In The Woods… – HEart of the Ages
Forgotten Legends is an ongoing series where we look back on those extraordinary yet often overlooked albums that are essential to any serious metal collection. They can be of any format, released at any time. As always, a dynamic range measurement is provided for reference.
Originally founded by bassist Terje Vik Schel, or simply Tchort, in 1992 as a death metal band, In The Woods… saw their main creative driving force in Tchort leave to join a little unknown band called Emperor. Normally that would spell the end for most projects, but the other members persevered on and released a demo in 1993 called Isle of Men. Two years later, they released one of the greatest and most innovative black metal albums of all time entitled HEart of the Ages.
Picture it, 1995, the height of the second wave of Norwegian black metal where every band member seemed to be suspected of either arson or a local stabbing. And on the music front, it seemed that every black metal band was trying to out “necro” each other with low-fi buzzsaw filled production. But In the Woods… was different. Blending doom and avant-garde elements such as female singing and sanguine keyboards with black metal, HEart was both beautifully haunting and deeply melancholy. The album’s twelve minute opener, “Yearning the Seeds of a New Dimension,” starts off with 80s sounding keyboards and ambient effects that is both hypnotic and soothing. The track eventually evolves into a slow rolling funeral doom epic with Svithjod clean vocals at the helm. Then suddenly, right around the seven minute mark, Svithjod and company go black metal for a dizzying, spectacular finish. The title track, “Heart of the Ages,” follows a similar formula but changes things up considerably featuring clean vocals on top of the catchiest tremolo picking you’ve ever heard. The heaviest song and their absolute masterpiece has got to be “Wotan’s Return,” which features an infectious breakdown before segueing into those signature keyboards again – Wagner would be proud (probably not). The song eventually comes full circle before literally stopping and re-starting with a killer death metal groove. This record is just spectacular from end to end and listening to it again today really underscores how ahead of its time it was at the time of its release.
HEart was released by Misanthropy Records in 1995 on CD, gatefold LP, and tape. Recently, Back on Black have re-issued this classic, and it was re-mastered based off of the digital version. The original CD though can be had for peanuts, which makes it an absolute must buy. On the flip side, the original mint LP will set you back at least $150 smackers. Candelight re-issued the CD in 2003, but I am unsure if this version was re-mastered or not (if someone knows please comment below).
Since HEart the band went on to release two more fantastic albums before splitting up in 2000. Some of the band members went on to join Tchort’s side project, Green Carnation, which is another story entirely. I have also come to learn that founding member and guitarist Oddvar A:M has recently died of a heart attack and is no longer with us. But his legacy lives on with one of the most engaging and beautiful black metal albums ever recorded. The fact that this record is constantly overlooked among black metal aficionados still dumbfounds me, but please do yourself a favor and listen to it on Spotify and then immediately seek the CD or LP out. It is without a doubt, a Forgotten Legend.