Wednesday, 17 March 2010

In The Woods... - Heart of the Ages (1995) 82/100.

Of late I have become addicted to the early innovators of the 1990’s, bands such as Fleurety, In The Woods… and Ved Buens Ende. Anything that challenged the listeners perceptions of 1990’s black metal and I’m there, sifting my way through the material in the hope to find something that isn’t in a similar vein to the most notable bands of that particular era, including the likes of Burzum, Darkthrone and Immortal. It is my understanding that the majority of people find black metal synonymous with the latter bands instead of the former due to their general antics, or increased popularity but I find that I am personally more rewarded when I listen to any of the former bands, this includes In The Woods… debut, ‘Heart of the Ages’. Although it doesn’t live up to the longstanding popularity of bands like Burzum, for instance, I find bands such as this one more capable of achieving results as I concluded some time ago that Burzum have a very mixed discography with the likes of Varg’s prison work and earliest records falling short of my own personal standards and requirements for a classic.

It is my understanding that In The Woods… were born out of the complications that struck down the early career of the band Green Carnation, an act whose discography is unknown waters to me. I also understand that Green Carnation may have begun life as a death metal act and when complications arose with the exit of its main member to Emperor, In The Woods… were conceived in the mêlée of confusion and complications. As well as being a bit of an amateur when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of the bands history, including the original conception of Green Carnation and the remaining In The Woods… full-lengths, ‘Heart of the Ages’ displays a few of the qualities which later transformed the band into the avant-gardé, progressive act they are today. An increased sense of experimentation appears to be something the band, and their fans, are accustomed to with the act transporting their influences from one sound - black metal - into others of a largely unrelated form like avant-gardé styled progressive music.

The introduction to ‘Yearning the Seeds of a New Dimension’ hints at the sorts of unusual, cosmic components we’re about to stumble upon in the form of an electronic opening which stimulates the imagination in the same way that literature does as the words begin to jump off the page and transform into objects in our minds. In a similar way to that, the cosmic force of the electronic elements paints a fascinating picture into the inner workings of my mind and soothingly introduces us to the surreal world of this enterprising Norwegian band. With most of these notable acts, including the likes of Fleurety and Ved Buens Ende once again, I always remind myself to expect the unexpected, as clichéd as that may sound. The portrayal of black metal to bands like this isn’t as straight forward as the majority of bands working during the mid 1990’s to push the genre forward into the new millennium. With bands like this, ‘Heart of the Ages’ isn’t meant to continue traditions of a repetitious nature, but it is meant to break the rules and push the boundaries by developing a sound that isn’t solely reliant on what we’ve come to know and expect.

The opening and evolving of songs like the aforementioned bring this to life as the clean, soaring vocals become a factor within the slow atmosphere of the songs, bearing a resemblance to the vocalist of the doom era of Anathema, one of England’s finest talents. Not only this, but the core elements of the black metal genre are missing for large parts of not just this song, but others too, like the mammoth ‘…In The Woods’ which also taps into the clean vocal path and walking pace that isn’t often applied to black metal music. Of course, well known elements such as shrieked vocals do exist, though these elements don’t define the record as a whole. Instead, it is in the more audacious aspects that we can truly grasp the full extent of what this early and innovative record is about as it inspires a generation of musicians to do similar things many years down the line. As with bands like Ved Buens Ende, In The Woods… allow areas like the bass to flourish despite the heavy nature of some of the aspects on the record.

In fact, the keyboards are also allowed to flourish due to the fact that, on songs like ‘The Divinity of Wisdom’, the Norwegian act doesn’t suppress the listener with too much distortion and the guitars are largely downplayed in order to allow the softer aspects to come forward within the dark, eerie atmosphere of the production, something which generally fit’s the tone of the record and, in particular, the vocal display when both the clean and harsh styles are applied to the songs. Whilst not being overly symphonic, the keyboards play a major part within the soundscapes, often producing a divinity that the darker aspects, such as the guitars and largely uneventful drums, don’t and probably can’t manage by themselves. The atmosphere has a nice habit of shifting from a grimier sound, to a relaxed, laid back sound which features prominently in the short filler tracks, particularly the keyboard driven ‘Mourning the Death of Aase’, which is accompanied by some unexpected female vocals, which adds a variety to the record. Song lengths can become a bit of a problem with ‘Wotan’s Return’ being particularly sizeable. The sound of the band isn’t one which works too well over such a long period of time, but the excellent work within songs like this make them bearable despite the daunting song lengths. This record is regarded as a classic for a reason and is to be treasured and respected.

No comments:

Post a Comment