Review Summary: A Masquerade Of Black Metal And Psychedelia
Since 2007, A Forest Of Stars have proved themselves to be that one-of-a-kind-band. They are often labelled ‘Victorian’ for their outlook on heavy metal music by concocting operatic strings, thunderous black metal and fusing elements of progressiveness to splendiferous success. Their fourth overture: Beware The Sword You Cannot See proves that they have perfected their unique sound.
Drawing Down The Rain opens the album with an immediately catchy groove, hardly the first thing you’d expect to a folk-meets-black metal album. Just as unexpected are the rushes of guitar, violin and drums that collide with Mr. Curse’s snarling vocals in a total tantrum of beauty and vehemence. Female vocals from flute/violinist ‘Queen of the Ghosts’ (Katheryne) add a psychedelic feel and builds up to some frantic double bass drumming. Katheryne’s vocal additions also prove valuable in Prosboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs; which is probably the most psychedelic song on the album. The gentle clangor that starts the song cascades into some tragic violin passages but it’s the innocence in the female sound that gives the song a pure and clarified texture.
A Forest Of Stars has a natural ability to contrast different atmospheres at the same time. Leading single: Virtus Sola Invitica is immediately familiar as pure black metal but instead of the snarling vocals we’ve heard thus far it’s replaced by clear spoken word omens that command the dynamics of the song. Poetic vocal alliteration, rhythmic rhyming and dreamlike interludes stand against pummelling guitars and somber violins and flutes to create a bedazzling yet mysterious ambiance. Hive Mindless follows the same pattern of flowing between uproar and tranquility in an instant. The volatile and spitting vocals are interrupted by prickly bass lines and bubbly prog synths, and back again, but then changes direction to an OM/Sleep/Bong sounding tribal bounce, agitated spoken word passages and a dexterous flute solo ending.
Whether the complexity is intended or if it’s just A Forest Of Stars’ ordinary composure in the structure of their music is unknown. What is obvious is that they’ve saved their finest piece of music for last. Pawn Of The Universal Chessboard is split into 6 separate tracks, combined into a 20+ minute epic of eccentric theatrics. Mindslide (I) synths’ looms in and out of a waving transcendence to a piano led Have You Got A Light, Boy" (II) It sounds like Pink Floyd went to a funeral and darkly builds up to a livid, Purdurabo (III). A brief interlude of lamenting keyboard breaks up the anger in An Automation Adrift (IV) yet it lasts momentarily as Mr. Curse’s anguish is unleashed wholly in Lowly Worm (V) before cascading into a sonic rush of tear-jerking psychedelia in the finale: Let There Be No Light (VI).
Rather than sounding like just another great album, it almost has a personality to it; like it’s orchestrated to be the soundtrack to a Shakespearean play. Immersion is mandatory as Beware The Sword You Cannot See is a tremendous effort by a truly masterful band.