Review Summary: A great album for fans of neofolk and proves Nest to be bursting with potential, but they just don’t quite demonstrate enough of it throughout.
Trail of the Unwary. The title says it all. Diving into this album is a journey that can end one of two ways: it could prove itself to be yet another disappointing, pseudo-drone ambient album that only the creators of the album and an overly-dedicated, extremely small fanbase really ‘get’, or it could stand out as something different from the growing crowd, and be an accessible piece of nature-inspired Finnish neofolk.
Let’s put it this way: ‘Moonbow’, the album’s opening track, is downright toe-tapping catchy. If deep in the Finland woods, there was a pop band of neopagan pilgrims, they would make a song like ‘Moonbow’. It reaches out and pulls the listener into the track with a welcomed blend of fantastically mixed smooth instrumentals – the production quality immediately standing out as being top-notch, Nest’s beloved kantele returning in all of its glory. It’s gorgeous, it’s fast-paced, and loses very little of the vibe that ties together the album. It’s not dark, it’s not ambient, it’s neofolk-pop.
The music fades away to reveal a layer of animal sounds beneath it, which in turn give way to the next track, ‘Claw and Fang’. Slightly less pop, but very similar to the first track and most of the instruments carry over. Towards the second half it begins to get, dare I say, dark and heavy – but only barely. The differences between the first and second track are subtle, but they hint at the way the entire album develops – in a smooth, gradual transition. The music isn’t trying to pretend that it’s more than it is.
‘Kontio’, the third track, once again reminds the listener of the quality of the production. It just creates an exceptionally clean and smooth sound that’s very appreciable with a good set of speakers or headphones. It’s darker and it’s slower than the opening pair, making a second step on the trail between the very accessible, fast opener, and into ‘Hunt’, the album’s fourth and longest track at fifteen minutes.
It’s dark, it’s loud, it’s sudden. The album begins to feel like a walk through the woods, from the bright, somewhat sunny outskirts into the dense, dark depths of the wild. The rising gloom reaches a climactic point early on in ‘Hunt’ and never quite stops as the roars temptingly fall away only to bait the listener back into a wave of sound that awaits them yet again. The progression feels natural and playful without losing its definitive dark vibe throughout the full length of the track.
‘The Mire’ returns to sounds from earlier in the album, but more heavily, and one can’t help but be yet again reminded of the idea of walking through the woods, as though perhaps ‘The Mire’ is an equivalent to ‘Kontio’, one step out of the culminating track and back towards the light again. Only subtly, only slightly, it fades from the heaviness. Where it leaves of, ‘The Turning of the Tides’ picks up, using a blend of peculiar, natural sounds to ease into what eventually becomes a clear transition back to the beginning.
‘Across the Waters’ completes the cycle, like a sigh of relief, and the metaphor concludes. It’s unfortunate the by the time the listener arrives at the track, which is really quite pleasant on its own, it’s easy to be exhausted of it all by now. Nest knows their limits: they perform a very certain kind of music and they do it really well. But without anything to mix it up any further after the various culminations on ‘Hunt’, it begins to feel repetitious.
The album is a slow and gradual journey. It is, indeed, a Trail of the Unwary, and particularly for those who aren’t bothered by album length. At sixty-eight minutes, it’s not particularly long, but it’s awfully lengthy for what it delivers, and it doesn’t have enough tricks in its bag to really grasp the listener’s attention for the entirety of its length. As much as it offers early on with the beautiful opener, everything just goes slightly downhill from there – and ‘Hunt’, rather than reigniting the attention to the album, serves as the holder of the last few interesting moments before it really does go on to replicate the first half of the album in so many ways.
I have to think this is what they intended. That, like the walk through the woods, the second half of the album would remind the listener of the first. Unfortunately, it’s just not as intriguing and memorable and makes most of the latter half of the album a bore. That said, it has its highlight track, and ‘Moonbow’ is downright excellent. A great album for fans of neofolk and proves Nest to be bursting with potential, but they just don’t quite demonstrate enough of it throughout. 3/5.