It has been a decade now since I first saw A Forest Of Stars at their debut gig in Leeds, and they’ve always occupied a special place for me in music since then. They mash-up progressive Black Metal with a folky presence and wrap it up within a steampunk inspired Victorian based package. What results from this can sometimes be a little hit and miss, but generally contains many objects of wonder. Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes, marks their third full length released on Prophecy Productions.
From the opener ‘Precipice Pirouette’, at the centre of A Forest Of Stars’ music are the exceptionally emotive, overacted vocal stylings of Mr Curse. Everything hinges around them. The melodramatic histrionics are strangely compelling, you’re never actually quite sure what he’s talking about, but the wordplay is fascinating and the mental imagery is a cavalcade of novelty. The lyric “Can you wiggle your Toes? Let’s fucking go” is a prime example of being swept in something but you’ve no idea what.
The music itself varies significantly to the point whereby the song titles and lengths almost feel arbitrary. ‘Tombward Bound’ starts with melodramatic monologues sounding like an unhinged actor delivering the script of serial killer filled with absinthe-fuelled aberrations. The drums, riffs and atmospherics, swirling around the story like a whirling dervish navigating their way out of a bouncy castle. Changing pace and style throughout there could be several songs within their epic length and it’s difficult to tell apart from the occasion pause where one track becomes another.
The fantastically titled ‘Children of the Night Soil’ is a real highlight, furious black metal riffs, and strange whooshing noises from the guitars reminiscent of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Guttural vocals at times reminiscent of Karl Willets, make a notable shift in what has gone before, the fury of early one becoming later blanketed with choral melody for contrast to great effect.
‘Taken by the Sea’ is remarkable, a real change from everything else, hauntingly beautiful it focuses initially on simple violin lines and female vocals it too shifts half way through like Jekyll and Hyde to a bigger almost heavy psych sound which just builds and builds before crashing into a simple repeating vocal.
‘Scripturally Transmitted Disease’ brings back the black metal and blast-beats, which wakes you up quickly from the serenity of taken by the sea, It’s a feeling of being brutally shaken from slumber to go to work on a Monday, energizing and focusing, but not an entirely welcome transition at first. Last track ‘Decomposing Deity Dancehall’, continues the themes of the album well and bring proceedings to a close.
This third full length is probably my favourite of their full-length albums. There’s not much in the way of progress or development, they’re still doing their unique thing, but the song writing and production do seem to be stronger than before.