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In The Woods... - HEart of the Ages CD (album) cover

HEART OF THE AGES

In The Woods...

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.92 | 42 ratings

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sleeper
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The early 1990's saw the Nordic states rise as the spiritual home of extreme metal, with Sweden becoming most famouse for its Melodic Death Metal and Norway's (in)fame(y) coming from Black Metal, or more so the unsavery nature of many of the scenes protagonists (the church burnings gaining particular attention). Like Punk some 15 years before it Black Metal stood as a musical form of rebellion and shared the same visceral and fairly simple approach, but this was never its corner stone and so it was always just a matter of time before a someone would come along and stretch the bounderies much further. And so it did, when Tchort left Green Carnation (yes, that Green Carnation, famous for Light of Day, Day of Darkness) to join Black Metal icons Emporer as bassist, the band split up and reformed under the leadership of C:M and X Botteri as In the Woods....

Right from the start of the opening track, Yearning the Seeds of a New Dimention, its clear that whatever aliegence they hold to black metal is not all consuming with a spacy, melencholic keyboard soundscape floating around and slowly building up over the first 3 minutes leading into a slow mournful tune and then braking out in a raw black metal blast. These changes of tempo and a desire to explore a wide range of sonic landscape, primarily through a fusion of black metal and doom metal, show the band as one of the most pioneering progressive metal bands of the mid to late 1990's, well before the hord of Dream Theater clones got in the way.

Admitedly, as musicians they're hardly in the same league as Dream Theater and Cynic, but thats not remotely a bad thing as the band is clearly focused primarely on creating atmospheres and mixing that with the spiritual and nature focused lyrics. The prime result of this the imagery conjured within this listeners mind of bleak, cold forests in Norway or the sharp, steep precipices of the fjords. To that end the album is an unmitigated succes and the bands ability to create beatiful melodies through X Botteri Oddvar A:M's guitar playing, backed by the expansive sounds from the keyboards, the emotive and grasping leads and the controled agression that the members are able to unleash in emphasis belies the fact that this is the bands debut album.

This isnt, however, a perfect album by any means. To most people the black metal shrieks which amount to maybe a little more than half of all the vocals on HEart of the Ages, and they are best described as near uninteligable shrieks, of Ovl Svithjod will be a real problem as even I have a hard time with them and I generally like the growling/screaming/shouting styles of vocals whilst his clean vocals can be described as dreary in several parts. The production isnt all that great eathier with a lot of background hiss being a big problem in the quiter sections and I find that the clean guitars could have done without the muddy sound and a more prominant place in the mix though the raw quality of the distorted guitars actually works in the bands favour. Similar problems affect the vocal sound, but to a lesser extent and in the end arent anywhere near as big a problem as the vocalist himself will be to many listeneres The bass, drums and keyboards are decently recorded here though, if not exactly crystal clear and perfectly mixed, and the listener will have no trouble hearing them or any real complaint about the their sound quality. Dont get the wrong impression about the recording quality though, its definitely listenable and all instruments are clearly heard, a far cry from the typical "DIY garage band" aproach to recording that many BM bands became famouse for.

Despite its faults and even the fact that it took me a long time to accept the vocals of Ovl Svithjod I cant help but really enjoy this album from the bleak, dreamy landscapes conjured in the opener, Yearning the Seeds of a New Dimension, to the raw power of closer The Divinity of Wisdom via the majestic ebbing and flowing of ...In the Woods, Heart of the Ages and Wolan's Return. Though the band displays a fair level of technical proficiancy they show that its definitely what you play and not how difficult it is that truly makes a song and so there's a youthful passion on here that never fails to grasp my attention. A highly impressive debut that gets 4 stars from me, and an extra half for sheer listening pleasure.

sleeper | 4/5 |

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