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Respect In the Woods…’s Solitude

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In the Woods… has changed, but In the Woods… has always been a changeling. The legendary Norwegian — now Norwegian and English — avant-garde metal danced between a near confusingly wide array of genres, finding a new means of expression with each turn. Even in their first, pre-reunion era, no two albums were alike. HEart of the Ages bore little resemblance to Omnio, and the same for the follow up Strange in Stereo. Even with a stable lineup, In the Woods… threw out the rulebook and did… pretty much whatever they felt like. It worked, and their mark was left on metal.

However, no change was as dramatic as this. After the 2016 departure of the Botteri brothers, the newfound duo of James “Mr. Fog” Fogarty and final original member Anders Kobro were left with both the band’s legacy and future in their hands. Two years later, the band unleashes Cease the Day, one of their most brazen albums to date. Listen to an exclusive premiere of “Respect My Solitude” below.

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When compared to the more gothic leanings of Pure, Cease the Day is more immediate and energetic. This could be attributed to the new source of creativity, as Fogarty has since shifted from a pure vocal presence to both frontman and multi-instrumentalist, or simply following the band’s lineage of transformation. What follows is an album which is both rocking and aggressive, but also emotional and subtle. This is definitely a metal album, and probably the most undeniably metal album In the Woods…has created since their debut, but also meets all their albums’ identities somewhere in the middle.

Cease the Day is psychedelic, blackened, gothic, and many, many more things. As it is with all In the Woods… albums, this new release is nebulous in identity, undulating between multiple states within a single song’s time. It is exciting and refreshing. Yes, this is a completely new lineup for a band who has only recently reformed, but it is undeniably a part of the greater In the Woods… narrative, and it is glorious.

In our interview below with Anders Kobro, he discusses the band’s current state, as well as the creation of the new album and how it fits within the greater In the Woods… discography.

Cease the Day will be released through Debemur Morti Productions on November 23rd.

Obviously, Cease the Day is very different from Pure, and that can be attributed to a new lineup. How is it working specifically with James [Fogarty] as opposed to a full band with James in the lineup?

A hell of a lot easier [laughs]. He is a one-man-band-machine kind of guy. He is a multi talented musician, and on top of it all, one of the better metal singers which is out there today. I mean, you get a full band in one package; you can’t ask for more. It’s made my life a lot easier over the past three years. That’s honestly speaking, it is. When you say it is very different from Pure, it’s probably very different because we are less [messy]. Let’s say the Cease the Day album came out much easier than any other In the Woods… album ever has for the fact that we agree on all levels of the writing and music. It’s no hassle, no discussion — we just went in and said “this is it.” It’s hard to explain for an outsider. When you listen to the album itself, it sounds very complex — like we are a five or six piece band, but we are not. We are just two or three guys.

I was actually surprised to see it was just the two of you. It was a big change, going from a full band two just two people.

Totally understandable, and people had their concerns. Me and James just got the devil in us when all that stuff happened. We had worked together plenty before, especially with Pure — we were not insignificant when it came to writing and processing the album. We did a lot of work and made Pure… I wanted to do Pure in the way we did albums back in the ’90s. Before the whole online era started. We had to sit and create music in the rehearsal space and fight over disagreements, but I’d also done it the other way around: sending files over the internet and such. James is in England and we live in Norway. We are not able to rehearse or meet up ever like others. Sure, we have the bassist in Kristiansand, but that’s only for live shows, but for creating and all else, it’s more… we have to communicate in a different way. But we have experience and I think the outcome for Cease the Day came out really well. No complaints.

When it comes to communication, obviously there must be a different dynamic since you worked online and with someone you’ve only worked with for a couple years. How do you find yourself communicating now with these new ideas and new mediums and opposed to those old ideas in a rehearsal room with arguments and song puzzles?

Like I said, it’s a hell of a lot easier. We don’t have to sit there and really learn specific ideas or memorize. I think that comes down to a certain degree of skill on your instruments — we know how to do this, we know how to play. I don’t have to sit and practice a song for three months or anything in order to learn it. I just play it. That’s how it is. With the new material, the ideas came about balanced at my place in Norway and James’s place in England. I had a weekend over at James’s and James came to my place another, and that was it.

I guess I should have clarified because I’m just kind of spouting these questions off the top of my head — I guess I meant more of a mental and emotional sort of communication with a relatively newer bandmate compared to the In the Woods… timeline.

For me, since I’m here in Norway — I have to relate to the anticipation the fans might have because of our previous stuff and all those things. It’s true — we have a legacy, we have albums behind us which are important for many reasons. When you lose half of the band which was significant for that era, people might automatically think we have gone to shit. That’s one of the biggest sparks me and James had: let’s prove them wrong. Let’s show them. My involvement with In the Woods… has been a bit more significant than people might think when it comes to songwriting, especially on the instruments. How can you continue the sound of a band with just the drummer? I think Cease the Day is a good example of this — I don’t really have to use words to express this, I want the music to speak for itself here.

