In the Woods… get through more chaos, delve into doom, prog on immersive drama ‘Cease the Day’

Photo by Mina Wallace

Metal is an art form that bathes in chaos. It’s all around you, impossible to avoid, and bubbling in the music’s DNA. Therefore, there are many bands that can’t make it from the first step to last without upheaval, and that’s part of what makes the machine go. One band that’s been no stranger to shuffling within its ranks is legendary Nordic dreamers In the Woods…

Starting out a black metal band with heavy imagination, In the Woods… initially existed from 1991-2000, releasing three full-lengths before they called it quits. They re-emerged 14 years later, which was a pleasant surprise to many listeners, though their 2016 comeback album “Pure” was quite different from their earlier work and contained a different lineup. It felt like a fresh beginning for the band, yet chaos struck, and the band nearly was torn apart all over again, slamming shut the door on this tale. Instead, longtime drummer Anders Kobro and vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player James Fogarty (who debuted on “Pure”) forged ahead and put together the band’s fifth record “Cease the Day,” an album that stretches even further from their roots and takes them into deeper connections with doom, progressive metal, and death, stretching their new focus over eight songs and more than 53 minutes. It might take a few listens to get familiar with the material, but those visits will pay off, revealing a fascinating record that revels in heaviness, anger, and melancholia as they chronicle that band’s rocky past couple years.

“Empty Streets” feels like a woodsy folk song from the start, with Fogarty ruminating about “life’s embers floating in the breeze” before it opens up in whole. The track feels dark and stormy, while the singing soars, as it does so often on this collection, before the growls come in and tear everything to shreds. The pace shifts back and forth before a calm end where Fogarty urges, “Leave the winter far behind.” “Substance Vortex” churns as guitars roll in waves, and Fogarty calls, “You’re in there somewhere, the shell you’ve become.” The vocals are washed out before savagery arrives, as shrieks and fiery playing leave the ground torched. The track thrashes, while the music disorients, with slide guitar setting a rustic mood, and the vibe feeling like a chilly evening. Out of that, the track blazes again, landing punches and ending in shambles. “Respect My Solitude” trades off acoustic flushes and black metal-style melodies, and once the song gets going, it reminds of Amorphis‘ more emotional work. Organs flush as the storm arrives, with shrieks and growls rumbling, and then we’re back to cleaner waters, where the song releases you into an infectious storm.

“Cloud Seeder” has keys dripping and the singing drizzling, with Fogarty wailing, “I’m waiting for you to arrive!” Bluesy licks kick in as the track begins to trudge, shrieks peel flesh, and the band stomps through the mud. Leads merge, the keys return, and a heavy rainfall gives this a goth-friendly finish. “Still Yearning” (a call back to “Heart of Ages” opener “Yearning in the Seeds of a New Dimension”) is punchy as it breaks open, as Fogarty’s singing hovers over strangely calm waters. It’s not long until gut-wrenching screams emerge, adding grit before the singing reaches upper atmosphere again. “Still yearning!” Fogarty cries, while the song mashes away, and it all ends in a fit of noise. “Strike Up With the Dawn” has guitars echoing and plunging, the vocals swimming below that, and a gust of strings adding more drama. Later on, guitars take over, as strong soloing adds a heavy dose of muscle, and strings and keys intertwine and confound before bleeding out. “Transcending Yesterdays” is meant to sound like a live track. No idea why, as it really doesn’t add to the track. It’s also one of the heavier, more punishing songs on here. The chorus is powerful and should cause your adrenaline to flow, especially when Fogarty howls, “Prepare to fly again!” The song gets heavier and more aggressive as it closes, leaving behind a cloud of dust. The title track closes the record and is a short track that reprises the main melody from “Empty Streets” and acts as a bookend to bring this tumultuous adventure to an end.

Things certainly have not been easy for In the Woods… during their entire run, and once again since their last opus “Pure.” But the new core of the band held things together and turned out “Cease the Day,” a new chapter for the group from a personal and artistic perspective. This is a rewarding, powerful record that restarts the band’s path and has it going down a road on which I wouldn’t mind following them well into the future.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/inthewoodsomnio/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more o the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

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