Review Summary: As hand of God to give, as hand of God to take away.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Describing themselves as a 'Victorian Gentleman's Club' channelling their occult, opium tinged experiences into music, A Forest Of Stars are, if nothing else, certainly idiosyncratic. Much like post-punk history buffs I Like Trains (with whom they share a home town) they have a flair for the dark and dramatic, which they convey effectively through their unique brand of avant-garde black metal (I use the term loosely). But rather than turning to specific historical events for inspiration, A Forest of Stars turn to, in their own words, the 'spiritual and sensual excesses' of the 'glorious Victorian Age' – intense social stratification, extensive child labour and brutal workhouse culture aside.
Musically they're difficult to pigeonhole. There's a definite symphonic element present as strings settle comfortably into grooves alongside chugging guitars on tracks such as 'A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh' and there's a hint of the lush shoegaze metal of Alcest during the shimmering opening minutes of 'The Underside of Eden'. The high point is 'Gatherer of the Pure' where, sandwiched between sections of relentless double bass drumming and a cascading guitar riff, vocalist 'Mister Curse' delivers a monologue worthy of Withnail's soliloquy to the wolves; its camp, over-the-top theatricality is glorious, his voice repeatedly cracking as he howls about 'Lucifer turning in listless circles' and 'funeral pyres for one and all'. Absolutely stunning.
Criticism mainly revolves around A Shadowplay For Yesterdays' length; a stricter editor would have been beneficial. It's a long album, composed primarily of long songs, and not everything reaches the heights of it highlights. But much credit is due for both the grand scope and vision present here and for their challenging, unique aesthetic. There's no shallow end, but this is a record well worth taking the plunge with; innovative, truly unique and often sublime.