A little over two years ago, I reviewed A Forest Of Star’s last release – ‘A Shadow Play For Yesterdays’.
It was my first experience of the band, and while I felt that there was much improvement to be had, I found it a gratifying enough listen overall.
An arrant problem I had was that it was just a bit all-over-place and haphazard in places, and seemed that the gimmick was overpowering the music and helping to band-aid over musical weaknesses.
Steam Powered Septuplet
What’s great is that the steam-powered septuplet appear to have addressed most, if not all, of what frustrated me with ‘A Shadow Play For Yesterdays’.
Every instrument has been given room to breathe and the arrangements have been well planned and accomplished. There are no erratic compositions or jarring passages to be found here; just all the good stuff, dialed all the way up.
The violin in particular is exceptional throughout and is crafted beautifully with the guitars and synthesizer.
The opening track, ‘Drawing Down The Rain’ is a 9 and half minute masterpiece and tells you everything you need to know about the band. The drumming should also be recognised for its standard of excellence – just listen to those kicks from around 7 minutes and 10 seconds in.
‘Hive Mindless’ has more than a few 70’s Prog influences in it and chaotic Black Metal, and is just a great track from start-to-finish.
The real highlight is on track three however, in ‘A Blaze of Hammers From The Sky’. Mister Curses again is just an absolutely excellent frontman. He comes across as a poetic madman, going between hate-filled bellowing and spoken passages such as:
‘If all is soil of creation and all our every particle,
all intermingled is but a happy dust storm,
waiting to disappear up a willing god’s nose
– then where should the faithful stand?
I suppose it’s irrelevant to a grain of sand.’
The drumming again on this is outstanding from around 2 minutes in, the kickwork again being absolutely mauling.
What makes this release stand out is just how much conviction each member of the band has. You can sense the absolute pride emanating through each instrument as they’re being played.
‘Virtus Sola Invicta’ again has a spoken-word delivery, polarizing to the furious intro underneath its beginning. Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts has more of a part to play apart from violin and flute duties as she lends her backing vocals to good effect on ‘Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs’, before a six-part story begins at track 6 with ‘Part I: Mindslide’, in which she provides vocal duties again to a track that sounds like it could have been recorded by Dead Can Dance.
I can’t state with complete certainty what story these tracks are attempting to convey, but there are many references to the destruction and rebirth of the universe. This narration is told through tracks that borrow heavily from 70’s Psychedelic Prog and 80’s synth movie scores, all very much illuminated in ‘Part II: Have You Got a Light, Boy?’.
It’s a nice break from everything that had lead up to it, and gives a real sense to the opening of a new album.
Victoriana Gimmick Forgotten
‘Part IV: An Automaton Adrift’ has a simple but nice lead at the end, leading into the turbulent ‘Part V: A Lowly Worm, which then transitions into a very decidedly 80’s-style Ballad, starring Katheryne, to close everything off. It manages to not be absolutely cringe-inducing and while being very different from anything that had preceded it, it fits well enough as the conclusion.
I have to admit, I actually forgot all about their Victorian-age gimmick as I listened to this on numerous occasions. This is just good music, regardless of their image or visual presentation.
They’ve managed to infuse great a mix of what I can really only describe as Arcturus, My Dying Bride, 70’s Psychedelic Prog with a hint of 80’s synth-laden music scores and a few nods towards Emperor and early Opeth here and there.
This is already a contender for my favourite album of 2015, and I’d urge anyone to listen to it.
If you don’t like it, well then, ‘Fuck you and the worms you rode in on’.
4.5 / 5 – Ricardo Angelone ::: 07/03/15