Monday, November 12, 2012

Dark Forest - Land of the Evening Star

Dark Forest are a Canadian solo project based out of Calgary. They play a variety of black metal that falls into that nebulous area on the lines between black, pagan, and Viking metal. This spring, Dark Forest released their second full-length album Land of the Evening Star.

Though I have not read anything official to this effect, this seems to be a concept album centering on the stories of Vikings discovering North America. For those who don't know, there are written accounts (backed up by very strong archaeological evidence) that Norsemen sailing from Iceland to Greenland later continued onward to the east coast of Canada around the year 1000 A.D. Typically Leif Ericsson is credited with captaining the first landing, though some stories suggest others saw the land first and told him about it.

Anyway, Dark Forest have chosen this general topic for most of the album's lyrics, which I find fascinating. This is a rare example of a time when lyrical content highly increases my interest in a record. The music itself is very strong too, with the epic closer standing out above the rest. A couple instrumental interludes capture a Moonsorrow-esque level of beauty and epic scope. In black metal mode the music is strong and compelling, though never in an intentionally under-produced, overly "kvlt" way. The soft-heavy dynamic, while not as seamless as some, still works effectively to give the record a sense of flow.

The instrumentation, in addition to the usual, includes keyboards and what sound like violins and some very bass-heavy battle horns. All these non-metal additions are kept tastefully minimal outside of the two short instrumental tracks, and all are synthesized or programmed as far as I can tell. As far as the standard instruments go, no singe aspect particularly stands out from the rest. Instead, their greatest asset is their collective quality and cohesion, which makes sense given that they are all played by the same man. The vocals, like the instrumentation, are quite strong. And again, like with the instrumentation, their greatest quality is the sense that they fit quite smoothly into a larger whole.

In a year that has been a little light on quality releases from the Viking/pagan/folk/black metal spectrum, this is one of the better records of that variety that I've heard this year.

Grade: A-

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