In The Woods…: Norway's psychedelic black masters branch out again
One of the most adventurous bands to have emerged from Norway’s black metal scene, In The Woods... have emerged from a a 14-year hiatus with all their enchantment intact
With their unique and self-contained vision, the emergence and success of In The Woods… during the early 90s provided evidence of just how broad, varied and creatively free the Norwegian black and extreme metal scene could really be. Drawing heavily on elements of folk, prog rock and psychedelia, their sound proved both imaginative and immersive, pulling the listener into an atmospheric and emotive musical journey unlike any other.
The band’s own journey would ultimately see them gradually shift away from their black metal roots over the course of three albums, heading into notably more experimental territories before mysteriously vanishing altogether at the turn of the millennium. Fifteen years then passed with neither information nor sign of life, the vacuum left by the group’s departure painfully obvious, despite a notable shift toward more progressive expression within metal as a whole.
But now, seemingly from nowhere, the band have made an unexpected, even unlikely return. The core members, brothers Christian and Christopher Botteri (guitar and bass respectively) and drummer Anders Kobro, are back with a new guitarist, Kåre ‘Corey’ Sletteberg, who enters the fold due to the 2013 passing of guitarist Oddvar A:M and the departure of guitarist Bjørn Hårstad.
More curiously, original frontman Jan Kenneth Transeth is also replaced, by UK underground metal veterans James Fogarty – best known for his work in such diverse outfits as Ewigkeit, Old Forest and The Bombs Of Enduring Freedom – who also contributes keys and guitars to proceedings. An unexpected combination indeed. So how did this all come about? And why did the band vanish at the height of their popularity in the first place?
“It was the only right thing to do at that time,” explains Anders of the band’s split. “It was a separation within the band, the musical direction was going too far apart in too many ways. The person playing guitar was drifting away from myself and the twins musically, toward this ‘indie rock’ style, while we were sticking with our metal roots, so it got more divided. It was also an age where some of us were young parents or had a lot happening in our jobs, and couldn’t find the focus that was needed.”
“It was also Kenneth the vocalist,” interjects Christian, “he was was on a backpacking trip for almost two years, and while he was gone he seemed to have lost interest.”
“I remember him saying, ‘Fuck this shit, I don’t want to do it anymore’ during a rehearsal,” recalls Anders. “That was the summer of 1999. But it wasn’t any harder to put the band back together; I said, ‘Let’s do this again’, and they agreed. It certainly wasn’t a bad breakup, we actually played our ‘final shows’ about six months after we split, so it was a nice, clean break, so to speak. There are no bad feelings – Bjørn is even involved with the guitar leads on a couple of songs on the new album.”