In The Woods… – Pure (2016)
Throughout his wanderings, this musical nomad has discovered music of all varieties; the obscure, the unfathomable, and those that forever remain the hapless victims of circumstance, caught in the cogs of the Metal machine but unable to break free. This column is a celebration of all those who remain unknown, forgotten, and lost in time.
In The Woods… are quite simply a band that do not get praised enough. For my part in this I can only apologise, and attempt to rectify that now by filling you in on this little known part of Metal history. This is a band who were likely the first to describe their work as “Pagan Metal”, and their work—along with others (“Bethlehem” in particular)—would form the basis for what we know now as “Dark Metal”; a blend of Black Metal, Funeral Doom, and Neo-Folk perhaps best popularised by Agalloch. This is a band who when asked for promotional images simply sent pictures of woods. They never went on tour, and no photos of them were ever released (at least until they disbanded and reformed under the name “Green Carnation”). In the latter part of the 20th century they remained an enigma with only a cult following, and for 17 years they’d ceased to exist, but last year they made their glorious return. And nobody noticed.
In retrospect it’s unsurprising that when I excitedly told friends about their reunion complete with “yes, that ‘In The Woods…’”, as though there were a plethora of artists pretentious enough to use ellipses in their name, that I was met with confusion. And I in turn was confused that they weren’t rushing off to pre-order a copy in the expectation of what was to come. I am a man that usually dislikes Doom, tending to avoid it like the plague. I had avoided this artist for years after first hearing their name, and that turned out to be a grave mistake. There’s something enigmatic and enchanting about their extra-gloomy Alcest-like atmospheres; the baritone, Type-O Negative-esque vocals somehow capable putting you into a hypnotic trance.
It’s neither as blackened as their earlier work, nor got the same progressive-attitude as their latter. Instead, it feels like a blend of it all without simply being a cheap remake (Sabbath’s “13” springs to mind here). It’s an approach that almost seems to play the field, knowing they can’t appease everyone but attempting to create a middle ground and making an ideal entry point to the artist in the process. Psychedelia drips from the simplistic guitar melodies, harmonising with the drum work to create moments of tension and serenity. Even after inspiring a wave of artists from Kauan to October Falls, I still can’t think of another artist that sounds quite the same.
If there was, however, any one complaint to be made, it’s that over the 67 minute run-time there really isn’t a lot of variation. The atmosphere never strays far from the path, the vocals staying to the same baritone monotony, and yet, as I struggle to think of an apt comparison, I realise there simply isn’t one. Even after inspiring a wave of artists from Kauan to October Falls, to this day, I can think of no artist quite like them. I didn’t write a “best of year” list last year but there’s little doubt in my mind that this album would have been somewhere on it.