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

HEART OF THE AGES

In The Woods...

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.02 | 50 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Absolutely essential for understanding how Extreme Metal became a part of Progressive Music!

Constantly ignored and neglected, In The Woods... comes to my mind immediately as a music collective that deserves more attention for equally their historic importance and songwriting skill, the latter being the main reason to give the group a careful listen and let the music sink in. For quite some time it seemed logical and simple to consider the Norwegian Extreme Metal scene to be the exact opposite of Progressive Music, however, as time went on, it became obvious that the scene is full of absolutely enlightening musicians with unique and refreshing views on musical structure and musicianship. One of these pioneers of the unusual Scandinavian tendencies evolving within the Extreme scene was undeniably In The Woods.... Unlike other groups, which started playing music as a form of expressing rebel and dissatisfaction, this group began transcending the borders set by their predecessors without any delay, proving themselves to be a serious piece.

Having released two demos before their granting us with this first full-length release, the musicians became known in the underground circles, who awaited continuation with eager excitement and impatience. HEart of the Ages(spelled with the first two letters of 'heart' as capital letters; think 'heart - art'). While still rooted in the Black Metal scene, which is the most obvious, yet definitely not the only influence in this case, In The Woods... are utilizing many inspirations from outside the Metal scene, which, together with creativity and originality, is what makes them a group that stands out amongst the rest of Norway in the year of 1995.

In The Woods... - the title of the group is not just a clever, well-thought out name for the group, as the musicians decided to name themselves that way, because they realized their sound represented the nature of their native land and its spontaneity. Many associations related to nature are bound to be awaken in the listener's mind while listening to their divine, spiritual music, but the theme of forests appears to be especially evident. It is important to realize that first came the group's sound, and only later was it given its name!

HEart of the Ages is by no means an accessible offering, clocking at almost one hour, it requires an attentive listener to think and, most importantly, feel all the emotions presented in the music, as well as following its constantly evolving directions. The album is opened with the majestic Yearning The Seeds Of A New Dimension, which is easily the best track on this album if taken into account separately(which doesn't make sense, as this album is strong as a full experience, not as a collection of great songs)and one of the most excellently written compositions the group has to offer, which is saying a lot, regardless of the relatively low amount of material. The track begins with an extended spacy intro played on keyboards, which creates a mysterious atmosphere, preparing the listener for deeper soundscapes to follow. It successfully goes into the next part, with marvelous synth strings, followed by a sorrowful, almost crying guitar part, which is extremely expressive. The vocals appear afterwards, and they should surprise anyone familiar with the singing styles commonly present in the repertoire of Norwegian Metal groups. Jan Transit is an amazingly talented singer, with a great voice, but he will mostly be remembered for the stunning emotion he manages to pass to the listener's ears and soul. At times I compare him to the Johan Lanquist, who sang on Candlemass's Epicus Doomicus Metallicus album, but mostly his singing style is completely original. Going back to the song, it keeps going in its own mysterious direction and we witness a mellow guitar part with spoken word. As the words are spoken, a new voice, which is inhuman, beastly whisper, can be heard. This is one of the eeriest moments I've heard in music - this eerie section, quite logically, goes into an intense melodic Metal part with great guitar riffs and first extreme vocals on the record. The extreme singing here, as well as on other tracks it appears, is merciless and inhuman powerful, psychotic shriek, which can be hardly called a "generic Black Metal scream", as it reaches new levels of expression unknown to other groups. Unfortunately, the expression is extreme in its own ways, making the lyrics incomprehensible, requiring to read the booklet to find out the meaning of the message supplied. Speaking about the lyrics, they are a thing also worthy of notice. They are meaningful and deep, and also difficult to understand, never straight-forward. They are often based on themes of nature and mythology, but mostly are expressions of personal, innermost thoughts and feelings. Although Jan Transit is not the person whose responsibility is the writing of the lyrics in the group, he seems to handle the expressive duty perfectly, as if he has felt the meaning himself and experienced everything on his own. Strangely, regardless of the vocal approach, the song flows quite melodically, until it is interrupted by a real Black Metal part with tremolo picking, blast beats and a significantly faster tempo. The composition continues to develop itself in a very spontaneous way, interesting to the ears of every intellectual listener before finally fading out, followed by the mellow guitar sounds previously heard during that one 'eerie' part.

Describing every single track on the album is unnecessary, as, like I have mentioned above, it works as an entire journey. The songwriting approach on the record is challenging and very dark - there are no uplifting or happy moments to be found anywhere, although there are moments of despair, passed not as much using vocals, rather than the instruments. On the group's sophomore effort - their masterpiece Omnio - the group will achieve the impossible, making each note significant and full of meaning, and also extremely memorable. In this case, everything works slowly and there is not an accent on each part - more like the accent on the whole feeling and the actual composition and its direction. Parts are crafted well together, showing impressive consciousness and unbelievable maturity in what these people in the group are doing. Remember, nobody had previously walked the same paths In The Woods... had the courage to take, although some notable influences from the Metal scene would be Bathory(who must have influenced every forward- thinking Extreme Metal musician in the early 90's)and My Dying Bride (surprisingly, not even in our archives yet). Add professionalism and sheer dark beauty to that and you have an album that is worthy of your time and should be taken seriously.

HEart Of The Ages is an inaccessible, one-of-a-kind release that every fan of Progressive Metal who isn't afraid of Extreme ways of expression should own and hold in high regards in his collection. I would also like to recommend it to other listeners who think they are not concerned to the group, if only because of the vocals. It is recommended that such people delve in In The Woods...'s later two releases - Omnio and Strange In Stereo, which are deprived of the Black Metal influence completely. Just remember that this is not an album to be ignored and always come back to it if you've never bothered with it because of the approach to singing (although the songwriting is never based around the vocals and they are just used as an occasional instrument, fitting the atmosphere perfectly. Nevertheless, people tend to find vocals a problem, so I am warning those who apparently won't be taking this journey with an opened mind).

Trickster F. | 5/5 |

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