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Having resurrected themselves (although you could say they never really went away, they just continued plying their trade as Joyless), released a comeback album and recorded its follow-up for release in 2008, Forgotten Woods who are centred around Olav Berland and Rune Vedaa have seen fit to haul out some of their earlier demos and recordings for a new lease on life. Now you can get "Sjel av Natten" as part of a triple album set or you can get it on its own as a re-release on Total Holocaust Records with three bonus tracks (two untitled and the third just not mentioned on the cd sleeve). So if you only discovered FW through the "Race of Cain" comeback album as I did, well now you are spoiled for choice and can check out this early 1994 recording to get some idea of how far FW have come since those early days.
The songs on this release display a fair number of influences and even sound a bit post-metal at times; certainly they cannot be pinned down to one style that can describe them all unless you're talking very generally about "hard rock" which could mean almost anything these days. In a sense then, with regard to their attitude to creating music, the Forgotten Woods of today have not moved far from their beginnings. From the start the title track itself moves from technical death metal lite to a mid-paced hard rock style and back with some jazzy trimmings with the black metal influence apparent mainly in the Burzum-like vocal croak. Occasionally we'll have jaunty passages of melodic clean-toned hard rock guitar with crisp sharp drumming - aack, this is enough to melt the panda paint from our faces.
I ought to mention that all the songs here are sung in Norwegian and the printed lyrics appear in that language only so I can't claim to have any idea of what FW are singing about. With my total non-existent knowledge of Norwegian, I shall go out on a limb and suggest that the BM-like track "En Natt med Storm og Ravners Skrik" makes me think of something like "A Night of Storm and Raven's Shriek": whatever it is in words, in music this is a fine flowing song with a sparkling guitar tone and a strong folkish flavour in its melody and vocals. The ambience is melancholy and maybe nostalgic and there is a salty sea air there, not to mention a seasickness effect in the repetition of the main melody.
"Hvor Vinteren Raar" tends to be a hodge-podge of BM, melodic hard rock, a bit technical death metal here, some folky influences there with various fusions going on at once, it seems. The musicians at times don't appear to be following a particular plan of attack, they play as the mood takes them so the song ends up a wandering patchwork. An improvisational jazz influence may well be at work here.
The two untitled tracks reveal another side to FW as a garage rock band with melodic tendencies. There's no singing in either song and both are basically rock jams with some imrprovisation. The rhythms are meaty and bouncy and almost teeter on dance music / boogie territory. The second unnamed track especially has a raw sound that almost makes the music more like noise rock than anything resembling BM.
A very short hidden track has been snuck in right at the end: it's a spoken word field recording which doesn't add anything much to the rest of the release. Perhaps this tidbit was included to emphasise an artistic continuity from the Forgotten Woods of 1994 to the band as it is now.
Yes, these days the guys may deal in subject matter more complex than foul winter weather and animals crying in the dark and the level of musicianship and technical sophistication in the studio may be greater but I think FW want to reassure us that they've still got the old Forgotten Woods spirit that will stay strong and hale though the band's line-up may change quite often. Certainly back in 1994 they had an open attitude to absorbing and combining elements from different music genres and their musicianship already was sharp and technical and the band of today has been able to pick up where it left off in the late 1990's. Let's hope then that the guys are able to fulfill the early FW promise in their second incarnation.