Norwegian avant garde black metal outfit In the Woods… have one heck of an interesting career arc. The outfit rose from the ashes of the wonderful Green Carnation. Beginning as many of their contemporaries did as a folk-ish black metal outfit, they dropped their debut in 1995. The band then quickly morphed into an ambient and progressive stew of melody on their second album Omnio and then advanced at warp speed into the unclassifiable on the aptly named Strange in Stereo.
And then… In the Woods… was no more. The band split up in 2004.
In the Woods… returned a decade later with Englishman James Fogarty—best known for his similarly bonkers project Ewigkeit—in the mix. Their 2016 album Pure was a more concise but still mind-bending bit of prog metal.
Now the band has come full circle. Their fifth album Cease the Day, streaming below, is a summary of everything the band’s done previously. The folky elements have returned, and the songs are more concise than before. Fogarty’s vocals are the best they’ve ever been, making in the most compulsively listenable In the Woods… album… ever.
Drummer and band mastermind Anders Kobro discussed their newest outfit with Decibel. Read that interview below. It is available this weekend via Debemur Morti.
Two years is a pretty quick turnaround, considering that Pure was your first album after an extended hiatus. Did the material come together quickly, or did you have material left over from the Puresessions?
James and Bernt put together the guitar riffs over about four months in 2017, and the recording was completed over about four months after that. We have all been working with recording music for many years and were eager to get In the Woods… restarted after a difficult period. Hopefully we will be starting work on writing the next album in early 2019.
Last year, In the Woods… played Maryland Deathfest for the first time. I was at that show, and I was pretty impressed. In your opinion, what was the reception like for that show?
MDF was the first proper show for In the Woods… in the US—we really enjoyed the visit—the crowd reception was fantastic. It is one of the best memories we have over the past few years. Hopefully we will return.
Likewise, Purewas probably a whole generation of fans’ first exposure to In the Woods…, minus freaks like me who live to find relatively obscure and creative records. What kind of feedback did you get from Pure?
Feedback to Pure was really positive. The small amount of negative comments were personal opinions on social media — people who want things to always be the same and are afraid of change. You can’t expect all fans of dark, melancholic to be positive.
This is the second record with James Fogarty taking over vocal and guitar duties and it seems like James has really become integral to the band pretty quickly. How has having James solidified into the lineup affected the band’s process and identity?
It’s been entirely a case of him filling in what others weren’t there to do. Initially it was to contribute keys, but then Jan wasn’t interested to reform with In the Woods…, so he ended up doing vocals as well. When he was in Norway recording vocals, we also asked him to contribute guitars because Oddvar was no longer with us (RIP). It is also the first record with Bernt Sorensen—he recorded all the rhythm guitars on the album and James recorded the guitar melodies and bass, because he didn’t want it to be so similar to the guitars in Ewigkeit.
Your older material was very interested in nature worship, but your lyrics have moved toward philosophy and away from Pure paganism as time has gone on. But on Cease the Day, I hear some of that sort of hermetical theme returning–I’m thinking of songs like ‘Respect My solitude.’ Am I off-base here or has that theme returned to prominence?
It’s there for sure—but in a modern way. The modern world is deceptively crowded; you can spend all day chatting with your friends in different countries online, and not say a single word to those sitting right next to you. We’re living in very interesting times and human nature is finding it hard to adapt to the rapid speed of our own technological progress, leading us down a strange road to who knows where. The genie is out of the bottle…