When I saw that I had a promo from a band called In The Woods I scarcely dared to believe that it could be from the legendary dark prog metallers behind releases like Strange In Stereo, and yet it was. Not only that, but these long time heavy metal heroes were able to put together an album that wasn't just impressive and immaculately constructed but also the sort of record that transcends many of the genre's paradigms in order to refine something grandiose and epic in scale. Pure is the sort of album that takes the modern prog polemic and runs it through its own ideas to create something truly beautiful. It's an album that understands the all encompassing glory of this kind of music and gives you a chance to sit back, chill out and light one up. In The Woods have come back from the grave to show that they are still the masters of forward thinking and elegantly pieced-together progressive metal with one of their strongest artistic statements to date.
Pure takes all that has made the band great over the years and brings it to its logical extreme. A particular shining star is James Fogarty, whose potent vocals, with their booming sense of bombast, is endlessly exciting to listen to, and gives the whole album a sense of NWOBHM magic. Pure offers a window to a brave new world, one where every small victory is a glorious triumph and any setback is the sort of struggle that leaves you shaking in your boots. In other words Pure is exactly that, an album that captures the purity of the genre. Of course, it's not without its faults. Being as over the top as they are the band occasionally runs into roadblocks. They've been away for a while and some of their execution doesn't quite do justice to the grandiose nature of the compositions. This is just a brutal reality but one that I think the band could rapidly move past with another album or two under their collective belts. There is definitely a sense of getting back on their feet… but the flashes back into old glories make the entire thing worth revisiting time and time again.
Ultimately a lot of my favorite bands have a direct lineage back to In The Woods, so it's hard for me to totally write off anything they do. Of course even without the context of their legend, Pure is an absolute motherfucker of a record. It's the kind of prog that I love: willing to embrace the silliness of the genre and full of epic arrangements that you will want to go back and pour over. These guys know exactly what they are doing and when they are on top of their game they write some of the most compelling prog that I have heard in years. Watching them grow, if they are truly back, is going to be a pleasure because as this record shows, In The Woods are still one of the great unknown bands of heavy metal history and are uniquely positioned to take the world on by storm.