters).”

Looking ahead, In the Woods… plan on taking a deliberate approach to their reunion. This means no prolonged bouts of touring, but rather, an effort focused on quality, not quantity. Because of that, plans are already in motion for a quick follow-up Pure, which should begin as 2016 gives way to 2017.

“It has been a relatively smooth transition – if we had to force it, then it means it isn’t meant to happen. Luckily for us, this has flowed well. And we prefer to go with the flow, rather than paddle against it. The ‘live’ band and gigs are probably the hardest element that we have had to work on.”

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