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A Forest Of Stars - Beware The Sword You Cannot See (2015) - Review

Band: A Forest Of Stars
Album title: Beware The Sword You Cannot See
Release date: 27 February 2015
Label: Prophecy Productions

01. Drawing Down The Rain
02. Hive Mindless
03. A Blaze Of Hammers
04. Virtus Sola Invicta
05. Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs Pawn On The Universal Chessboard
Part I: Mindslide
Part II: Have You Got A Light, Boy?
Part III: Perdurabo
Part IV: An Automaton Adrift
Part V: Lowly Worm
Part VI: Let There Be No Light

Bonus CD Valley Of Desolation EP (only box):
01. Gestation
02. Catafalque Caravan Quandary
03. Plastic Patriarch Lynch Squad (Enduring December)

Your alter-ego can dig the pit
The, once it's lined with silent bones, we can stir the ghosts around
Perhaps take their powder as salve
Though it'll perish your thoughts, I'll tell you

And its 1895 now, like counted by the mysterious brotherhood of Victorian Englishmen who consider themselves representatives of their era, an era as glorious and splendid as it is decadent and characterised by extreme opposites. This club of gentlemen's awakens once in a while just to bring us something that will stir up over and over again the whole extreme dark metal scene. A Forest Of Stars, a name, a trademark for uniqueness serves its fourth studio album and in a fantastic manner upgrades everything they've done so far. The band which always tries to create the atmosphere somehow similar to the first mechanical reproductions of music at the end of 19th century whilst incorporating the most expressive elements of progressive and avantgarde metal music with a base in black metal tradition. The details matter, that wicked and peculiar sense to create unique theatrical soundscapes full of euphoria and anguish, and yet even the band of this calibre can go beyond anything ever recorded with somehow blury vintage productional approach, unpolished but still enough clear in its essence, restored with a touch of artistical freedom. A Forest Of Stars is an alter-ego of deranged ghosts brought back from the underworld and are like shadows causing a distress among the living.

Beware The Sword You Cannot See is A Forest Of Stars by all means, but beside being just a logical continuation of 2012's A Shadowplay For Yesterdays it offers much more. I can't say it's a bolder album judging by compositions, but it's absolutely more adventurous, more accessible, it's much more melodic and I dare to say even catchier. The ambiances they create are at least to say beautifully unendurable, so vivid, dangerously psychotic, but often so picturesque that it's just a matter of minutes or seconds when you'll find yourself with closed eyes absorbing everything A Forest Of Stars has to offer. Now you must have already figured out that I was bought in an instance by this album and it's true that already with the opener "Drawing Down The Rain" I was gasping for some air. There's so much going on, so many tempo and mood changes are so fascinatingly put together and are forming one well structured complex masterwork. It's like a visionary madman on a rampage chanting about the twisted human nature backened by the talented group of musical inventors.

The album can be easily divided in two parts. The first five tracks are more extreme and longer, almost epic compositions that can be counted as something most progressive that this band ever did. Often there are violins and flute coming in front to create folkloristic celtic interludes and are deepening the atmosphere in an extraordinary way whilst being in a perfect symbiosis with the rest of instrumentation. It's hard to say that there's any black metal left in the musical expression of A Forest Of Stars, but yet it serves as a basis and it's a noteworthy element when music goes in full blast on several occasions, for example in a stunning "A Blaze Of Hammers" or in a delightfully sick "Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs". The driving guitar riffs so perfectly converge with the nicely controlled turmoil of technical rhythmic section often keeping everything melodic, here and there even doomy and as much flowing as possible. Even when the extremity is cut by many different interludes nothing is lost, contrary the theatrical spirit is much more explicit in this way. A big emphasis is on vocals, sometimes Mister Curse is acting like a psychotic madman, then as a depraved volatile illusionist or yet sometimes as a preacher of the apocalypse transfering the topics of demise and insanity into metaphysical spheres. And he's not alone, there are moments where just like a provocation Katheryne's tender and sensual yet powerful vocals come in front and you'll feel just like a spectator in the most weird theatre.

The second part of the album scornfully called "Pawn On The Universal Chessboard" consists of six shorter parts and are something completely different in the principle of design. Now the band puts more accent on dark ambiances, the acoustic parts and keys plays a much more important role now, ranging in cosmic futuristic, gothic and rich retro sound, but often very spherical and it can be said that the final output becomes more universal. It's evident that the band plays around with minor steam-punk elements here and there and integrates those well in the whole picture. Still the ambiance nicely builds up through those six tracks and reaches its climax in "Part IV: An Automaton Adrift" and explodes in "Part V: Lowly Worm", until finally reaching its end in the gentle yet effective and captivating "Part VI: Let There Be No Light" which is completely sang by female voice. "Pawn On The Universal Chessboard" transcends and sums up pretty well everything we heard before from this ensemble and is leaving all the doors open for more to come.

The Englishmen did without doubt one hell of a job, maybe an album of the year, even if it's too early to talk about this, but I'm sure that it will be difficult to reach this kind of greatness. Beware The Sword You Cannot See maintains both, tradition and innovation, it's the most accessible, cohesive and at the same time most adventurous album done so far by A Forest Of Stars, yet without loosing its extreme blackish character. The very specific structural ability of being able to re-create itself from the ashes of burned down theatre of insane existence and rising up again in full splendour and glory was always one of those surpluses that this band took advantage of while mixing up a vast repertoire of many different genres into one well structured and flowing integrity. A stage play of devouring extremes and sinister drive welcomes you to take a sit in this theatre representing the decadent life. A ghostly freakshow for the obscure minded spectator to take part in.

(As a bonus on limited edition box set you'll get a bonus CD with the EP Valley Of Desolation which features three additional tracks. )

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 9,5/10