Cease the Day by In the Woods...Release date: November 23, 2018
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
At over 25 years into their career, it feels like avant-garde extreme metal pioneers In the Woods… could finally be ready to find some consistency. After 15 years out of the scene, the cult band’s comeback album, 2016’s Pure found critical acclaim and an audience far more receptive to their brand of black metal-inspired weirdness. Yet that didn’t stop the band from almost falling apart once again, with founding members Christian and Christopher Botteri leaving the band, to be replaced by Bernt Sorenson and Alex Weisbeek on guitar and bass respectively. Armed with a new lineup and all the goodwill accrued from Pure, the band look set to hit new and greater heights with the release of Cease the Day.
The album certainly feels confident enough. With squealing guitars and black metal blast beats mixing well with James Fogarty’s grandiose vocals, the innate heaviness of In the Woods… shines through, seething nicely into a standard sound of dreamy melodic doom. There’s a gothic feel throughout the album, particularly with the Victoriana of opener ‘Empty Streets’ and the band’s trademark melancholy is fully intact throughout. Perhaps too much so in fact – Cease the Day feels more straightforward than previous albums; for a band so well known for pushing the boat out, their eccentricities feel toned down and a few songs played too safe. Indeed, with most songs settling around the 6-8 minute mark, Cease the Day finds its rhythm too quickly and rarely deviates, leaving some tracks feeling a little stale.
Perhaps this is less about the shortcomings of the band and more to do with the rest of the extreme metal scene catching up. Certainly genre-splicing progressive black metal has become far more prevalent in the decades In the Woods… spent out of the scene, and the Norwegians are certainly still masters at what they do. Cease the Day echoes with a vibe that manages to be both soothing and menacing; an apocalyptic resonance that ties together both the anger and the peace only they can project. This creates some fantastic moments – the carnivalesque intro of ‘Cloud Seeder’, the hammerhead heaviness of ‘Strike Up with the Dawn’ and the epic build of ‘Still Yearning’ are all highlights. There are some out and out missteps – ‘Transcending Yesterdays’ features a faux-live aesthetic that feels horribly at odds with the rest of the album, and while the piano and vocal piece ‘Cease the Day’ is excellent for setting mood, it feels horribly wasted at the end of the album.
Overall Cease the Day showcases In the Woods… doing their day job – their grandiose, epic, overblown and heavy day job. Perhaps it’s not the band firing on all cylinders, but after such a tumultuous time of late it’s good to see the return of the masters. Their black metal/doom mix might sound less unique than it once did, but the Norwegians still have a knack for creating an atmosphere that few bands can surpass.