ALBUM REVIEW: In The Woods… – Diversum




The concept defies explanation, evades forensic inspection and can tie even the greatest philosophers in knots. Yet it’s something that we seek in artistic expression, and somehow we instinctively know when we encounter it.

I bring that word up because Diversum (Soulseller Records), the sixth album from Norway’s avant-garde progressive metallers In The Woods…, got me thinking about the idea of this idea of artistic authenticity.


After all, In The Woods… now contains just one original member (drummer Anders Kobro) and vocalist Bernt Fjellestad has only recently joined this year. Sure, some bands have always had revolving-door lineups anyway, and arguably the music itself is far more important than the name of the person plucking the strings or hitting the keys. But undeniably and understandably, when a lineup goes the way that this one has — almost all “new” members — people will ask whether this formation can really lay claim to the name on the record sleeve.


Authentic or not in terms of lineup, Diversum is packed with majestically extravagant progressive doomy metal. There are plenty of massive riffs interspersed with jangling off-kilter guitar arpeggios that cut against the grain in an odd and slightly disorientating way (an echo, perhaps, of the band’s black metal roots). The lavish production (multilayered vocal harmonies, intricately arranged stacks of guitar and keyboard parts — you get the picture) emanates a squeaky-clean crispness. Indeed, elements like the clicky and metronomic kick drum fills are a little too clean and tidy for my ears, but it’s a tried-and-tested prog-metal approach that no doubt has myriad fans.


Fjellestad’s vocals are absolutely flawless in their execution. His deep, soft and sombre style that often dominates work as a counterpoint to the sonic attack of the snarling guitars to maintain balance of aggressive menace and fragile beauty. His guttural growls are perhaps a little too dry and exposed in their production — there’s a fine line between scary and silly with metal vocals and these ones sometimes only just scrape through on the right side of that. Nevertheless, when the clean and harsh styles are sometimes layered up together the effect can be wonderful. The huge energetic harmonised choruses may prove to be divisive, though. Some might call them over-the-top. I found myself enjoying these parts but I had to work at suspending disbelief to convince myself I was in the kind of dark fantasy realm that befits the band’s imagery. Again, it’s a fine line.


It’s a similar story with the keyboard parts: sometimes they add the warmth the song needs, but at others they are a little distracting and unnecessary.

And, speaking of fine lines for a third time in as many minutes, I’m still not sure how convinced I am by Diversum and this new iteration of In The Woods… Sure, they deliver the goods (and then some) when it comes to the performances, and there are some strong songs here that balance uplifting melodic appeal with dread-laden darkness. But that elusive flame of life, the heart, the authenticity, didn’t quite reveal itself to me in the way I would have hoped for.


Undoubtedly Diversum ticks all the right boxes for legions of progressive metal adherents to lap it up. Whilst perhaps lacking the magical life force some will hope for, it’s a well-crafted modern melodic metal record that does everything it needs to.

Buy the album here:


6 / 10