Whilst the UK hasn’t always been recognised as a hotbed for Black Metal bar the occasional, exceptional case; recent times suggest the burgeoning of a rich scene in the underground; from the likes of A Forest Of Stars getting wide plaudits to the new breed which includes Wode, Underdark and Dawn Ray’d flying the flag. Also throwing their hat into the ring, Nottingham up-and-comers Antre offer a somewhat esoteric and widely influenced strain of the genre with a full-length debut that not only personifies the depth the genre has to offer but also puts them as a prime force in the UK’s scene. Continue reading
One of the truly unique music labels in the underground, Prophecy Productions, returns with their really special music festival. Prophecy Fest takes place in a natural cave formed in the Old Stone Age – Balver Höhle. According to Germanic Saga, the blacksmith Wieland had his workshop in the cave. Balve, Germany, is situated in the center of Germany between Dortmund, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Hannover. Beyond myths, the show will be the stuff of legend with the following nine bands: Empyrium (Exclusive European performance 2019), Strid (Exclusive Central European performance 2019), Farsot and Coldworld (performing Toteninsel World Premiere) Year Of The Cobra, Disillusion, A Forest Of Stars, Laster, Fen, Tchornobog. Seven more bands will be announced at a later date. For tickets and full festival details, see the link below. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
With everyone firmly into the swing of things by now, Saturday’s main stage openers Nailed to Obscurity opened proceedings strongly enough but were promptly blown out of the water by one of the major surprises of the festival – Power Trip. A combination of thrash and early death metal, the Texan act were a blur of riffs and speed, whipping up the early afternoon crowd into an explosive cyclone of energy. Continue reading
Damnation Festival has added six more bands to its growing 2018 lineup! Napalm Death, Entombed AD, Vader, Ohhms, A Forest Of Stars, Leeched have been added to a bill that already includes Anaal Nathrakh, Mol, The Ocean, and NeObliviscaris. Six more bands will be announced this fall. Damnation will take place over four stages at Leeds University Union on Saturday, 3rd November 2018. Continue reading
Part four of the Ghost Cult Album of the Year countdown for 2015.
One staff team. Over 550 albums covered by Ghost Cult over the last twelve months. One epic race to be crowned Album of the Year.
Read on to dive into the Ghost Cult Top 20…
20. Soilwork – ‘The Ride Majestic’ (Nuclear Blast)
“The Ride Majestic continues the slow and subtle evolution of the Soilwork sound; sounding fuller, richer and shinier than all that have gone before. In a career of great albums, the aptly named The Ride Majestic is truly outstanding.”
19. Parkway Drive – ‘Ire’ (Resist/Epitaph)
“While the main focus is still here in the now frontier, by opening the floodgates, Parkway have allowed themselves to write a batch of great metal songs that reference classic rock, traditional metal, 90’s groove metal and metalcore while still sounding resolutely and proudly Parkway.”
18. Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – ‘N.V.’ (Prosthetic)
“A genuinely effective whole, the Noise elements are relatively subtly played, often used to accentuate and highlight the Metal rather than entomb them. Whether judged as a collaboration between two artists with similar aesthetic goals or as an album in its own right, N.V. is an unrestrained success”
17. Bring Me The Horizon – ‘That’s The Spirit’ (RCA/Columbia)
“That’s The Spirit is Horizon maturing into a fine young adult, confident, strong and secure in themselves and the knowledge that they are now master craftsmen. Successfully combining every good aspect of alternative rock and metal of the last fifteen years, That’s The Spirit is Bring Me The Horizon’s ‘Black Album’ moment.”
16. Elder – ‘Lore’ (Armageddon Shop / Stickman)
Exemplary progressive stoner metal, with meticulous dynamics and depth, breadth, power, restraint, and mountainous music that builds to an almighty epic of a crescendo
15. Between The Buried And Me – ‘Coma Ecliptic’ (Metal Blade)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – October “The record that they were always promising to make but you weren’t sure was possible, on Coma Ecliptic, Between the Buried and Me have exceeded all expectations and delivered not only the album of their careers but one of the most monumental ambitious rock concept pieces this side of Operation Mindcrime.”
14. Gloryhammer – ‘Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards’ (Napalm)
“Gloryhammer are ridiculously entertaining. If you somehow manage to listen to new album Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards without grinning like an idiot all the way through it, then quite simply, you’re getting Metal wrong.”
13. A Forest Of Stars – ‘Beware The Sword You Cannot See’ (Lupus Lounge/Prophecy)
“Enthralling storytelling and atmosphere, as well as explorations into psychedelic territory and pastoral folk amid the crushing black metal dynamics; fourth effort Beware the Sword You Cannot See is an unabashed masterpiece.”
12. Goatsnake – ‘Black Age Blues’ (Southern Lord)
“Clear, soulful tones elevate the songs above the rest of their stoner/doom brethren and vocal lines will lodge in your head for days after. An excellent comeback album from a band that has been away for far too long. Let’s hope they decide to keep this motor running for a little longer this time around.”
