By: Dan Barter
A Forest Of Stars | website | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on February 27, 2015 via Prophecy Productions
Beware The Sword You Cannot See is the 4th studio album from A Forest Of Stars, and manages to not only improve upon their past work, but is also one of the most interestingly different, well-written, and at times grin-inducingly good ‘black metal’ albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s worth noting early that I use the term ‘black metal’ lightly here, as although the band’s roots obviously lie in that direction, there are so many other musical influences going on throughout the course of this album, using one genre to sum it up is frankly unfair.
The music is often driven by the searing guitar riffs, blisteringly fast drums, and high pitched screams you would expect from a black metal band, but there is so much else going on in the course of each track, it’s at first bewildering to behold. There are portions of the album that remind me of late 90s doom and prog bands like Porcupine Tree, My Dying Bride, The Gathering, and Forest of Shadows (with a definite hint of early Opeth in there too). There are also folk-inspired breaks where you’re treated to sublime flutes and violins, and there’s 70s psychedelic synth and keyboard. (Hell, there’s key work at the start of the final track that instantly made me flashback to playing Twin World on the Amiga in the late 80s).
The length of the 11-track album comes in at just under an hour (ending with a glorious 20 minute progression split across 6 tracks). With so many influences fit into one space, it would be easy for the album to lose its way, however the song writing is first class, using each members talents to their full potential across the entire 60 minutes, where each adds to the overall theatrical nature of the writing. In short, it’s fantastic.
Whilst we’re on the theatrical nature, it’s probably worth mentioning the vocals, as mentioned, at times they keep to the more ‘traditional’ screams and growls of the genre, but large portions of the tracks are also made up from a dark, poetic, spoken-word approach. Imagine the ramblings of an 18th century alchemist/astronaut after a particularly heavy opium binge…and your nearing the feel.
It’s something that I think may put off a few people to begin with, as it’s definitely a different approach to what most metal bands would usually use, but I’d implore people to stick with is, as they excel in the context of the album. The vocals, and the instrumental work along with them, are at times unashamedly theatrical, almost pompous, but they create an epic world around themselves (sometimes beautiful, and at others outright demented), and it draws you into that world.
The production is of the highest order with everything cutting precisely through the mix, heavy as sin in parts and light and airy in others, it hugely compliments the already stellar musicianship on show. Oh and the artwork is stunning too.
There are so many moments I love on this album, it would be far too hard to list them all, and you wouldn’t want me to anyway – It’s well worth discovering them for yourself. It’s a phenomenally good journey that demands repeat listens to truly appreciate.