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Ever since I discovered black metal, one band stood far above all the others, at least in my mind. They had every key aspect that every black metal band needs in order to truly be black metal: relatively underground fan base, poor (but not overbearingly vile) production, bleak atmosphere, and to top it off, they're one of the 2nd wave Norwegian bands. But unlike Darkthrone and Mayhem and Gorgoroth, Forgotten Woods approached black metal with a more depressive sound, and I think this is the very reason they never got big. Aside from Burzum's "Filosofem" and the small Strid discography, no black metal band at the time had attempted to bring sorrow into their music. Nowadays, we have more depressive black metal bands then we can count, and they keep coming. But I find most modern DSBM bands to be utterly dull with a few exceptions here and there ("Nocturnal Poisoning" by Xasthur and "Wanderings" by I Shalt Become, to name a few). And whenever I feel like drowning out my sorrows in a nice music sesh, no other band hits the spot better than Forgotten Woods, "The Curse of Mankind" in particular. Although "As the Wolves Gather" is a masterpiece and I can probably say that I listen to "As the Wolves Gather" more, "The Curse of Mankind" is by far my favorite black metal album, if not my favorite album in general!
I believe my first "black metal encounters" started around freshman year in high school. After buying "Pentagram" by Gorgoroth and being totally amazed (still one of my favorite albums!), I stampeded through the internet and record stores to find as much black metal as my small cash deposit would allow. Haha, I even remember begging my parents to let me mow the lawn a second time one day just to get more cash for my black metal addiction. Well, after a month or so of exploring various bands, I came across Forgotten Woods here on the Archives. I first listened to "As the Wolves Gather" and I was, once again, totally amazed. I then scrambled to find everything else in the Forgotten Woods discography. When I got to "The Curse of Mankind", however, I hit a brick wall. I couldn't believe my ears. My understanding of black metal was that it had to be angry and relentless and, with no other way of putting it, "black". But this!? THIS album wasn't angry! THIS album wasn't relentless! But damn, THIS album sure as hell was BLACK!
As "Overmotets Pris" begins, flashbacks of "As the Wolves Gather" bring the assumption that this is to be an hour (and ten minute) long work in the vein of the debut. But, like the quote my dad always loved to tell me, "assume makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me' ", I was shortly shown how wrong I was. This album is full of wonderful melodies that take you on a trip through winter at its coldest. The bass is clearly audible at all times, sometimes even playing the lead in the song. "Overmotets Pris" is a good example of this. Clean guitars make constant appearances throughout the album and these parts are where the album shines the most. A perfect example is the wonderful part in the song "My Scars Hold Your Dreams". It takes you on a sorrowful journey through a spacey landscape and almost brings tears when the heart-wrenching lead guitars emerge softly into the atmosphere. Parts like this are the reason that "The Curse of Mankind" is hailed as the king of all depressive black metal albums.
The vocals are pretty much the same as the debut, which isn't a problem because Thomas' vocals add a lot to the atmosphere. The echo of his wintry shrieks give the music a wonderful vibe that lasts throughout the whole album. Sung vocals appear also, moaning along with the melody of the songs."The Starlit Waters / I, the Mountain" uses this technique expertly, bringing visions of vast mountains covered in thick forest. The song "Den Ansiktsløse" has some spoken word in the beginning, which works pretty nicely, though this is only time in the album when this is used.
The drums play a crucial part in the music, playing mostly mid-paced beats throughout the album with the exception of the beginning of "Overmotets Pris", which starts off with a faster blast beat (if I can really call it a "blast beat"). They are at a perfect volume level with the rest of the music by not fading into the background of the music, but not shining above it either. In fact, the production on this album is yet another reason why the atmosphere here is so effective. It places everything perfectly so you can hear all of the instruments, but none are overpowering. It's not crackly and vile like most black metal tends to be, yet I can't really call it "clean" production. It's the perfect production value for this album, although it probably wouldn't work on any other BM album.
If you are depressed and you need to escape to a land of solitude, there is no other album that would work better than "The Curse of Mankind". Its sorrowful melodies and wintry atmosphere brings you to a place of pure bliss and beauty that can't be outmatched. Every time I listen to it I get lost in the far places it takes me. Every track here is amazing and each individually is unique and has its own beautiful landscape, but the best way to enjoy these songs is to listen to them all together. I recommend this album to any fan of black metal, even those morally opposed to DSBM. I recommend this the most, however , to those who are currently going through hard times in their lives and need some kind of escape from the real world. It definitely helped me out and I'm sure it will help others as well.