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A Forest of Stars - Beware the Sword You Cannot See Award winner

A Forest of Stars
Beware the Sword You Cannot See
by Danny Sanderson at 11 March 2015, 10:22 PM

In a scene where quite a few bands go down a very conventional route, both musically and in terms of image, A FOREST OF STARS are a genuinely unique band. Formed in 2007, this band has been making crazy, bizarre and idiosyncratic Progressive Black Metal for four albums now. Their sound incorporates influences that include everything from BURZUM through to Folk Rockers STEELEYE SPAN. The result is an eclectic, interesting sonic masterpiece that is not to be missed or ignored. Their music has steadily gotten more progressive and strange, and their most recent record, "Beware the Sword You Cannot See", their first effort for the acclaimed French label Prophecy Productions, is shaping up to be their best record yet.

The opener, "Calling Down the Rain", is a really superb way to open this record. Much of the song is rooted in Black Metal, but has plenty of progressive flourishes to it that make it more than just your average Black Metal track. Namely, the brilliant, haunting violin pieces that hold a lot of the hooks that would normally be reserved for the guitars. The contrast between the rasping, passionate snarling of Mister Curse and the lilting, majestic violin sections laid down by Katheryne, Queen of Ghosts, coupled with the air of slight ambience which is added to the mix through the keyboards, really make this song awesome. The next song, "Hive Mindless", really builds on the more experimental aspects of the bands sound, and a lot of this song is built around dissonant, eerie guitar chords, a moaning violin, and the delivery of the vocals. The keyboards, flutes and percussion parts on this track are also worth noting, as they help to create a much more complex, layered sound for the overall track and provide plenty of subtle touches that, although small, help bring the track to life. The albums third tune, "A Blaze of Hammers", begins with a really cool Black Metal riff, which is, to some extent, reminiscent of some more depressive Black Metal acts, before the song becomes much more ferocious and dark. Unlike plenty of the other songs on this record, the guitars play a much more prominent role in shaping of this track, and the keyboards, ambience and violins are only used to help enhance the guitar lines, rather than being the dominant element in the sound.

"Virtus Sola Invictus" really up the ante in the Black Metal stakes, and is the closest thing that a band like this could have to a conventional Black Metal song. The vocals are more spoken than sung, something that Mister Curse does very well, not just on here, but on their previous efforts. On this track, the music gets a lot more emotional, especially with the way the keyboards and flute is delivered in the middle of the song. "Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs" is an amazingly progressive and eerie track that fully showcases how far the band can take their sound. It's a much softer song that the rest of the other tracks, until a ferocious Black Metal section towards the end breaks the calm of the rest of the music. It has a lot more ambient and psychedelic elements to it than the any of the other ten tracks. The exchange between the male and female vocals, and the acoustic portions of this song all work really well.

Now it's time to move onto the second half of the album, headed under the title of "Pawn of the Universal Chessboard", which can be viewed either as six individual tracks, or, alternatively, as one great, sprawling epic that is broken down into six parts, the first of which being "Minslide". This is a very short ambient piece with Katheryne providing vocals over the top of it. It's a very mellow, relaxing song and it's a really good way to open this part of the album. The second part of this hexology is "Have You Got a Light, Boy?", which still has a very strong ambient/ psychedelic air to it, only with some really cool guitar parts, and an awesome vocal performance by Curse. This is easily one of the best offerings on this record, which is saying something, as this is a very solid album with lots of great music to begin with. Part three, "Perurabo", is a brilliant slab of Black Metal, with plenty of acoustic twists thrown in for good measure. This is again one of the better tracks on here, and at points it is seriously hair-raising. "An Automation Adrift" is one of those songs that slowly gets more intense and heavy as it goes along, before sliding seamlessly into the penultimate song, the dark and violent sounding songs on the album. Clocking in at just over two minutes, it is the shortest song, but is so blisteringly fast and savage a slab of Progressive Black Metal, that it will most likely stick with you long after it's finished playing. The eleventh and final song, "Let There Be No Light", is a very good way to close this excellent record. It throws together the vast majority of the bands more dynamic elements, and has some really great moments in it, most notably the violin performances.

This is an absolutely amazing album from an absolutely amazing band. All seven of the bands members should be immensely proud of how this record has turned out. It shows a band that are continually pushing their sound and style beyond the boundaries of Black Metal, and producing something that can't exactly be stuck into any musical pigeonhole. This album is even better than its predecessor, 2012's "A Shadowplay for Yesterdays", which is no small compliment, as I rank that album amongst my favourite Extreme Metal records. If you haven't listened to this band yet, then now is the time to start. This is a very strong contender for album of the year. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to sample some unique and different Black Metal.

5 Star Rating

1. Drawing Down the Rain
2. Hive Mindless
3. A Blaze of Hammers
4. Virtus Sola Invictus
5. Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs
6. Part I: Mindslide
7. Part II: Have You Got a Light, Boy?
8. Part III: Perdurabo
9. Part IV: An Automation Adrift
10. Part V: Lowly Worm
11. Part VI: Let There Be No Light
Mister Curse - Vocals
Katheryne, Queen of Ghosts - Violin, Flute, Vocals
The Gentleman - Keyboards, Percussion
Mr. Titus Lungbutter - Bass
Mr. John "The Resurrectionist" Bishop - Drums, Percussion
Mr. T. S. Kettleburner - Guitars, Vocals
Mr. William Wight-Barrow - Guitars
Record Label: Lupus Lounge


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