Let me bring you songs from the wood? Strange, we heard that line before, eons ago, didn’t we? But it kinda clicks with this outfit, a band called – In The Woods…, with the album art depicting a human tree from hell of sorts.
The band started off back in 1991 – some 31 years in the past. But already in 2000, they departed on a giant hiatus until – 2014. Since then, they unleashed two records to mixed acclaim with Diversum, their third attempt at new-found glory.
And I must admit, whilst Into The Woods… might have sailed past the RMR tracking radar a few times, the band never locked on to Ground Zero over here. And perhaps that’s a good thing, judging by the anguished screams of some metalheads about a disconnect with the band’s past and whatnot. So hey, at least you’ll get our view unencumbered by colorful baggage from times long gone. Because – frankly – what came before with this band really cannot be referenced. So, it will behoove us to avoid too many comparisons with the past.
And it’s funny. It already started last year, but 2022 truly became a playing field for alternative bands. Outfits that often ditched their frenetic metal roots and went into Post Metal mode with no fixed style. And this actually made for very interesting new albums where music can be heard without the enactment of genre-generated dogma so prevalent in the metal multiverse.
So here, Diversum hit our turntables with a mighty mix of Alternative Rock and some metal. And often, their offering comes slightly roasted by discrete tremolos to a civilized level of blackness. But just scorched enough, so that nobody will call this Black Metal all of a sudden. You’ll also detect a few progressive undercurrents that soar closer to Nevermore than they should. But the slight Amorphis-like feel of melancholy was often most palpable in a few tracks right at the beginning of the tracklist (The Coward’s Way, for instance). Moments often sounds like something that might have come out of Ayreon’s kitchen. In other words, In The Woods… didn’t quite invent something new. Instead, they let existing undercurrents flow into their songwriting with sometimes pretty spectacular results.
Now, a lot of credit goes to the band’s brand-new frontman. James Fogarty’s1) replacement Bernt Fjellestad really ripped out his vocal cords with his impressive performance. This guy’s got a mighty box of tools at his disposal. Dark progressive crooning, abundant belting that rearranged our hairdo sometimes, and throaty metal croaks at every felt corner of the record. It’s all there, and – strangely – all of that never gripes.
And often, the record positively screeches about human discomfiture. Depression for instance in A Wonderful Crisis, which starts off with an excerpt of one of Ronald Reagan’s musings.2) Or the excellent The Malevolent God that somewhat sounds like The Reticent 2.0. A dying guy seemingly on life support raging at god for not saving him. This one is a truly masterful lament that – indeed – steps out of Diversum‘s relatively simple song structures. One that also gave the woody and slightly disturbing album art a chilling new meaning.
But it’s also a reminder of what could have been if only the band would have injected a bit more juice and variation into some of their tracks. And that’s especially true with the B-Side with Humanity and Master of None being the weakest links of the album.
To wrap this up, though, Diversum truly should not be compared to what the band produced before. In The Woods… went through wild lineup changes, long periods of cryogenic storage, and some sort of trial-and-error process on styles and direction after that. The outcome, however, is a pretty snazzy new album that thrives on meaty riffs, soaring solos, often stellar vocals, and drum work that’s always right where it needs to be. And whilst it might not necessarily be material for the upcoming top 10, this is a thoroughly enjoyable record that will – for sure – find a few spins over the months to come at the RMR offices. Nothing better to expect than that, right?