Friday, 2 May 2014

#341 Dark Forest - Aurora Borealis

There are a couple of bands out there called Dark Forest; I know this all too well, because every time I attempt to listen to one of them on shuffle on my MP3 player it is interspersed with random tracks from the other. Such is life. Regardless, the Dark Forest we're discussing tonight is the one originating from Canada - players of grandiose viking-infused black metal; with more than a hint of synthesisers. In terms of my abstract and ever changing list of bands I need to investigate, Dark Forest were certainly up there, and over the course of this year so far, I've acquired, and rather enjoyed, their full length d├ębut, Aurora Borealis. A dozen or so spins later, I think the time has arrived to write a review.

I always, always place plenty of emphasis on great cover art, and this album manages that, with luxuriant, genuinely evocative and beautiful artwork oozing with promise for the record to come; when the CD was sat in its case upon my desk, I became legitimately excited to hear what musical treasure was held inside. Fortunately, Aurora Borealis - the repeated typing of which has permanently taught me how to spell aurora - is an album which truly delivers musical glory in the way I had hoped for. Usually, when black metal is heavily symphonic, I panic, squirm, and try to jump out of the nearest window before someone puts Dimmu Borgir on. However, I must concede that there is a habitable zone of synth use which, as opposed to being a problem, has created some of the most beautiful, atmospheric records in the entire span of metal as a genre. Records like Loss by Wodensthrone truly taught me, when I was discovering the genre, to respect what synth can do, and also taught me that it isn't necessarily going to result in a record being cheesy or silly sounding. So too of Dark Forest - on Aurora Borealis, the band play a very earnest, sincere sounding  mixture of black metal with viking and folk elements laced into the mixture to create a vibrant, dynamic album which offers a very memorable listening experience, but also shrouds the listener in cloak of noise, with thick, atmospheric black-metal sections carrying the listener away from reality, and letting their glance be cast over a beautiful, unforgiving ocean of pine tree tops.

The whole record shows a keen ability to blend the grandiose and epic with a more graspable feel - one in which the songs still feel like songs. Indeed, the variety which the record throws at you is exceptionally enjoyable for that reason - the album feels complete, but also quite stylistically eclectic and diverse. The album has many of the things you would hope it does, and plenty more which you didn't expect, but nonetheless enjoy. It can do anything from evoke sharp, frozen air in tandem with frigid synth work on tracks like Thurisaz, right through to glorious. soaring work with a much warmer feel on the more folk-infused tracks, at times accompanied by superb clean-vocal, choral-like sections which, instead of standing out in a bad way, slot neatly into the song structure, and complement the albums direction superbly. Likewise, the tense riffs with a rising, happening feel buck the trend of tremolo-only black metal, and, I think, boost the listening pleasure and reward which the listener feels during the record, in doing so. For all of it's diversity, however, the album handles travelling such a range different emotional and musical paths extremely well too, with brooding and explosive sections  mixed effectively, instead of sporadically, as the record swims smoothly between the two elements, striking a great balance, indicative of equally great musicianship and song-writing skill. 

 I mentioned earlier in the review that in good circumstances, synth use can really create albums of great beauty, and I can safely say that Aurora Borealis is, without question, an album of that sort. Now, as I hasten to listen to the follow-up, I shall leave you with a thorough recommendation that, if you are into the larger picture into which Dark Forest fit, then there is an exceptionally high chance that you will truly love Dark Forest's work. Heck; the worst that can happen is that you listen to the other, very good Dark Forest by accident - you truly can't lose.

This is a 9/10.

Dark Forest Official Site
Dark Forest on Facebook
Dark Forest on Metal Archives