Cutback: The early nineties (back then far less legendary than nowadays widely acclaimed, but a time of development and discovery). In the tiny heavy metal section of a small record shop a gangly boy spots a CD which attracts him with its morbid Acheronian elegance reflected in the tongue-twisting title “Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium” and a cover artwork of its own.
With a mixture of curiosity and concern he spends his rare pocket money for this EP of a British band whose sound is yet unknown to him but whose moniker makes him shiver at once and fantasize: My Dying Bride – what a name! What a motive to let one’s imagination play with the words and to dream away! At home he can’t believe his ears. Being no stranger to Scorpions and Metallica he isn’t really prepared for this massive dark wall of sound hitting him down on the floor. Having no deeper idea of “death-” or “doom metal” and no clue of the uniqueness of My Dying Bride’s already unquestionably individual sound the poor boy suddenly feels like these musicians must see the world with similar visionary, yet hopeless eyes like Edgar Allan Poe.
Cut. Back to today (even less legendary). It’s not that irritating to reflect that since this first encounter with darkest British metal music(k) some handfuls of years have passed and that this boy scarred to his wits has over the years become a fanzine editor sharing his passion for somehow gloomy music in some extravagant, not to say quite irrelevant media. Although he still loves to explore nightly music in all its various forms, he feels more and more bored by the metal scene, especially by the process of “professionalization” in regard to recording technique which is in most cases just a shallow orientation towards mainstream and easy-listening sounds.
A FOREST OF STARS?! Already the name lets me prick my ears – and so does the music of this British quartet. To be precise and to avoid misunderstandings: the adventurous music alone is worth your attention! The band calls it “psychedelic black metal” and this term hints at the many levels of the music and its trance-like quality: this is music you can sink / fall / dive / drown into and dream away with, spellbound by mysterious melodies clad in bewitching violin tones, unyieldingly pounding (not too hasty) drums and a sound that combines the in the true sense of the world natural elements of black metal and neofolk. Vocalist Mister Curse tends a bit to the eccentric and actually reminds me more than once of Lee Dorrian’s bizarre interpretation of “The Voyage Of The Homeless Sapien” – by the way one of the most marvellous pieces of music by Cathedral and in the history of psychedelic metal. Curse doesn’t sing / shout / growl the metal way, but he – what surprise! – curses, moans, swears, clamours as if a horde of demons would breathe down his neck. And so plays the whole of the band: possessed and hag-ridden by some dark force whose disturbing presence can be traced in projecting compositions with a life of their own. Some of the special vocal arrangements first seem to be chaotic, but they make sense in the end and add a lot of atmosphere to the gloomy music. The listening experience of this outstanding debut album obviously doesn’t take place on the acoustic level exclusively, at least I can’t imagine a listener with some fantasy, whose mind doesn’t start to do summersaults while listening to the different peculiar sounds sticking out the metal base, be it the piano, flute or violin – and of course to the ear-piercing performances by Mister Curse. It took me seconds to imagine him as some kind of doomed addlebrained hunchback swearing at the world from an unlighted hole under a likewise grim looking opaquely branching tree.
Cut again. Turning back to the facts: music-wise there’s a lot to discover, be it the malign acoustic passages in the song “Male”, the ethno drums in “Earth And Matter”, the sheer intensity of the dramaturgy in the song “Female”, psychedelic effects here and there… yet this is an underground recording and although the sound is a bit diffuse, I’m really thankful that this uncompromising and individual music hasn’t been debased by a contemporary sterile mainstream metal production. It would be silly to praise this album to the (star-lit) skies as if it crowns the band’s achievements and couldn’t be excelled by a future release, but it would be even sillier not to state the extravagant class of this debut which in terms of musical extremes makes most tabloid black metal protagonists appear pretty unspectacular and one-dimensional. “The Corpse Of Rebirth” could become the headline of a thrilling new chapter in dark British metal music, taking up influences from the national doom legends and interweaving them to a network of sounds that is truly psychedelic and avant-garde. From the angle of music history this art is spirit-wise closer to visionary musicians like Bo Hansson, King Crimson or In The Woods than to most of today’s metal scene.
Final cut: the fanzine editor, feeling like a small child again after listening to A FOREST OF STARS, decides to write the band a mail in order to conduct an interview. If this article that he already dreams of, ever gets published, it should emblaze the surely interesting backgrounds of the forest-dwelling stars.
Label: Transcendental Creations
Avantgenre: Psychedelic Black Metal
Origin: England, The Victorian Era
Official site: http://www.aforestofstars.co.uk
Review online since: 10.08.2009 / 16:46:13
01 – God
02 – Female
03 – Male
04 – Earth And Matter
05 – Microcosm