In the Woods... - Pure
Debemur Morti Productions
Progressive Dark Metal
10 songs (1:07:29)
Release year: 2016
Debemur Morti Productions
Reviewed by Goat

Even back in 1995 In The Woods… trailed a blaze far from the black metal norm with their clean vocals and doom metal elements, so it comes as little surprise that this, their comeback album after 2014’s reunion, has little to do with ‘black metal’ as we know and love it today. They’re the sort of band that deliberately, obstinately, remain obscure, missing the adulations of the likes of fellow travellers Arcturus and even Dødheimsgard; perhaps explainable by how In The Woods… are more closely related to Green Carnation and Norwegian metal’s prog-rock cousins rather than the gleefully avant-garde space-travellers and demonic entities of those other, more obvious comparisons. Even as a fan of much of the post-1997 black metal survivors, I find it unfair to In The Woods… but they’ve always been a bit of a difficult band, from the ellipses in their name to how HEart of the Ages has that extra capital E. It replaces any difficulty in listening to their music, which as ever I find very pleasant and easy to relax to, especially as they got more gothic and experimental on Omnio and Strange in Stereo.

Pure keeps this vibe, but updates it, so it’s immediately heavier and more straightforward than the last two albums. It’s driven primarily by guitars, and the vocals are mostly clean, but the way the riffs hang in the air is very post-black, and the swirling keyboard atmospherics remind me of Arcturus’ comeback last year, Arcturian. Knowing the band’s discography, you wouldn’t be surprised to be told this was a lost album from 1996 rather than a 2016 album; whether this represents single-mindedness and unwillingness to change or a timeless sound will depend on you, but given how out-there the band originally were it’s no surprise that they’re exploring this style further on what is, after all, just their fourth full-length. The real surprises come when In The Woods… decide to go full metal and start throwing chugging riffs and harsh vocals in, on the likes of Devil’s At The Door. It’s done tastefully, not remotely as horrendous as it sounds, but it’s still something of a shock to hear a band who did so much to incorporate non-metal elements into their sound make an album that is unmistakably metal. Moments here are closer to recent Paradise Lost, Amorphis or the like rather than anything on Omnio, although the band always bring the song back around to their post-black style and link elements together well.

You’d be right in thinking that there’s an element of disappointment with Pure; long-term fans of a band that end having performed superbly but prematurely always will be. Call it the Firefly syndrome; any return to that universe couldn’t help but be disappointing, and perhaps the original is only as good as it is because we were left wanting. Still, this is an extraordinarily well-written album, and takes its time to reveal itself – songs are similar in style but not repetitive, melodies are more complex than they appear at first, and more listens make them catchier, not duller. The lineup is the usual Botteri brothers on guitar and bass, and Anders Kobro (Carpathian Forest, Chain Collector) on drums, but replaces vocalist Jan Transeth with James ‘Mr Fog’ Fogarty (Ewigkeit, Jaldaboath). It’s a change I dreaded at first, not being an especial fan of either of Mr Fog’s main other projects, but he is wonderful here on lead vocals, deep and clear, with a touch of ICS Vortex but not enough to be distracting. He fits in well with a production that initially seems rough and loud but soon shows itself to be generous, allowing the guitars free reign and adding that extra morsel of heaviness. Certainly showing off a different side of In The Woods… than we’ve heard before, Pure is a fitting addition to the band’s diverse discography, albeit not as good as the classics. Still, I’d rather have closure than be left forever wondering what might have been.

Killing Songs :
Pure, Devil’s At the Door, Cult of Shining Stars, This Dark Dream
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by In the Woods... that we have reviewed:
In the Woods... - Heart of the Ages reviewed by Tony and quoted CLASSIC
In the Woods... - Live at the Caledonien Hall reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
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