In The Woods album review – Pure

Kings of Nordic sorrow In The Woods return for their throne with new album

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The return of In The Woods… in 2014 after a 14-year gap may not have made headlines around the world, but for anyone with a penchant for morbidity and melancholy during the 90s, this band are as seminal and inspirational as it gets.

Two decades on and you can hardly throw a cobweb-encrusted crucifix without hitting a band who owe some debt to the Norwegians and the maverick instincts that led to 1997’s startling Omnio album, and thus Pure arrives as a pointed reminder that recognition is long overdue. With three members of the original lineup onboard, augmented by Ewigkeit mastermind James Fogarty on vocals and guitar, ITW… have clicked straight back into the morose groove that defined their earlier works.

Even more impressively, the band’s songwriting skills have clearly benefited from that prolonged hiatus; Pure almost creaks under the weight of its innumerable telling melodies and moments of dynamic thrust. While neither a straightforward doom/death band nor a progressive metal band in any widely recognised sense, they share enough of each to make this a highly accessible affair, albeit one with such a deeply entrenched sense of despondency and arcane unrest that, for all its catchiness, a song like Devil’s At The Door may prove too intense for the faint of heart. The Recalcitrant Protagonist could pass for something by Amorphis or mid-period Sentenced were it not for the undertone of unease infecting each crescendos of riffs. There is great lightness of touch here too, however; much of this could be whistled in the shower and The Cave Of Dreams could even bewitch a HIM fan or two. What separates this band from so many of those that followed in their wake is that ITW…’s connection to their grim, grimy roots is seemingly unbreakable, and while this may tick a goth rock box or three, it’s also a dense, deep and holistic voyage into the shadows that haunt mankind’s vexed existence.