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England's premier psychedelic black metal act, A Forest of Stars, have released their third album, “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays”, to once again astound a captive audience with their ability to move seamlessly through a mix of multiple genres, while maintaining a black metal base. A Forest of Stars starts of the album with a nod to Roger Waters era Pink Floyd and even hints of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, almost tricking the listener into thinking that A Forest of Stars has left the black metal influence behind. As soon as the next, and subsequent tracks, begin to play, it's a different story.
As the album builds up, you are introduced to a band playing melancholy black metal, replete with trem picking and incredibly fast drumming in the vein of Fenriz. The male vocalist screams away, coming across like a black metal version of Roky Erickson. The male vocals also switch back to the psychedelic rock sound at times, especially during sections that duel with standard female vocals. The female vocals and clean male vocals, together, sound slightly forced at times. But overall the vocal presentation is stellar. Subtle instrumentation is introduced: piano, flute, violin, other orchestrations; all which add a extra dimension of brooding sadness to the music. The core of the band, being guitars, bass and drums, retain their black metal base, while slowing down a bit at times almost into Stabat Mater styled black slowness, and the traditional instruments shine through, giving certain sections a psychedelic rock or doom feel to them, while retaining that black metal core.
There are quite a few lengthy tracks here, but compared to their earlier releases, A Forest of Stars has considerably shortened their songs for this album. That being said, the shorter songs allow for more dynamic between individual tracks. From the electronic infused, psychedelic post rock styling of “Man's Laughter” to the black doom laden sound of “A Prophet For a Pound of Flesh”, there are more stylistic changes from track to track than before. Always retaining the black metal base, A Forest of Stars manages to keep their musical tapestry sounding like a cohesive album. The only qualm here is that single tracks do not stand out as stellar. This album just has to be listened to in it's entirety, otherwise the album loses its woven appeal and you're left with just a couple psychedelic black metal tracks. Each song loses something when not played right after it's predecessor, as if A Forest of Stars demands your attention for the full sixty-eight minute playing time.
Every time I listen to “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays”, I feel myself drifting off into a trance-like state because of the hypnotic rhythms of the black metal sections interspersed with gentle, brooding traditional instrumentation. A Forest of Stars successfully removes me to another place as they sonically weave their tapestry. The swirling, chaotic black metal sounds even more raw after a piano interlude. The psychedelic moments come across as even more trippy after the trem picked blasting subsides.
This is a really good album by, probably, the best act playing this style at this time. Another cohesive black metal tapestry utilizing threads of psychedelic rock and doom metal to hold it together. This is an enjoyable listen, but the tracks don't hold their own when listened on their own. As a whole, it is incredible, trance-inducing psychedelic black metal, that utilizes moments of brooding sorrow and swirling intensity to keep the listener glued to the speakers. I will keep an eye on A Forest of Stars because, if “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” is any indication, this band has the right elements to drop a bomb on the growing psychedelic black metal genre.
Originally written for The Metal Observer