What a long and winding road it has been. Twenty-one years after their debut album HEart of the Ages and 17 years after their last one (Strange In Stereo), the Norwegian alchemists In the Woods… are returning with a new record named Pure, to be released in September by Debemur Morti Productions. After a wait of 17 years, remaining patient until September seems like a small thing to ask. Yet three months is still three months, and so we bring you something to sate the curiosity, at least temporarily.
And yes, we do expect more than a little curiosity, given the visionary nature of this band’s first three albums and the long stretch of years that has passed since their release. For those who may be new to the band, perhaps because you weren’t yet out of diapers when HEart of Ages made its first mark, a bit of history may be worthwhile before listening to “Cult of Shining Stars“.
The original members of In the Woods… first played together in a death metal band called Green Carnation, but transitioned to In the Woods… after the departure of main composer and guitarist Tchort in order to take his place in Emperor. After the release of Strange In Stereo in 1999 (which followed 1997’s remarkable Omnio), Tchort returned to Green Carnation, and In the Woods… came to an end, with some of the members rejoining Green Carnation and others moving on to other personal projects.
In 2014, In the Woods… re-formed around the core members, drummer Anders Kobro (Carpathian Forest, Svartelder) and twin brothers Christopher and Christian Botteri (bass and guitar). They were joined by English musician James Fogarty (Old Forest, Svartelder, Ewigkeit) (vocals, guitars and keys), and that foursome completed this new album Pure last year.
There is much more to the story, but perhaps it’s best to get on to the song we have the privilege of premiering today. It’s very much an exception to that porous Rule announced in our site’s title, and it’s different in other respects from much of what you usually encounter here — and it’s enthralling for all those very reasons, and others as well.
In addition to Fogarty’s arcing clean vocals, there’s a shining and dreamlike (but ominous) quality to the song, especially at the beginning, thanks in part to Fogarty’s haunting keyboards, which shimmer and cascade like the aurora borealis in an endless night.
But make no mistake, this is a heavy, bone-grinding track as well, propelled by distorted, hammering, massively headbangable riffs and vibrant, physically arresting drum and bass performances.
“Dark metal” may be the best short label we can attach to the music; “gothic/progressive/doom” might be somewhat more descriptive. Compared to the band’s earlier avant-garde releases, one might be tempted to say that “Cult of Shining Stars” is more “accessible”; the melodic hooks carried aloft by Fogarty’s vocals are undeniably catchy and memorable — and holy hell, those riffs are electrifying.
It’s difficult to judge any album by a single song, of course, but we hope you’ll agree that this one is a striking harbinger of things to come from this eagerly anticipated new album.
Pure features artwork by Max Winter and it will be released by Debemur Morti on September 16. It’s available for pre-order as a digital download here, and both CD and vinyl editions will also be available. The track list is as follows:
2. Blue Oceans Rise (Like A War)
3. Devil’s At The Door
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
For those interested in exploring the band’s first three albums, Debemur Morti has reissued them in special box sets (both CD and vinyl) with artwork by Dehn Sora and an accompanying 60-page booklet (those can be ordered here).