Review Summary: Thinking of this band, one can’t help wondering how they managed to remain largely unknown throughout the years. In the Woods, in their final full length album, offer once more not only a change in their already enigmatic music style but also a unique a1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Back in 1995, when In the Woods introduced to the public their debut album Heart of the Ages, the Norwegian black metal scene was caught by surprise. After all, in a scene dominated by antichristian ideology and marked by acts of violence, a band that offered a true pagan metal alternative along with progressive elements in avant garde paths couldn’t but create at least some impact. An impact that wasn’t meant to last, as their second release – their undoubted jewel Omnio- would find the band wondering in paths yet unexplored-and thus difficulty accepted- by the rest of the extreme metal community. Combining doom and black metal along with avant garde and gothic elements, Omnio created a unique blend of sounds, yet failed to bring wider acceptance to the band.
1999 finds In the Woods offering their third and last full length album, Strange in Stereo. And it comes as no surprise that once more their musical style changes dramatically since their previous effort. After all, creating a second Omnio would be pointless. The album’s cover is once more uninteresting (In the Woods never managed to create an aesthetically pleasing artwork in any of their releases) therefore it does not prepare the listener to what it’s about to follow.
But the first track, Closing In, leaves no doubt of what comes next. Doomy guitar riffs, rhythmic parts under soothing keyboard sounds, along with an eerie performance by Jan Kenneth Transeth mark the beginning of the emotional journey called Strange in Stereo. Black Metal screams belong to the past, as well as nature inspired lyrics. Here, things become blurry, introvert, gloomy and desperate. And that sense reaches its peak in the second track, Cell, a song dominated by ethereal female vocals and melodic string arrangements. This band has always been peculiar by nature, and Cell – one of the album’s highlights- becomes the coping stone of this band’s entire essence.
Vanish in the Absence of Virtue that comes next is a doom oriented song, combining male and female vocals along with beautiful melodies. Screams of mourning and piano/keyboard arrangements create a unique and certainly gloomy feeling, a sound never performed before by the band. Basement Corridors and Ion that come next only support the created atmosphere, yet the definite highlight of the album is no other than Generally more Worried than Married. It’s a song that spans nearly 9 minutes and underlines the entire album’s substance. Melodic guitars, up tempo yet doomy rhythms, wooing vocals and introvert lyrics create a mixture equaled only by the greatest moments of the early works of My Dying Bride and Anathema.
The remaining songs of the album, with the brilliant exception of Titan Transcendence (a beautiful ultra melodic keyboard driven wall of despair) fail to meet the expectations that the previous tracks created. That’s the only reason why I didn’t give a round 5 to the album.
What is also worth mentioning, is the quality of the production that at last (in comparison to the band’s earlier works) delivers a unique and epic atmosphere. Another important element that surely defines the album’s quality is the poetry of the lyrics that blends perfectly with the sounds.
Putting In the Woods music under labels is more than unfair. Colorful music pictures veiled with gothic and avant garde elements along with mourning vocals create a not easily accessible result. It’s definitely a hard pill to swallow, but once one falls into its trap, the result won’t only reward him but will also escort him for the years to come.
- Beautiful and unique emotional experience
- Perfect blend of gothic, doom, avant garde and progressive elements
- Great production
- Poetic lyrics
- A once more uninteresting album cover
- A minority of songs that just don’t make it
- Requires more than a superficial listening to reveal its grandeur