With Russian doom/black/gothic metal band Forest Stream’s signing to fairly well-known European metal label Candlelight records, the same lads who released the early material of such bands as Opeth and Emperor and who have held contracts with Sigh, Insomnium, Daylight Dies, and Anaal Nathrakh, things have kind of accelerated quickly for these six Russin musicians. It seems that this fairly unknown band has landed themselves in a pool of much bigger fish, yet with their latest album (and first on their new label) The Crown Of Winter
, Forest Stream naturally put out an album which contains some of their best moments, perhaps in an attempt to garner a larger fanbase or more recognition, but fall short of the landmark album they had hoped to create.
It’s been six years since the release of 2003’s Tears Of Mortal Solitude
, quite a while for any band to stay active without recording anything, not even an EP or split. Creative stagnation is present during some of the drawn out, keyboard rich bridges and transitions, something which is immediately noticeable during the title track of the album. However, the six years of time has also brought with it fresh guitar melodies which are doomy, yet melodic, while not being repetitive and unoriginal. Their sound has remained almost untouched, with the exception of a prominent use of clean vocals which are undoubtedly inspired by My Dying Bride. However, these clean vocals are often dragging, like the vocalist was under a bizarre trance in which he thought his mediocre cleans were vastly better than his above-average scream. It’s a fatal flaw which may have hindered this album from reaching the heights it could have.
However, the same cannot be said about the instrumental department. The guitar work is practically flawless, weaving untold numbers of harmonized melodies and epic leads which really give this album a distinct flavor while retaining its overbearingly somber and hopeless atmosphere. Drumming is always present to accent the guitars, whether it be with double bass or with a simple cymbal beat during the slower tempo moments. It’s the keyboards which get to be the guest which overstays their welcome. They are used prominently for atmospheric purposes throughout the entire album, there aren’t many moments where the keyboards are silenced in favor of a vicious black metal-inspired verse, and often carry entire minute long (and sometimes even longer) bridges by themselves, which turns out to be nothing more than a test of the listeners patience and willingness to listen to the same few notes for extended periods.
Despite its flaws, The Crown Of Winter
is a good attempt by Forest Stream to hit the ground running and get back into the swing of things with a brand new label and a fresh start. However, their Candlelight debut has some gaping flaws which need to be addressed if this band wants to reach higher ground. There is more good to point out than bad in this album, and it is definitely worth a listen if symphonic/melodic/gothic doom or whatever it is that Forest Stream is going for sounds interesting to you, it’s just that it seems that the band is still trying to find a place for themselves. Don’t steer clear of this album, because there are many moments which are simply awesome, but don’t come to the party expecting a keg when there’s only a few 24 packs.