Two years ago, Norwegian avant-garde prog metal band In The Woods... announced to the world that they would be releasing their first new material since the band's 1999 release Strange In Stereo, 17 years before. The subsequent album, entitled Pure, was thankfully a comeback album worthy of plenty of praise, but it seemed to be lacking some of the band's atmosphere and experimentation that made their 1990s material some of the best underground metal of that decade. It was a solid enough effort and had plenty of great moments, but it paled in comparison to their 1990s output, in particular their magnum opus, Omnio.
However, two years later and In The Woods... are back once again with Cease The Day, their second album after reforming and fifth overall, so all that remains is to see if the band has improved on the derivative qualities of Pure, or whether they have simply continued to walk the wide road of safe but somewhat predictable music.
Once you dive into the bones of the record, there's plenty to connect to within Cease The Day. The vocals, for starters, are excellent. The black metal screams serve their purpose during the heavier parts of each track, and are solid enough but don't exactly garner any praise for being distinctive, but the clean vocals are where this album really shines.
Frontman James Fogarty has been the lead vocalist of In The Woods... since their reformation, and his melodic performance on this album is incredibly well-executed, utilising his rich baritone voice and adding some great harmonies throughout each song. Some of these harmonies come off as vaguely Alice in Chains-esque, which suits the accompanying instrumentation. In particular, the start of 'Cloud Seeder' sounds like a concoction of Alice in Chains and Katatonia.
As a whole, the instrumentation found here is an improvement over the material on Pure. Whilst continuing in the theme of progressive metal mixed with elements of black metal and doom metal, the atmosphere and experimentation from the early days of this band has some more prominence on Cease The Day. This ranges from an electric organ on album opener Empty Streets, to piano on Cloud Seeder and strings on Strike Up With the Dawn.
Despite the fact that only one original member now remains, that being drummer Anders Kobro, In The Woods... continue to respect their musical past and Cease the Day is a very solid addition to their discography. Perhaps the biggest flaw of the album, as well as all the band's post reunion material for that matter, is the lack of accompanying female vocals, which were always a defining point of the band's early material and something that made them stand out from other extreme metal acts. The absence of them here is less of an issue than on Pure thanks to the better quality of the material on this album, but reintroducing female vocals on later material would definitely be a nice addition to the new In The Woods... lineup. Despite this, Cease The Day is still a great record, and a fine addition to a very solid discography, that plenty of long term fans and newcomers alike will find enjoyment out of.