ALBUM REVIEW: IN THE WOODS - DIVERSUM
NORWEGIANS TRADE RUNES FOR ANTHEMIC ROCK DYNAMICS
Norway’s In The Woods were responsible for some of the most authentic and far-sighted spin-offs from the Scandinavian underground in the late 1990s. Originating as distinctly Nordic pine-scented extreme metal that is now standard issue for many revivalists, they quickly evolved into avant-garde, sombre theatre with an oddball, inscrutable mystique. By imbuing the elemental psychological mood of BM into quasi-operatic esoteric rock they helped create a paradigm shift in extreme music and challenged the identity of the scene itself. Disregard the passing of years and try listening to the ethereal troika of Omnio (1997), Strange in Stereo (1999) or even the brilliantly bizarre compilation Three Times Seven on a Pilgrimage (2000). These releases saw In The Woods pioneer the deconstruction of traditional strictures of extreme music, demonstrating drama and psychological intensity could act in lieu of screams, volume and blastbeats.
Nearly everything about the modern-day incarnation of In The Woods is largely unrecognisable from their formative era. Having disbanded in 2000 only to re-group a number of years later there remains only one founder member left in their ranks, drummer Anders Kobro. Musically, too, this is far removed from the band’s early arty experimentalism and Diversum is essentially a prog and doom inflected hard rock record that is big on atmospherics dovetailing it neatly with their post-reunion output.
This is evidently home territory for the band now but Diversum is an assured piece of work. The floaty, high-altitude wistfulness and sumptuous solo of The Coward’s Way are redolent of Pink Floyd’s dreaminess and sense of epic perspective. Despite the very occasional outburst, this is light and accessible rock with tracks like the polished vintage theatrical rock of Moments and the anthemic euro-rock of We Sinful Converge. The record brims with easy going big melodies such as these and the quality of the musicianship is unquestionable while the production is typically lush and opulent.
Vocalist Bernt Fjellestad delivers a boastful rock star performance. His versatile range spans occasional harsh gruffness to ballad croons and all the way to foot-on-monitor triumphant euro-rock soaring choruses. It is a confident display and among his crowing moments here are the rousing A Wonderful Crisis with its anti-gravity melody or his hushed sonorous tones on album closer Your Dark.
In The Woods are no longer the slightly mad hermitical experimentalists, who ditched extremity for weirdness and a penchant for spacey magik. That chapter appears long gone and this is a very different band. To be fair, though this evolution is profound nobody can say it was sudden but has occurred over three decades. One extant link to the band’s past is a certain eccentricity and Diversum has a degree of flamboyant pomp and decorative bombast - it is just more suited to shades than runes.
Check out Diversum on bandcamp: https://soulsellerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/diversum