A Forest Of Stars
A Shadowplay For Yesterdays
01. Dimensionless Resurrectionist
02. Prey Tell Of The Church Fate
03. A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh
04. The Blight Of God’s Acre
05. Man’s Laughter
06. The Underside Of Eden
07. Gatherer Of The Pure
08. Left Behind As Static
09. Corvus Corona Pt. 1
10. Corvus Corona Pt. 2
Victorian era Britain must’ve been an interesting time to be alive when you look back on it. Although mainly characterised by industrial innovation, a rather ‘prudish’ morality, greater emphasis upon the importance of proper sanitation and even the transition of children from ‘asset’ to ‘human being with rights’. It’s worth remembering that Victoria’s reign was also pockmarked by less desirable occurrences including horrific cholera outbreaks, the Great Famine of Ireland and even the enigmatic brutality of the infamous Jack The Ripper.
It’s with that in mind that A Forest Of Stars frame their psychedelic and folk infused black metal — an aural recreation of a late night trek through the filthy, winding backstreets of London circa 1880. The ominous sound of a shady top-hatted character silently making his way through the bustling crowds of opium addicts, beggars and prostitutes towards a Gentleman’s Club of the Occult.
The first real track ‘Prey Tell Of The Church Fate‘ declares itself early on as a moody and uncompromising tempest of blastbeats and tremolo picking, most reminiscent of Leviathan, before taking a sudden left turn into subdued acoustic territory. It’s an evocative beginning to A Shadowplay For Yesterdays — the constant back and forth between the traditional electric instruments and the violin and acoustic guitar definitely gives off that twisted ‘old-age’ atmosphere. But it’s the album’s ten minute center piece ‘A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh‘ that really pin points this band’s sound. Predominantly driven by a flute and violin melodies interspersed with driving blasts, it works as such a long piece because each section and passage is given just enough time to breathe before moving on to the next — nothing out stays it’s welcome, despite how stripped down and bare it can seem in places. There’s a particularly poignant moment towards the latter half of the track where the music suddenly gives way to folk-y acoustic section that slowly builds in layers and brings to mind the more organic moments of Negura Bunget or even Wolves In The Throne Room.
Disregarding the music briefly, the other highlight here is how much character A Shadowplay For Yesterdays has. In an age of growling and screaming, the idea of an accent has fallen to the way side somewhat, but here vocalist Mister Curse’s distinct English accent is on show and it gives his tortured rasps and cleans a unique feel. ‘The Underside Of Eden‘ sees the band taking on the black metal standard of attacking deities and declaring ‘Your god helps none but himself!‘ in what sounds like a thick cockney drawl, making it all the more memorable. Additionally, ‘Corvus Corana”s spoken word sections wouldn’t be nearly as unnerving and compelling if it wasn’t for his crazed and manic tone.
At the heart of it, Shadowplay is an album with a niche market. Fans of traditional black metal may find their quirky meanderings to be a bit shallow and gimmicky and fans of forward thinking and innovative music may get lost in an album that is quite intentionally obtuse. It doesn’t help that the production is paper thin, even for black metal, and thus a lot of important segments feel cluttered as two or three instruments all fight for the spotlight. But, in return A Forest Of Stars have created an album that has so much intrinsic moxie and charm that it’s hard for it not to leave an impression. Open your mind and these infernal ladies and gentlemen will gladly welcome you into their strange, perverted world.
A Forest Of Stars – A Shadowplay For Yesterdays gets…