Do you find that kind of expectation to be unfair? The weight people put on this?

No, not unfair at all. It should be expected. I know the history of the band — I was there! Of course, I don’t take the expectation for granted. If there wasn’t an expectation, there would be nothing. It’s a good thing.

And of course I’m sure you feel like you’ve proved everyone wrong, as this is a great album.

Thank you! The thing is, everything was just spot on from the fucking first day. It was weird, because normally there are hassles or difficulties along the way, but this… no! I don’t know, call it experience, call it goth feel, whatever, but it came out right! And after recording it and doing the mix and master, I have been quite mellowed or neutral to the whole thing. Now, when the promo period is going on, I listened and really really analyzed, and if I was a reviewer, I would think this is a good album. If the world is fair, it will be really really noticed, but I don’t have any expectations.

You had mentioned the process being smooth. Was that new — was it strange?

I’ve done many bands, I’ve done many albums without a hitch, but in the In the Woods… sense… yes! It was extremely strange. I was deep into songwriting for HEart of the Ages and Omnio — albums which are considered milestones — and I know what kind of work that took for us to achieve that. It wasn’t easy, but we never did it to be easy. In the Woods… was always about self-challenging and challenging the listeners. Making a good, quality balance of “not too this” and “not too far.” The line in between which is “just right” — the Goldilocks idea. It takes a lot of thinking and some trial and error to achieve such a thing, but now it works without a hitch.

You talk about setting these challenges to overcome with each In the Woods… album and each song — what challenges did you set for Cease the Day?

To not piss on our legacy.

[We erupt with laughter]

Wouldn’t you say so?

Yeah, that’s a fair challenge.

Yeah!

Any others? Was there anything you had set out to do specifically other than avoid marring your legacy?

We kind of had this confidence in ourselves — me and James didn’t have any objections. We had to convince the label that we would convince the next album to them. We had signed for two albums. We were on a contract and all those technical aspects of it, and of course live stuff. The band is ten times better live now. So long as there are creative forces present, it will turn out right in the end.

With these creative forces, obviously you and James meld together very well. As you said, this was a smooth process and everything went together very quickly and easily, but are there different ways in which you two create songs, or was this more serendipitous?

Okay, on Pure I was a lot more involved in song and riff writing than on Cease the Day. I didn’t have to! But when it comes to the yes or no question of “is this good enough,” I get the final say. This time, I never had to object for anything. We worked with what we had and we made it into something more spectacular than anything we thought it would become. If you had asked me this time last year, I would have answered with a big, big question mark as far as what new In the Woods… would be like. But now I can say, rest assured: no, we pulled this off, and I think we’ve made the best In the Woods… album ever. It’s really huge, no question about it.

I feel like quite a few people would think “Wow, this guy’s saying this is the best In the Woods… album.” Those are quite large boots to fill.

Yeah, but why would you go into a new album or project without having that in mind? You’d be shooting yourself in the foot otherwise.

Absolutely. I feel like that’s a big problem with a lot of these legacy bands where there is this shining light of the ’90s. They make these new albums but still submit to their older material. “But the ’90s…”

Yeah, but it really doesn’t mean fuck all in my opinion.

Exactly.

All eras have good music. We can discuss the metal scene until midnight, but the thing is: I hear the same as you do and as humans we aren’t different. This is good. If I listen to something and it’s good, it’s good. And a lot of people feel the same. That’s a gut feeling you have to trust in the creative process or writing your own stuff or whatever. If something gives you goosebumps, it’s for a reason, and if it gives you goosebumps, it will probably do the same for others, as well.

Why do you feel so many reviewers (and I certainly do, I’m not going to lie) — why do you feel people like me get stuck in that ’90s mentality when there is so much spectacular music coming out?

It’s a generational thing first and foremost. Okay, I’m not objective on this matter as I come from the same spot: I was there in the ’90s, but maybe I was doing this for a different reason. I was making black metal before the church burnings and not for the sake of the hilarity of media. I was in it for the artistic side of things 100%, never thought of fame or fortune or stuff like that. That goes to In the Woods… or other side projects from Norway. In the ’90s aspect, I assume you’re talking about the second wave and what happened in Norway. I’ve been making music for so long, I remember in the late 80s, early 90s, the seat of heavy metal was Tampa, Florida. All the death metal bands came from there, and then you had a side step from there the Swedish scene with Entombed, Grave, Unleashed — the death metal. I came from this. The Norwegian black metal thing happened in the brink of this era in 91, 92… 90?… that creative period. In Norway, we simultaneously changed the sound to not be exactly like the US or Swedish scenes. It was a general mental change. This has been written down so many times, I’m repeating (and side tracking).

