Artist: A Forest of Stars
Album Title: The Corpse of Rebirth
Label: Transcendental Creations
This is the first album from A Forest Of Stars, an English band playing atmospheric black metal.
The production on this record is relatively clear and balanced. The guitars have just enough distortion, and the bass is audible beneath everything, which I always appreciate. I also really enjoyed the violin: the band uses it as a primary instrument throughout, just as a second guitar might be used. A flute is occasionally present as well, along with synth and piano. The drums are extremely crisp and clear, and I especially like the bass drum sound, which is subtle, yet just enough to add punch. The tracks with both violin and guitar sometimes seem a bit too treble-heavy, though, so maybe they could have used more of it? The vocals are right up-front in the mix, and are quite varied, from a harsh, tormented male voice to clean female vocals.
"God" starts off the record in a surprising and ambitious way, with a repetitive, cyclic riff played on the violin and guitar. This gives way to a slightly heavier section, which in turn deepens even more, until suddenly the song is an almost conventional atmospheric black metal tune. Then, just as you think you've got it figured out, in comes the flute again! I really like the way this one seems to play with the conventions of the genre, without ever giving in to them.
"Female" alternates between ambient sections and more straightforward metal parts, with thick, heavy guitar and blasting drums. The tortured, bitter vocals are especially great, as is the riffing during the last few minutes. "Male", on the other hand, combines ethereal female vocals with nimble drumming, spacey synth, and acoustic guitar. For the most part, I didn't really care for the quiet parts of this one, but the last half of the song is gratifyingly strong.
"Earth and Matter" is a crushing instrumental, with wonderful tribal-sounding drums and yet more great violin work, especially during the outro. This is easily my favorite track on the album -- to my ears, these songs are better the heavier they are, and this is pretty heavy! "Microcosm" closes out the album with an overwhelming wave of violin, keys, and doomy guitar. The echoing vocals, mid-paced guitar work, and floating synths during the slow section are more than a bit Floydian, while the flute and bombastic vocals that follow bring Gabriel-era Genesis to mind. Then, the guitar brings everything together into a grandiose whole.
I'm of two minds about "The Corpse of Rebirth": it's a great atmospheric piece, and an excellent fusion of black metal riffing and avant-garde instrumentation, but the latter naturally means that parts of it are not really metal, and I'm afraid there's a bit too much of that for my taste. Thus, I recommend this for those who are looking for something different, but metal purists should look elsewhere.
Standout Tracks: "Female", "Earth and Matter", "Microcosm"