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In The Woods... - Strange In Stereo CD (album) cover

STRANGE IN STEREO

In The Woods...

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.66 | 66 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Anekdoten from Hell?

To think, the first time I listened to "Strange in Stereo" it almost got the rare honor of being flung out the car window, an honor bestowed on only 2 other albums in my life as far as I can remember (those two shall remain nameless.) I really thought little of this at first play which is ironic because now I not only prefer it to Omnio, but I have to say it is one of my favorite progressive-metal titles. This is no predictable hour of shredding and blast drumming like you often will hear, this is a true convergence of progressive music with metal. Much stranger and probably less accessible than Omnio, SiS is a cauldron of bubbling darkness with a dense and unique sound, with mood and presence. I have to quote our own Trickster F. (Ivan) for his fabulous description of this album: "If Omnio was a journey of midday, through the adventures and issues it provides, and the search for a person's inner world, his meaning in life and a personal everything, Strange In Stereo is a trip in the middle of the night, bleak, dark, yet just as adventurous. Not an accessible effort in any imaginable way, it will take many listens to truly sink in." [Ivan] That's the best short summary I've seen of "Strange in Stereo." If you've not heard In The Woods before I would say the music occasionally approaches a heavier Anekdoten crossed with Green Carnation, just to give you a rough idea. This is gonna be a tough one to describe, but I owe this album as much.

"Closing In" opens the show with outstanding programming before the guitar/drums kick in with claustrophobic effects. The sustain on the guitar makes you feel like you're drowning. This album is all about mood and ambiance and there are tons of these minor little sound details all over the place that help build the dark drapery. The certain squall of the guitar fade, vocal intonations, chords that go this way when you expect that way, sound effects, the unique sound OF the instruments. "Cell" begins with the most delicious acoustic strumming and strange far-away viola playing. Then the female vocals come in. The male and female vocal patterns are used again here as on Omnio to great effect. They both possess sort of an off-goth snarl and waver like Siouxsie, and while at times it seems they go out of tune I have realized just how perfect the technique is, off-putting, strange yet beautiful. From the eerie relative softness of "Cell" it moves much heavier on "Vanish" with louder guitar and combined vocals. Some double bass thumping near the end remind this is a prog-metal album, at times it sounds like a heavier, more intense Anekdoten. "Basement Corridors" starts with creepy sound effects with just haunting female vocal, no band. She gets a bit operatic which is really nice. The bass and viola begin backing her ghostly vocal to perfect ends. "Ion" is a low, lumbering beast of a song, slithering through the grass with bubbly bass and very heavy guitar and drums. The guitar solo and male vocals are tortured in this track, very effectively expressing darkness. "Generally more worried than married" features some of the best guitar work on the album, varied and expressive, alternately melodic and chuggy. "Path of the Righteous" features relentless guitar sections that alternate with spacey breaks where a sitar of all things is used for a different feel. "Dead Man's Creek" employs the effects-pedal big time for the background guitar and the track features a guest doing some slide guitar. There's a sweet circular but skewed main riff in this song that makes me smile every time. A break in the middle leaves a clearing for some Djam Karet style space weirdness. The female vocal and guitar work coming after this break are just plain sexy as hell. "Titan Transcendence" starts with echoed, phased clean guitars conversing quietly to background drumming, very cool. Slowly vocals wails are heard in the background. "Shelter" is an intro to the closer "By the Banks of Pandemonium." Building to a climactic fury with great guitar throughout, it breaks to a subdued farewell with about 90 seconds of sadly picked acoustic guitar.

Strange in Stereo is one hell of an original album. An anonymous web reviewer at a large retail site wrote some phrases that sum up what bizarre music this is: "Passion mingled in sweat.a voracious album.a complete transformation both in themes and in musical direction. In Omnio psychedelic stylings were used as a metaphor for the forces of nature- both mental and worldly-here they are in the service of a backward purpose.no longer do they exalt fertility or benign nature but are now deeply immersed in world of sin and inversion.the primal man of large and robust instincts is now defeated.enter the modern man."

This album is a good example of what prog metal can achieve when it breaks down some of the predictable barriers of overused growls, shredding, and blast-drumming. I'm not saying those elements are bad, but rather that their overuse by some groups gets tiring, necessitating a mind-blow like this. As far as I'm concerned it puts to shame some of its competition. Not an easy album to embrace initially its beauty is revealed after several plays and acceptance of its inherent oddity. A must for fans of psych-metal without melodic sing-along intentions. It wisely doesn't attempt to better Omnio, but rather elevates both albums by complimenting it. Bravo to ITW.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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