The music is as good as people want it to be. It’s not like it was better in the 90s, it was just a bigger exposure to things which were different. Or maybe the different things now aren’t as good. I don’t know. You can tell me that! [laughs]

What I’ve noticed about In the Woods…, especially as the timeline moves on, is the band has always been a challenge. The challenge to your own process and the challenge to what exists. It’s always stood out. Was this a goal?

No, it was never intentional. You don’t sit down in the creative process thinking “We’re going to fuck with people now.” It’s always been about doing music we really enjoy ourselves. Yeah. 99% of people we interview with probably say the same thing, and we agree. Scrapping the rule book has been one of the things, but we never had the rule book to begin with. We didn’t have to pay attention to “oh this song has to be less than 5 minutes” or “we need to stick to this or that formula because that’s popular”. That’s never been a concern. It’s about 100% artistic freedom.

I guess the way I asked that came off as unfair. I wanted to say “you were doing whatever you wanted” or “not following what is going on” or “really caring” but fucked up.

There’s always more than one individual in a certain project, but in the early days we were teens — four or five guys with the same mentality (maybe a little angrier then) — but now we’re halfway to 100. I don’t know if I’m speaking to new fans or people who knew us in Isle of Men — I’m still the same guy, I’m just much more experienced. It doesn’t change the artistic way you approach the creative process. The same feeling is still there.

Feeling definitely, at least from a listener’s perspective, guides In the Woods… from across it’s discography: different albums, different members, different eras. With “feel,” do you think this idea of “feeling” guides you more than creativity or is it something you find weighing later on?

Good question — in the earlier albums when we had this kind of core thing with the lineup and all, we never talked about having to follow up anything. We went where our feelings or emotions led us with all the albums. And then, like I said or like we all know, with Cease the Day, I was left alone as the last bastion of what In the woods… was, but I had James by my side and he knew that. We didn’t sit down and decide to “let’s go do this and that,” we just let things kind of happen. It was like a diary or a painting: you did it then and you didn’t know why, but it just happened and what was on your mind. That’s what Cease the Day is the product of: it’s just us having something to do and having something to live up to, but we did it on our own terms and it would be okay. We just let it flow and would meet in the end. Any band in the world that has to go into the studio with their mindset set on the previous album is doomed to be fucked. We can’t do that — we just have to go in there with a pair of clean sheets and that’s it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily it worked for In the Woods…’s sake.

I’ve definitely had a lot of fun listening to the album and… doing some air guitar at work.

It has something to it, doesn’t it?

Oh, it rocks. Even though it’s what I would call a sentimental album, it has this rollicking, rocking spirit which I enjoy. It has a lot of energy.

The energy has always been present there, but in different ways, of course. We can sit and analyze and compare this to Strange in Stereo or Omnio or whatever. It won’t work like that. We have elements which are taken away and a few more added with less than one person. Maybe I’m being too honest here [laughs]. It might not be fair, but it’s nice to say that only three people are responsible for this.

Each album has been its own statement. They’re all so different from one another.

Exactly. Very. Also, you can say Cease the Day is probably less different from… a few things than we have been. It’s not like we started like that, but James had a few nice things to say about this. I’m doing all the Skype interviews and James is doing the written ones. He said “No, we are not afraid of our extreme metal roots.” We actually enjoy that more than the psychedelic vibes we had on Strange in Stereo. I think that was a good answer. We are not afraid — we are playing that a lot more than on the last few albums, but I’ve made a lot of extreme metal.

I guess it’s too soon to tell, but do you think you would find yourself becoming more extreme over time?

No, no way. For me, personally, I’ve been a part of one of the most extreme metal acts in the world for many, many years. I don’t see that happening because I don’t really need to. I’ve already done Carpathian Forest and am not unfamiliar with what black metal is. It’s more personal preference — I don’t have to shove religion or any speech down people’s’ throats. We don’t need to be more badass than we really are. With In the Woods…, we gladly show who we really are more than anything else we’ve ever done.

And it’s definitely been more of an individualist act. There’s nothing really quite like it. No one’s been able to recreate it on their own other than In the Woods…, which is very special. I’ve always found that to be why I’ve returned to it many, many times.

Back in the day, people were always putting the finger up and calling themselves original. Now I get to point the finger and say “where’s your identity?” Everyone has their own individuality and their own expression; if you don’t express that at all and just let it go, that’s when you achieve such a thing. Just put down your guns, don’t think about any expectation, don’t think about the other person. Just imagine it — imagine what you want to listen to. That’s how In the Woods… has always approached music.

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