In the Woods... - Cease the Day
Debemur Morti Productions
Progressive Dark Metal
8 songs (53:32)
Release year: 2018
Debemur Morti Productions
Reviewed by Goat

Following on from an impressive comeback attempt in 2016's Pure, Norwegian/British experimentalists In The Woods... have clearly decided to make their reformation a more permanent one, and Cease the Day is a terrific follow-up. Perhaps a little more at ease this time around, the band have regressed a little by including more black metal elements, making the album closer to, say, the pagan prog of Borknagar than the spacey darkness of Arcturus that I previously compared them to. This is by no means a bad thing; In The Woods... are canny songwriters and the eight songs here are a notable step forwards from Pure, if this is an inferior album overall. The Botteri brothers having departed, new guitarists Bernt Sørensen and Kåre André Sletteberg fill their shoes, alongside original drummer Anders Kobro (Chain Collector, ex-Carpathian Forest) and Mr Fog (Ewigkeit and others) on vocals, and all do a fantastic job. I wasn't a fan of James Fogarty before his work with In The Woods... but both here and on Pure he was a real highlight, solemn and serious clean singing contrasting well with the blackened shrieks. Opening nine-minuter Empty Streets is a highlight due to him, the folky vibe that first arises soon changing to a proggy one as the song progresses and the backing instruments take an initially supportive role, welcoming the listener into the album before bursting into blackened life around the four-minute mark. The contrast between the shrieked and sung vocals gives it a pagan metal feel, In The Woods... one of the earliest bands to describe themselves as such, although rarely would they sound like what the term has come to mean.

It's an effective introduction to the album albeit one that feels a little overlong; the nine minutes flow by quickly but the band take their time and clearly aren't afraid of feeling repetitive. This has its downsides, of course, and is what ultimately made this inferior to Pure for me, yet one result is that this feels like a weighty album that rewards familiarity and repeated listens, naturally drawing the listener into its embrace. The relative softness of the opening track is needed to entice you, the mostly harsh vocals and chugging riffs of the following Substance Vortex much harsher in comparison, building a tension in the verses released with a clean-sung chorus like a more straightforward Solefald. The guitars can seem a little simplistic at first, but the melodic leads are genuinely lovely and you realise how well the band have come together to continue their legacy. It's not an easy thing to accomplish, not least because of the many personnel changes over the years, and despite the constant feeling that songs are a little circular in structure and too fond of repetition, the album simply works as a whole.

That's not to say that there aren't highlights. The stately prog of Cloud Seeder is a welcome return to the Arcturian vibe of the last album, an ominous piano-backed opening leading to groovy post-Katatonian melodic doom, a sense of Enslaved-esque grandeur arriving with the harsh vocals; perhaps it's the keener hooks, yet the song structure seems less repetitive too. Fans will appreciate Still Yearning, a throwback in title to the first song on the first In The Woods... album that has a less lengthy, experimental vibe - none of the ambient intro or spoken word here - yet listening to the earlier track again in comparison, it's easy to note how spiritually similar they are and impossible to mistake for anything other than the same band. Sadly, the melodic groove of Strike Up with the Dawn heralds the point where the album runs out of steam, repeating its tricks and even making a misstep with the bizarre live crowd noise on Transcending Yesterdays. It's a shame; the song is the heaviest and most black metal feeling on the album, yet is among the catchiest and that chorus hits the yearning spot perfectly. But it comes over as a poorly-placed bonus track, as does the too-gentle title track, a piano-dominated outro. Cut those and shorten a couple of other tracks and you'd have a much better forty-minute-plus album than this fifty minute beast; music is no different from any other artform in the need for restraint and self-editing. Still, fans of the band and those who enjoyed Pure will find much to appreciate here; another solid argument for reunions and comebacks and a solid addition to the In The Woods... discography.

Killing Songs :
Cloud Seeder, Still Yearning
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by In the Woods... that we have reviewed:
In the Woods... - Pure reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
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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