In The Woods… return with their fifth album Cease The Day. An atmospheric masterpiece. 9.5/10
In 1993, Norway’s black metal scene was infamous for it’s church burnings and murders, which overshadowed a lot of the musical talent. While most of those bands were 100 miles per hour high treble screeching, a few dared to be a little different and In The Woods… was one of them. Alternating between screaming and melodic singing and utilising high speed guitar work only when necessary, In The Woods… created atmospheric black metal that was very different from their peers. Categorised as ‘psychedelic black metal’, they were one of the superior bands of the time. After ten years the band retired leaving a legacy of three groundbreaking albums, a compilation and a live album of their farewell show. But then in 2016, 13 years after disbanding, they returned and picked up where they left off.
That brings us to Cease The Day. The first 30 seconds of the album is vocals over a flute and for a moment it was concerning that this classic band had drifted into Spinal Tap territory, but as soon as the guitars kick in we have classic In The Woods… The slow dreamy doom sound of Empty Streets suddenly goes up four gears at the 3:30 mark into classic black metal guitar harmonies and vocals. It’s worth noting that the screamed vocals are much more in the vein of Carcass and therefore more palatable than a lot of black metal.
Substance Vortex is very reminiscent of Emperor‘s classic In the Nightside Eclipse album with beautiful guitar work and a sweeping keyboard sound that evokes a strange feeling, like an old menacing evil that is all encompassing. This is In The Woods… at their finest – painting a mental picture rather than relying on an aggressive sound to convey emotion.
Third track, Respect My Solitude is simply incredible. Magical guitar work that isn’t psychedelic as such but certainly would be pleasing to fans of Pink Floyd and Anathema. Cloud Seeder has a very catchy HIM style to it, before slipping back into the black metal attack followed by slow harmonies again. Still Yearning and Strike Up With The Dawn are a perfect mix of black metal, Coheed and Cambria, and classic Paradise Lost. Most albums would be over by now as bands head towards 35-40 minutes of music including an instrumental or two, but Cease The Day is going strong but doesn’t feel long.
The one let down is track number seven, Transcending Yesterdays, which is in no way a bad song but it doesn’t feel like a part of the album thanks to being heavily downtuned. On it’s own, it’s fine but in the context of the album it almost sounds like a record being played at the wrong speed. The album’s final song, Cease the Day, is an outro just short of two minutes that doesn’t need to be there.
Ignoring the last two tracks, we have six songs that are 43 minutes of perfection. Atmospheric, powerful and masterfully composed, Cease The Day is straight in at the top as contender for album of the year and a great reminder of how Norway has spawned some of the most phenomenal musicians of our time. 9.5/10
Cease The Day is out on November 23rd via Debemur Morti Productions