11. Royal Thunder – ‘Crooked Doors’ (Relapse)
“There are no throw away songs on this album, and every track rewards repeated listens. Crooked Doors is the sound of pressure cooking sand into glass and then into diamonds, all with an alchemy fuelled by magic and loss.”
Given Britain’s tendency to produce eccentrics, the emergence of Leeds troupe A Forest of Stars in 2007 may have caused a few heads to turn, but their glorious weirdness, even in a scene as narrow and regimented as black metal, has always worked to their advantage. Existing in their own interpretation of Victorian England where decadence, occult magick and narcotic experimentation reigned supreme, the septet’s three previous albums were all well received, with plaudits given for their enthralling storytelling and atmosphere as well as explorations into psychedelic territory and pastoral folk amid the crushing black metal dynamics. Further accolades look set to follow, for fourth effort Beware the Sword You Cannot See (Lupus Lounge/Prophecy) is an unabashed masterpiece.
With a concept heavily focused on death and rebirth, this is the album that shows A Forest of Stars transcending the rigid parameters of their earthly shackles and soaring off into the unknown with aplomb. The thunderous tremolo picking and double-bass assault evident on tracks such as ‘A Blaze of Hammers’ leaves the listener in no doubt that the band aren’t going to do an Opeth on us, but it’s the surging progressive flourishes and sense of ambition that makes this such a special listening experience, as demonstrated by the ascending chords and lush female vocals courtesy of violinist Kathryne Queen of the Ghosts on the magnificent album opener ‘Drawing Down the Rain.’ Speaking of ambition, the six part odyssey that is ‘Pawn on the Universal Chessboard’ which comprises the latter half of the album is mind-boggling in scope, ranging from spacy Tangerine Dream style synths on ‘Mindslide’, masterful dark prog on ‘Have You Got a Light, Boy?’ to pummelling black metal orthodoxy on ‘Lowly Worm.’
Special mention must go to vocalist Mr Curse for a truly astonishing performance where he shrieks, yelps and dips heavily into theatrical spoken word delivery to tell the story of the album, producing some fantastic lyrics (“Fuck you and the worms you rode in on!”) and acting as demonic ringleader to this spectacular carnival of unearthly delights. It may be too early to call A Forest of Stars the British answer to Enslaved but if they keep on producing records as excellent as this then their status will be in no doubt.
Early contender for one of the albums of the year.
A Forest of Stars is bringing forth their new album Beware The Sword You Cannot See coming this March from Lupus Lounge. Lupus Lounge is a division of the vaunted Prophecy Productions (Alcest, Lantlos) and is that labels’ first major release of 2015.
From the official press release.
It is the year 1895. The mysterious Gentlemen’s Club of A Forest Of Stars publicizes its fourth opus in the current format of a phonograph cylinder:Beware The Sword You Cannot See, set for North American release on March 3rd via Lupus Lounge (a division of Prophecy Productions). With this offering, A Forest Of Stars make good on the promise given on its predecessor, 2012’s A Shadowplay For Yesterdays. The compositions are more adventurous and bold, more eccentric and progressive, yet still melodic and accessible like never before. Conceptually, A Forest Of Stars likewise hark back to older issues and develop them further. Whereas A Shadowplay For Yesterdays depicted moral decay based on an individual fate, Beware The Sword You Cannot See transfers the topics of demise and insanity into metaphysical spheres. Accordingly, the sound alchemists’ music becomes more universal.
Tracklisting for A Forest of Stars’Beware the Sword You Cannot See
1.Drawing Down the Rain
3.A Blaze of Hammers
4.Virtus Sola Invicta
5.Proboscis Master Versus the Powdered Seraphs
6.Part I: Mindslide
7.Part II: Have You Got a Light, Boy?
8.Part III: Perdurabo
9.Part IV: An Automaton Adrift
10.Part V: Lowly Worm
11.Part VI: Let There Be No Light
There are two things I want to get out of the way before I get into this. The first is that I’ve never really seen the appeal of the whole Atmospheric Pine Forest BM thing – even ignoring the uncomfortable nationalist overtones, Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Drudkh et al leave me cold, and A Forest Of Stars seem like a band who had a great idea for an image, but rushed into the studio before they’d written any songs. It’s not a style I’m inclined towards, despite its current popularity, so when an album in that style does click with me it’s something to pay attention to.
The second thing is that Fen have made me rewrite my End Of Year List just over a week before the deadline, and for that I am not happy with them.
On paper Fen are very much part of the aforementioned Black Metal subgenre, and their previous albums have all passed me by much like their peers, but despite no obvious shifts in style Carrion Skies (Code 666) manages to transcend the limitations of its chosen style. A big part of the problem with this music for me is that “atmospheric” is frequently an excuse for nothing to happen – big, heart-rending riffs take their own sweet time to float majestically past, and everything is filled with a sense of mounting tension that never goes anywhere – but Carrion Skies is dynamic. Songs are long but eventful, striding purposefully from huge riffs and tormented shrieks to more contemplative passages as if THERE’S ACTUALLY A GOOD REASON FOR THEM TO DO THAT, rather than it simply being lazy musical short-hand for “we are interesting”. There are suggestions of latter-day Enslaved at several points, but without the sense of lazy back-slapping and tedious “maturity” that plagues their recent albums.
