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Well it's Dreamy - 84%

Livingwave17, August 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

Black Forest is a very new band that came into existence seemingly out of nowhere on a Wintersun fan group a few months ago. They hail from the city of Vienna and come to give us their vision of modern epic melodic death metal. Similarities can be found with the likes of the aforementioned Wintersun as well as other epic metal acts such as Insomnium, Frosttide, or Ensiferum. Attempting to make a name in this field, the young Austrians have released on March 3rd 2018 a modest and compact debut of 7 tracks and just 34 minutes in length. Having a personal affinity for this sort of music I decided to give this band a go and see if they are worthwhile.

The album kicks off with a sampled instrumental prelude that will instantly bring that northern dreamy atmosphere into place. Around 3 minutes of orchestrations introduce the album with a harmonious collection of synths, piano and strings effects similar to what you can find in symphonic metal. The follow-up is a one minute intro of riffing that shows the technical and virtuous skills of the guitars with some chugs followed by a beautiful guitar duel. In the third track the screams come in completing the soundscape with the harsh voice and the lyrical idea of the album. I loved the way these 3 tracks start the album, immersing you into the music and into the concept gradually, just adding layer after layer until they fill up the recipe. It’s a great way to for the band to show us their version of epic metal and it is very similar to most of what you can find in this genre but it does have its own personality as well.

What this band has done is take a well-known and successful recipe and try to make it their own. At the risk of getting lost in the crowd, they have mostly succeeded, creating a new face to this genre and it’s not the best but it is new. The riffs are based on fast chugging sounds and some more melodic sounds but the leads are the sweet part of the guitar work. A bit of neo-classical baroque vibe can be felt within the solos and melodies, and coming on top of the orchestral background, it creates a really dreamy atmosphere, However, it’s still powerful due to the heavier riffing and the harsh vocals. The voice is a higher pitched scream, similar to the voice of Jouni Valjakka from Whispered, and it is accompanied by the occasional low growl. It’s quite a sorrowful interpretation and it blends nicely with the instrumental.

Now, this is a very small band, so don’t expect a huge wall of samples or any extreme hi-fi magic here. Compared to what other albums in the field do, Black Forest’s debut sounds like it was mixed in a shed. Probably the weakest point of the album is the low-fi mix that buries the bass under the guitars and synths and doesn’t exactly make this album sound big. The guitars and growls could use more depth and the drums might be samples, not sure about it though. In this genre, you expect a very powerful and clear sound, but that is expensive and hard to achieve, so while the songs are good in terms of composition, they are not entirely valued by the mix. The album sounds a bit flimsy for the epic tag. Overall it is quite satisfying but the occasional “This needs more power" keeps coming to mind.

This band may not be “The Most” at anything because the task that they have set themselves is a tricky one. However they surpass some of their contenders in the songwriting department. Unlike Insomnium’s albums, this one defies predictability a bit more, and it is a lot more emotional than the latest Ensiferum. You know what to expect as an overall sound, but there are some bridges, interludes and solos that spark one’s interest a lot, showing a lot of creativity. For example, in the song ‘Moonlight’ after two verses and choruses, the song suddenly dims into a soft melancholic part that evolves into a beautiful solo, before returning to the chorus. They do suffer from a few verse chorus repetitions and it also feels a bit uninspired that many songs end with the tempo slowing down, but these flashes of creative input really make up for it. Another creative aspect is how all songs are connected, so while streaming the album you can’t even tell where one song ends and another begins. This makes for an even more inspired idea, when you see the lyrics. The whole album is a journey within a dream, where somebody wakes up in a darkened forest and throughout the album tries to find his way out. The lyrics give meaning to the music, creating a mystical atmosphere, a lot like diving into a dream. And all the natural elements that the concept describes seem to come alive in songs like “Darkened” “Dawn”, “Moonlight” or the title track. It’s a really cool contrast alternating between nostalgic and uplifting vibes and I really like the way it is represented in the cover artwork, with the owl and the falling leaves. This album has a very nocturnal yet refreshing vibe to it and it just feels soothing. The exit from this “Dream” is yet another instrumental tune, following just a single melodic idea, through piano, synths & violins accompanied by a clean guitar. This last track titled “Memories” is a really cool album closer touching on the edge of folk music.

It’s not like this band has redefined the epic metal field, but they have created a valid record and I see a lot of potential here, They may suffer from a bit of a lack of originality and an unwanted low-fi sound, but they hit all the good marks on the songwriting side and even surpass some of their “competition” when it comes to sending emotion. I’m not overly excited about this album but this band has captured my interest enough for me to follow them and see their future work. I see big potential here and I invite you to check out and support this band yourself. At the links below you can listen to their music and put to the test what I have said, but I’m confident that I wasn’t wrong.