Amalthea first came into being in 2004, although the members had been playing together in a variety of groups prior to this in and around Sweden. The vocalist and guitarist Per Skytt, bassist Jeremias Valsten and drummer Erik Skytt played together in a post-hardcore band, which employed vocalist and guitarist Simon Mellergardh in 2003. In 2005 the band released their first 7″ as a new four-piece group which was heavily influenced by 90s “screamo” and post-rock. Move on six years and in 2011 “The World Ends With You” EP was released, leaning even more towards post-rock and replacing the screamo with a heftier doom/post-metal sound. And so, in 2014, the band release their second full length entitled “In the Woods”.
Scandinavian culture is very much in fashion at the moment, what with the success in the UK of television dramas such as “The Bridge”. The music on “In the Woods” perfectly mirrors the aesthetic that many people bring to mind when they consider that particular part of the world. The atmosphere is spacious whilst maintaining an undeniable barrenness. The opening nine-minute ‘Rain’ could almost be the theme music to a melancholic crime drama series in itself. The mood is thoughtful and considered and at times teeters on the edge of developing into an upsurge of sound, but teases the listener.
‘The Fall’ continues very much in a similar vein, with subtly placed chord progressions that weave a foundation on which some heavier vocal and instrumentation can take off from. Again, however, the atmosphere is ponderous and at times almost lachrymal. ‘Harm’ and ‘Field’ succeed in elevating the mood somewhat as they allow themselves to go over the edge into some frenetic cacophony of sound that seems almost cathartic in essence, whilst ‘Vapour’ pushes the momentum even further and shows an altogether more muscular sound.
A dark fragility informs the sound on ‘Rust’ which meanders delicately through those mournful Scandinavian landscapes. All these elements seem to coalesce on the closing track ‘End’, which twists and turns between sadness and optimism on a background of carefully calculated and scholarly chord progressions.
“In the Woods” is a fine example of an album that creates atmosphere, not always a welcoming one, and takes the willing participant on a narrative journey through that space. One may attempt to contextualize the music here by making comparisons with bands such as Cult of Luna, Isis or even, at times, Neurosis. There is the same expansive use of sound here and a similar sense of pushing forward, against all adversaries, through the unforgiving tundra. A similar rage and solemnity, with a comparable gracefulness, give it its personality and significance. Music that needs to be heard in its entirety in order to encompass what it has to give. And, unfortunately, with the “shuffle generation in 2014, fewer and fewer individuals are inclined to treat the album as a solid statement in itself. This release is an example of why that approach is not always the appropriate one.