Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes by A Forest Of StarsRelease date: September 28, 1898
Label: Prophecy Productions / Lupus Lounge
May as well get straight to the point here, this album is outstanding. A Forest of Stars is a unique band and with fifth album Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes it remains peerless. The band doesn’t rest on its laurels and this is another great album full of dusty Victorian avant-garde metal that shines a light on the opulence and degradation of the time. If you are already a fan you will find plenty to love here. If you have never experienced the band before then welcome to 1898, push open the doors of the Gentlemen’s Club of A Forest of Stars, let the opium fumes consume your senses and the gin loosen your morals.
Whilst the band has the standard spine of guitar, bass and drums it adds violin and keyboards to sonically expand the sound and allow them to dust the music with touches of a folky, historical feel. The vocals really add to the distinctive aesthetic, vitriolic monologues woven into stories and spat so forcefully they seem simply visceral yet reveal deeper thought with twists of humour. On ‘Tombward Bound’ you want to obey as the vocals command that you “Shut up and get in the ground…Get in the fucking ground”. Yet, later in the same track you are left amused as the lyrics spawn this wonderful line: “I may not be the lord of the dance you ridiculous cunts but I will have my tuppence worth, don’t you worry, one for each eye if you please”.
Whilst the overriding feeling of the album is of the heavier sounds there are still quieter moments. If you imagine an age when power would come and go then you get a good feeling for the structures on the album, with the power out the show must go on. ‘Precipice Pirouette’ is a perfect example of this as it ebbs and flows from a pounding start with tremolo guitar and steady strong drums. This is joined by punching violin strokes all under the cloak of the vocalist operating like a traveling salesmen offering his latest batch of potions. This suddenly ends and the violin takes over and leads a small folky section before the electricity kicks back in and the pounding drums drive the song again. The quieter moments don’t distract and allow that extra impact when the song does switch back to being heavier.
Labelling this black metal does cover a good deal of the sounds emanating as the harsh and the soft have been fully embraced by the genre. Whilst many a black metal band has gone off to discover its folk routes, A Forest of Stars mixes those moments in the songs. However, it is never folky enough that my wife would think I have succumbed to her Joni Mitchell albums and ‘Taken By The Sea’ is the lightest the album goes with some ghostly keys playing out a chorus of misty backing vocals and a female led line before the rest of the band join in more restrained manner than on the rest of the album. There are moments akin to psychedelia as the keyboards get reign to take the lead during a break down in final track ‘Decomposing Deity Dancehall’ and they provide licks of atmosphere throughout the album.
All in, the real meat of the album is in the heavier parts where the lyrics really take hold and drag you into the murky Victorian streets of England. ‘Premature Invocation’ and ‘Children of The Night Soil’ have tremendous pummelling drums and vocal lines which amount to essays. The attention to detail in the words is also reflected in the artwork which is actually photographs of handmade models which is detailed here. As a package this is really unmatched.
There is a lot to be enjoyed from this album and it will rank as one of the more unique releases this year. The beauty is that whilst being unique it doesn’t try too hard. The lyrics are well thought through in a poetic flow whilst the avant-garde black metal is never over played and entwined with a sense of folky knowledge. The end result is at times breath-taking yet never overbearing.