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Every more or less self-respecting metalhead understands the influence Forgotten Woods had rendered on black metal and the significance the band has in the black metal society. They are one of the BM legends, who weren't thinking about money or financial gain while composing their songs of genius. And the debut FW's album is the full confirmation of my words. Raw but very melodic sound is the most interesting, specific thing about this legendary Norwegian band. Also, they were real innovators in that voluminous style called black metal, 'cause nobody before them had written such a music. It is out of any stereotypes or frameworks, "As the Wolves Gather" is just very good stuff.
The medley of raw riffs, excellent melodies, harsh vocals with echoes, and hard basses in the whole is Forgotten Woods. This quartet from South Norway composed really splendid CD, which will remain in the minds of the people for a very long time. Maybe the sound there is not as clear as you wish, but just only the music will relax you so much that then you'll be truly tempted by the greatness of this CD.
"As the Wolves Gather" begins with impressive song "Eclipsed" consisting of two parts: the main monotonous (but not less beautiful from this fact) part and gorgeous guitar solos. It continues with original and epic in some kind but still very dark and melodic "As the Wolves Gather". Coming next "In My Darkest Visions" is more depressive than the other masterpieces, but also with great tuneful moments. Than goes a short fragment named "Winter", that gives you some respite from the cold northern brutality of this perfect full-length. The following song called "Grip Of Frost" strikes your mind with its bass and electric guitars' solos and regular changes of melodies. And I could call this song with the full confidence the best work of Forgotten Woods ever. Next song is as short as "Winter", but it has extremely beautiful guitar passages. And this magnificent album ends with really raw and strong hit "Through Dark and Forgotten Valleys". As a result I could note that the style selected by Forgotten Woods contains in itself a great deal of all BM subgenres.
In spite of the fact that their music sometimes is really monotonous, it's not boring. You could listen to FW for the whole day and not get exhausted. That's very specific about the band, don't you think so?
As the Wolves Gather is the first full-length album from the relatively obscure Norwegian Black Metal act, Forgotten Woods. Released on No Colours Records in 1994, this album is probably not what listeners might expect, at first glance. While emerging during the same year as Transilvanian Hunger, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, In the Nightside Eclipse and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, this shares very little in common with any of these records, with the exception of Burzum. The material on this album is mostly mid-paced Black Metal with a very sorrowful atmosphere.
The songwriting is very interesting, and the less minimalist approach allows for the songs to breathe more, in a similar style to the early Burzum records. The mournful guitar riffs are sometimes accentuated by acoustic passages and sombre lead solos that add depth to the music. All of the songs are mid-paced and this better enables the band to create the gloomy and depressive feeling that they are going for. The band resists the urge to follow their peers and to utilize the fast tremolo melodies and blast beats. Instead, there are times when the music crawls at an even slower pace, dragging the listener through miserable fields of broken glass and razor wire. This succeeds in conveying a sense of despair and emptiness, through the melancholic and epic melodies and varied arrangements. The guitar riffs do well to build on one another, carrying the song forward and taking the listener on a journey through torment. The percussion compliments the melodies well, only doing enough to get by and never becoming overactive.
The production suits this type of music quite well, as the sound is pretty clear and less claustrophobic than a lot of other Black Metal albums from the time period. It is certainly not overproduced, by any means, still retaining an underground feeling, but the instruments are afforded a level of clarity that is uncharacteristic of similar bands. This also helps the acoustic bits and the lead solos to feel more natural, whenever they appear. The guitars assume the dominant role, though the drums are not buried at all. The vocals are in a style reminiscent of Varg's early work, consisting of a lot of shrieks and anguished screams that are aided by the liberal use of reverb, but not in a way that comes off as forced. Everything comes together in a logical manner and the result is quite memorable.
As the Wolves Gather may not be a well-known record, but it is certainly worth the time to seek out and explore. While it is somewhat simplistic, it never becomes boring or predictable. Even the lengthier tracks manage to include enough elements to keep the listener interested. The style of mournful and epic Black Metal found here should appeal to fans of the first few Burzum records, as well as bands like Strid and even early Katatonia. Forgotten Woods certainly pulled this style off far better than many others that attempted to do so.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
One thing that I have always loved about Forgotten Woods was that in each and every album they have released, they have had a different stylistic approach to their raw sound, and yet, with all of their different styles used, they still pack the originality like crazy. As The Wolves Gather is no exception. From the raw, and raspy vocal styles of their first few demos to the traditional black metal screams, to screeching, etc., they always have something new to present to their very small audience.
The atmosphere of this album overall will send chills down your spine. You can nearly hear the howls of the wolves in the distance, the snow against your feet, and the breeze of the wilderness beating against your body. It is absolutely remarkable. The guitar work in this album, though relatively simple, is absolutely outstanding, primarily in the tracks, Dimension of the Blackest Dark, and the title track As The Wolves Gather.
The atmosphere of these riffs is what makes this album outstanding in my opinion. The guitar work in this album also range in emotion from angry/exciting like in "As The Wolves Gather" all the way to being depressive and cold like "Dimension of the Blackest Dark." No matter what kind of emotional style of Black Metal you are into, that being depressive, angry, hateful, nihilistic, or whatever, there will be a little something for everybody in this album.
The vocals in this album are loud, and echo a lot, which adds to the atmosphere a lot. At times, they even sound like a wolf's howl, which helps add to the atmosphere even more. The only drawback to this album are the lengths to some of the songs, reaching nearly 10 minutes, which gets annoying not because of the length primarily, but because the riffs get a little repetitive at times, and go on for ten minutes of the song, only giving a couple breaks through out the song for a few seconds.
Overall, this album reigns as one of my favorite black metal albums because of its absolutely outstanding and cold atmosphere. I suggest this album to any fan of any of the black metal genres, from first wave of black, second, third, raw, depressive/suicidal, melodic, and beyond. It will entertain any black metal fans. You will enjoy this album. I sure did.