In the Woods... - Live at the Caledonien Hall
The End Records
Atmospheric Progressive Avant-Garde
Disc 1: 11 songs (71'56") Disc 2: 9 songs (73'44")
Release year: 2003
The End Records
Reviewed by Alex

Sometime ago, Jeff, my colleague at Metal Reviews, asked me about In The Woods. I was happy to tell him as much as I knew, because it is a shame more metal fans do not know about this talented, but short-lived Norwegian outfit. The truth was, I could not tell him everything. I own three full albums and a collection of tunes from 7” by In The Woods, but I couldn’t tell Jeff why In The Woods was no more, and what happened to the band.

In The Woods, like a comet, came out of nowhere, shone brightly, flamed out and disappeared. Their first full-length, Heart of the Ages on Misanthropy label, was a mixture of art-black, doom and gothic metal. While male vocals were a combination of clean and shrieky, female singing and orchestral touches hinted at the band aspiring for more than just being another black metal team. With 1997 Omnio In The Woods have arrived. This album is truly a gem and has to be owned by anybody who appreciates extreme, yet progressive, music. 1999 Strange In Stereo was a step back, in my eyes anyway, with the songs not being as captivating as on Omnio. And then, silence. Three Times Seven on a Pilgrimage collection of songs from previous 7” and singles is all that was heard from In The Woods. Unexpectedly, and somewhat inexplicably, the band decided to call it a day. In this sense recorded way back in 2000, and released only now, Live at the Caledonien Hall is both retrospection and an epitaph. While many bands end up with acrimonious breakups and line-up changes eventually leading to their demise, In The Woods apparently just decided to amicably end the journey with its band members pursuing other bands (Green Carnation, which I fervently follow) or solo careers. Also, this album is released through Karmakosmetix label run by the former In The Woods members, so they must be still busy in the music business. As a result, the whole album has an atmosphere of old friends who had gotten together for one last time to pay tribute to their art and to their fans, who are also their loyal friends.

I have never been to Norway, so I can’t tell you about the Caledonien Hall in Christiansand. Yet, if I am to imagine the venue it must be looking as a theatre rather than a bar, and also with excellent acoustics. Perfect setting for In The Woods. Both electric and acoustic, their music can travel a great length penetrating many a soul. In The Woods songs are often long and very complex in terms of songwriting. They don’t just repeat riffs. Instead, almost every song is an accelerating psychedelic vortex. What usually starts with the slow, not very saturated, intro, almost always picks up in speed, energy, layers and emotion, swirls around you, reaches the pinnacle, only to fade into nothingness again.Opeth and My Dying Bride may be invoked, but In The Woods is definitely neither death nor doom metal band at this point. I would call their genre avant-garde melodic art metal, if there was such a thing.

The band starts off with the melodically brilliant, almost completely instrumental, medley. Cleanly sung Heart of the Ages, new song, unsophisticatedly called Beer, and the cover of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, set up the first hit, Mourning the Death of Aase. What an amazing song! The “vocals” are female ah-ohs, but weaving guitar melody is so emotional. After that, the band does something unprecedented. They play THE WHOLEOmnio album live. Come to think of it, though, what song could they have excluded? This has to be played in its entirety. Monumental I Am Your Flesh, Synne Diana female vocals driven Kairos, and my personal all-time favorite Weeping Willow. When Anders Kobro’s drums turn to double bass, a rare occurrence with In The Woods, on Weeping Willow and Jan Transit sings “to gently wipe away the tears”, and the melody edges on heartbreak – I simply stand in awe. The band rarely goes into long song introductions, usually they just announce the song and play it. However, with Omnio they explain that this song is dedicated to all mothers out there. Omnio spills onto the second disc which has several songs from Strange In Stereo, and an unbelievable cover of King Crimson Epitaph. I have to say that better songs from Strange In Stereo have been chosen (Path of the Righteous, Titan Transcendence), but Omnio still rules supreme in my heart and mind. The double disc album does not have mindless guitar or drum solos. Instead, it is packed to the brim with quality material.

The production and mixing on the album is simply outstanding, better than some other bands' studio albums. The audience can be heard only in spots (mostly between the songs), but every instrument is mixed just right, and the vocals flow up front alternating with guitars when those take center stage. I still liked the mixing of the first disc more, maybe because it has more Omnio songs, but more because it feels more organic, warmer and less distorted. The second disc is more modern sounding, however.

Just about every member who has ever participated in the band makes a contribution to the album. That is why I said that this has a feel of an old friends’ reunion. For those who have entirely missed In The Woods (which wasn’t difficult to do), Live at the Caledonien Hall would be well worth to pick up to make up for the lost opportunity.

If you buy the 2-disc album through The End Records, it comes with the 70 min Karmakosmetix label sampler.

Killing Songs :
Mourning the Death of Aase, the whole Omnio album, Path of the Righteous, Titan Transcendence, Epitaph
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Other albums by In the Woods... that we have reviewed:
In the Woods... - Cease the Day reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
In the Woods... - Pure reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
In the Woods... - Heart of the Ages reviewed by Tony and quoted CLASSIC
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