Another thing that’s frequently absent from the more “atmospheric” or “progressive” Black Metal bands is passion. Indeed, it’s a concept that Black Metal bands frequently struggle with balancing effectively, either overloading on it to the point that they’re constantly spitting fury anger and nothing else, or they’ve traded in all their feeling for vague “atmosphere” and ripping off a bunch of second-hand Pink Floyd references (hello again, Enslaved). Carrion Skies is a passionate album, charged with fist-waving bravado, teary-eyed loss, bits that go Duh-Nuh! Duh-duh-nuh! and all the other ridiculous stuff that makes Metal great, but it balances that passion with a thoughtful, contemplative approach to song-writing which strengthens rather than detracts from it.
What really makes Carrion Skies stand out not just in its own subgenre but in Extreme Metal in genre is the depth and range of expression. Extreme Metal is by nature monolithic – that’s frequently one of its selling points – and it’s rare to hear an album that spends much time exploring more than one mood. We can have Angry, Sad, Majestic or Bat-shit Insane, but having more than one of them across an album is ambitious, and blending several together in a rich, unfolding tapestry of more than one feeling? Is that even legal?
Carrion Skies is certainly one of the Metal albums of the year in any sub-genre, and a genuinely impressive achievement for a band who until now have usually been mentioned in reference to other, similar bands. It ranks alongside new releases by Pyrrhon and Tombs (with whom they share some similarities, but Fen are the rawer, rockier, more achingly human cousin to Tombs’ Neurosis-driven thunder) as the richest and most emotionally expressive Metal albums of 2014, and should have something to offer even to people who haven’t previously found Fen and their peers terribly interesting.
French doom monoliths Monarch complete this years Damnation Festival line. They will be joining the likes of Saint Vitus, the reunited Raging Speedhorn, Cannibal Corpse and the events headliners Bolt Thrower at the events ten year anniversary bash at the Leeds University in November.
French drone doom outfit MONARCH! will play their only UK show of 2014 at Damnation Festival.
Their live “sonic assault” completes a PHD Stage cast of Ahab, Solstafir, Black Moth, H A R K, Atlantis and Corrupt Moral Altar.
While the Eyesore Merch Stage makes its return to Damnation, this year with a more sinister black metal billing of Fen, Wodensthrone, A Forest of Stars,
, and Falloch, who’ll join previously announced Bast and Obsidian Kingdom in Mine.
The final additons to this year’s event – which will be hosted at Leeds Universtity Union on Saturday, November 1 – are orchestral metal quartet Xerath and Welsh death metal standard bearers, Amputated, who make their debut at Damnation Festival opening a Terrorizer Stage which boasts the brutality of Cannibal Corpse, Anaal Nathrakh, Revocation, Winterfylleth and Aeon.
Completing the line-up is the main Jagermeister Stage offering of Bolt Thrower, Saint Vitus, Orange Goblin, Raging Speedhorn, Stampin’ Ground and October File.
Commenting on their return to Damnation, Fen said: “We are honoured to be invited to play Damnation after our first appearance four years ago.
“It was one of the highlight gigs of our career – this festival (and the audience in particular) – is a very special one for us and we cannot wait to head back to take to the stage again.
“Fen has progressed significantly over the last four years and we are really looking forward to taking the discerning Damnation crowd by storm once more!”
A Forest of Stars added: “We’re extremely excited and honoured to be asked to play the wonderful Damnation Festival.
“We hope we won’t let everyone down too much – especially considering the impressively amazing line up – and look forward to devouring vast quantities of claret and opiates in celebration of the occasion, and maybe even playing a song or two.”
Festival Director Gavin McInally said: “This year’s line-up is fitting of a tenth anniversary party and with tickets on track to have 4,000 friends with us, it’s going to be a bash to remember.”
The complete line-up for Damnation Festival is Bolt Thrower, Cannibal Corpse, Saint Vitus, Ahab, Raging Speedhorn, Orange Goblin, Anaal Nathrakh, Monarch!, Stampin’ Ground, Revocation, Solstafir, Winterfylleth, Fen, Aeon, Black Moth, Wodensthrone, H A R K, Amputated, A Forest of Stars, October File, Xerath, Falloch, Bast, Atlantis, Obsidian Kingdom and Corrupt Moral Altar.
Fans who arrive in Leeds the night before can warm-up for Damnation Festival with A Night of Salvation at The Belgrave Music Hall, featuring Dyscarnate, Hang the Bastard, Latitudes, The Atrocity Exhibit and Cattle. Tickets priced £6 are available on the door.