Vera : At first sight ‘Cease The Day’ might look like a very light title for an album of the innovative, but mostly dark tinged In The Woods… but more is meant than meets the eye. In 2016 they just entered their second era – with the excellent comeback album ’Pure’ as evidence and several live gigs on big festivals – or clouds gathered again above the legendary Norwegian outfit. Problems in such a measure that it brought the existence of the band in danger. The brothers Botteri – for ages the main composers of the beloved ITW sound – left their creation. What to do next?
Only drummer Anders Kobro was left as original member, assisted by James Fogarty who took over the vocal duties from Jan Transit since ‘Pure’. But he is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and as fan since the early days, we could trust him in maintaining the idiosyncratic In The Woods sound. The two piece got help from Bernt Sørensen and Kåre Sletteberg on guitars. Thus fortunately a successor of ‘Pure’ was crafted. I can say that they did not change the familiar band sound too much, without copying earlier works. That’s why ‘Cease The Day’ turned into a stunner which will be loved by many fans (not all of them, since I learned that they have quite a lot purists amongst their crowds, but that might be due to nostalgia). Of course it will never be like in the early days again, but that is a fact with everything. By the way, that happens to be one of the things they sing about in the lyrics, since the album deals with the difficult time in the band they had to face during the last two years. A lot of (self)reflection and melancholy, but also – and that is important – a proper return to more black metal screams! Hurray!
‘Empty Streets’ is a song of nine minutes length and it instantly haunted me. In despite of the considerable length of the compositions, they are accessible and structured in a fluent manner, with loads of reprising themes that increase catchiness. Firstly James Fogarty presents himself as an English, a bit folky singer with nice contemplative chants. Magnificent lyrics! Soaring keyboards (organ) and the sound of seagulls assist the clean vocals. The song invites you to be bright-minded, but it has a sudden acceleration that goes back to the early days of the band, with scorching black metal screams. That is really a surprise and it gives more dynamics to the album, since James switches from serene clean vocals to sturdy screams in every song. Starting with a highlight, that’s what it is. The typical guitar sound of In The Woods (plucking with distortion, then the sonorous riffs) like in ‘Substance Vortex’ are omnipresent. In that song we have an outburst with screams, but soaring synths, a marvelous guitar solo and a long engrossing instrumental part are next.
The band still has a progressive tinge, with twists and turns and different moods in the compositions, but it feels completely different from the bands we categorize as proper prog metal. This is rather empyrean, with a touch of escapism and epic brilliance. Take the acoustic guitars and slow riffs at the beginning of ‘Respect My Solitude’ as example and then they pass from the thoughtful start into mighty fury (but rather in the style of Ihsahn than akin to real brutal metal). Opeth and Pink Floyd unite in the serene beginning of ‘Cloud Seeder’. Just as on ‘Pure’, we have a reference to the past, more precisely to the first song of their debut album ‘Heart Of The Ages’ (the one that instantly made me a fan) in ‘Still Yearning’. It is a magnificent song with sensitive solos, amazing transitions and fast, dense passages of fury. Melancholy and ferocious fury united in one song again, in a way only In The Woods… can do it. In ‘Transcending Yesterdays’ the epic feel is invigorated because they added the sound of a yelling audience, as if this track was recorded live. Here they occlude that they are ready to fly again. Next ‘Cease The Day’ appears to be the brief epilogue, with the same lyrics from the beginning, sung in a fetching manner and only assisted by piano.
This is full circle. Still In The Woods is of exceptional class. Their black metal roots are sublimated by the (soaring, even cosmic) musical history of the seventies and they do that in a sublime way! It is impossible to pigeonhole this in one genre, this is nothing else than In The Woods…