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In The Woods - "Pure" (CD)

In The Woods - "Pure" CD cover image

"Pure" track listing:

1. Pure
2. Blue Oceans Rise (Like A War)
4. The Recalcitrant Protagonist
5. The Cave Of Dreams
6. Cult Of Shining Stars
7. Towards The Black Surreal
8. Transmission KRS
9. This Dark Dream
10. Mystery Of The Constellations

Reviewed by on September 5, 2016

"...for listeners looking for something outside of the box, something melodic and progressive, In The Woods fits just perfectly."

“Pure” marks the first album by Norwegian dark, avant-garde band In The Woods since 1999 effort “Strange In Stereo.” The last album was only the band's third full-length, but each album received much critical acclaim and retained the In The Woods style of melody and heaviness, male and female vocals, and neo-classical elements, all while adding something distinguishable.

“HEart of Ages” was the pagan album, complete with black metal voices and themes. “Omnio” looked more inwards and was more modern in thought, containing classical string work not seen in the first album and a greater combination of male-female (clean) vocals. “Strange in Stereo” saw the band play shorter songs (some of the tracks on the first two weighed in at double-digit time lengths) at slower, doomier tempos with the occasional hint of electronics. Now with “Pure,” the band once again treads familiar territory, but manages to create something fresh and interesting.

Besides the instrumental “Transmission KRS,” the song lengths are fairly short for an In The Woods album. It still clocks in at over an hour, but with twice as many songs as from the first couple records. Compared to prior releases, there is less repeating of lyrics, but each song still goes through many changes. This record features a different cast than the prior three. There are no female vocals, viola, or cello and guitarist Oddvar A:M doesn’t appear as he passed away in 2013. Also, for the first time Jan Kenneth Transeth doesn’t lend his epic, emotive voice to the mix. Mr. Fog, aka James Fogarty (Ewigkeit, ex-The Meads of Asphodel, Bombs of Enduring Freedom, etc.) handles vocals and keyboards.

Without the string play and female vocals, “Pure” seems like a stripped down album, but Mr. Fog does a tremendous job of keeping the In The Woods style alive. Before researching the album, I thought Transeth was still the band's singer. I first thought Transeth was trying something different, as the album goes on, Mr. Fog becomes more like Transeth, so I wasn’t way off base in making this mistake. He possesses similar emotions, projects his voice similarly and adds futuristic and psychedelic touches through processors. There's superb singing as only In The Woods can deliver. Mr. Fog also makes “Pure” the group's most keyboard-laden album. “Cult of Shining Stars” and “Blue Oceans Rise (Like A War)” show the front man create magical sounds of a majestic order that enchant and enthrall. If graced with vocal shrieks, “Cult of Shining Stars” could be an Emperor song.

At least in the song titles, In The Woods seems to revisit the nature themes present on “HEart of Ages.” “Blue Oceans Rise” (Like A War),” “Cave of Dreams,” at least contain nature imagery in their titles. The songs probably represent something less literal, while “Mystery of the Constellations” and “Cult of Shining Stars” seem to worship at the altar of the cosmos. Musically, they often return to some of the themes on “HEart of Ages,” too, such as the melodic “whoa” parts of “Towards the Black Surreal” and a hint of black metal on “Cave of Dreams” and “Devil’s At The Door.”

After Tchort joined Emperor, Green Carnation became In The Woods. There are similarities between the two bands on “Pure,” in their compositions and especially the guitars, which are the band’s heaviest to date. The opening title track contains the most upbeat rhythm on the album that reminds of Green Carnation and maybe a little Katatonia. Many of the songs have short, pounding chord structures reminiscent of the first two Green Carnation albums. The guitars also churn and chug with a sound much fuller than previous efforts.

In The Woods encompasses so much change in these songs that it’s hard to fully describe what the band is doing on an album without being an eyesore on our readers. The group plays too slow for many fans of Norwegian black metal, but for listeners looking for something outside of the box, something melodic and progressive, In The Woods fits just perfectly. Those whom have been waiting for the last seventeen years for another In The Woods album will be happy to know that the group delivers the goods.

Highs: The vocals are gripping.

Lows: The violins, cellos and female vocals from prior albums are gone.

Bottom line: Another classic by one of Norway's deepest bands.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)