November 19, 2018 In The Woods… – Cease The Day (Album Review)
Amid the sprawl of Heavy Metal grandeur, there are some bands who cannot be restricted into one genre. In The Woods… from Kristiansand, Norway, is back to pushing boundaries with their second album following a 14 year absence. Titled Cease The Day, the album is only their fifth full-length since forming way back in 1991. Once more released on Debemur Morti Productions, the album sees the light of day on Friday, November 23, 2018.
From their earliest days, In The Woods… was never interested in standing still. Even their older material was rife with a special atmosphere unique to the burgeoning Norwegian Black Metal scene out of which they grew. As time passed, the band showed no hesitation to allow themselves to morph and shift. Fans can rejoice at only having to wait two years for a new album instead of fourteen, as Cease The Day follows fairly closely on the heels of acclaimed comeback album Pure.
The creative core of founding Drummer Anders Kobro and Vocalist/Guitarist Mr. Fog (James Fogarty) once more tap into the progressive blend of elements that comprise their sound. Across the 53 minutes of Cease The Day, the listener is ushered along quite a few sonic paths. Yet all the while there is a feeling of security; the band is so confident there is no doubt that they know where they are taking you. For example, comparatively straight ahead rocker “Strike Up With The Dawn” sounds sharp and modern, yet harks back to the experimentation of the late 1990’s.
Album opener “Empty Streets” shows how poetic and Doom-laden the band can be. Its luxurious riffs take their time and envelop the listener like the warmth of a slowly growing campfire. Fogarty’s clean vocals sound familiar, hitting the same tone as they did on Pure. In The Woods… summons that melancholy atmosphere so well, throwing in some Black Metal screeches to remind fans of their roots. The synthesis of these elements keeps the listener on his or her toes.
“Substance Vortex” stretches languid before the listener, the heavy repeated riffing augmented by a shrieking higher note that resonates at the end of the phrase. But the song, double-bass pummel and shrieking vocals, darts in and out of the shadows of Death Metal, interspersed with keys and quieter parts. The lyrics deal with the ravages of drug addiction. The diversity of Fogarty’s vocal repertoire once more reinforces Kobro’s choice to bring him into the group in 2014. This is easily one of the strongest songs on the album. A proggy guitar solo meanders through a garden of moods towards song’s end, as easy to get lost in as the very drug addiction the lyrics portend. Those higher notes come back, more harrowing this time, as Fogarty’s dark vocals take it home.
“Still Yearning,” a hail back to the song “Yearning The Seeds of a New Dimension,” from debut album Heart of the Ages, creates an atmosphere of the track’s namesake. Fogarty’s voice runs over with emotion, with gravitas, without sounding the least bit contrived or intentionally moody. More so than their last effort, In The Woods… once again uses the transition from Fogarty’s lovely clean vocal into his Black Metal scream to catapult their songs from Prog and melancholy to a more ferocious approach. Fogarty’s shrieks are not nearly as larynx-ripping as those of Jan Kenneth Transeth, the band’s original vocalist. This is a good thing, because the first singer literally shredded his voice.
The production on Cease The Day allows for a pleasingly crunchy, heavy guitar tone. Kobro’s flawless percussion underpins the whole thing; all told, it makes the heavy parts heavier and sharpens the lighter moments. It’s the songwriting the band brings to bear that ensures that these transitions are smooth. “Transcending Yesterdays,” a lush and forceful affair, borders on Black Metal or certainly a quite melodic driving Death Metal atmosphere. Combined with an outstanding set of guitar leads, Kobro turns in an outstanding performance behind the drum kit, as this one proves to be yet another album highlight.
The ominous “Cloud Seeder” features piano, a melodic dirge that quickly coalesces into a driving Heavy Metal anthem. The method of following a clean-sung passage with a growled one becomes predictable on the album, and yet the band does it so well that it avoids becoming formulaic. Good honest riffing grounds the tune, showing In The Woods… at their best. A hum-able foundation, the song will do wonders live.
Oddly, the title track comes in the form of a 1:49 outro. A doleful refrain of the opening verses of the first song, it’s a strange choice for a strange band – and that is meant as a compliment. Because In The Woods… has arisen once again from struggles and problems, both of its master designers having carved paths with other bands in the years where In The Woods… was inactive. Cease The Day is the expression of a band finding the magic of their past and conjuring a future out of what made them one of the most unique listens in the world. A bit more direct and punchy than its predecessor, Cryptic Rock gives Cease The Day 5 out of 5 stars.