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Hypnotic atmosphere - 90%

andreipianoman, January 18th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent

Black Forest is a young band taking the "Wintersun genre" as a starting point for their work. From the guitar style to the vocals and use of orchestra, it is pretty clear that this new group draws a lot of inspiration from the Finnish melodic death, symphonic, power oriented genre that has grown in recent years with bands like Wintersun, Ensiferum, Frosttide, Whispered and so on. It would seem that as more bands choose this path, things would start getting redundant and obsolete, but Black Forest have found a very unusual and distinctive way of giving it a new face and making it their own.

Dream is a very satisfying and concise album that is made to stand out. The way I see it, what brings its unique print forward is the fact that although they've used most of the elements in the previously mentioned "epic" metal genre, it all comes around to making the music immersive and atmospheric as opposed to the expected glorious and majestic effect. It doesn't feel that much energetic as it is hypnotic and relaxing. The cover artwork should be the first to indicate this. Although a bit "too pink" it is a very good way of understanding what this album is trying to express and I feel that there is a very strong connection between the artwork, title and the music itself.

From the very first notes, the intention becomes clear as a swirling piano run embodies the falling petals on the artwork and a mystical synth and orchestra background starts building around you and withering all signs of reality away. It almost feels like you're caught in some sort of weird spell. As the metal elements kick in, the full soundscape is on full display and remains this way throughout the record. The guitars are all fast and dynamic although a bit buried under all the orchestra and the drumming sets a pretty power metal-ish pace over which the distinctive Jari vocal style completes the recipe. Moving through ups and downs, more mellow parts and more dynamic elements, the Austrian group have no difficulty in keeping you wired into their music with each song feeling slightly better than the previous.

The composition is arguably not very good if you are to judge in comparison to similar bands that came before. Every instrument could just appear as Wintersun only less. However, they still come off as pretty skilled musicians and the technicality is undeniably impressive. The guitars go through fast riffing, beautiful melodies and shreddy solos that maintain a powerful sense of fluidity. The drums also stand out every now and then with some pretty impactful strums on the pedals but usually stay on the background and keep the rhythm flowing. The bass I'm afraid is not too relevant as it is a bit too buried in the mix and hard to distinguish but easier to just feel its depth. And this is where I fell they're gone a little wrong... While the production is excellent in portraying the image they had in mind, it does take away from the quality of the sound. I'm not sure if this came out of lack of material possibilities or if its just an honest mistake but it does feel slightly flawed. However, it doesn't take away too much from the experience and I assure you that Dream is still a very enjoyable album.

Another "bug" I would say is the track listing at the beginning of the album with two intro tracks (Prelude and Intro) where the second one is obviously just a part of the following song, Darkened, and it shouldn't have been separated in order to maintain a better flow to the album. Also as the songs are connected, Dream doesn't really come as the best choice for listening to individual songs and works better as a full stream. Moonlight is the only song that I enjoy listening to separately as it doesn't feel cut out, but it's not my favorite. That would have to be the title track as it seems to add more diversity, taking a darker tone, with an eerie sense in the keyboard and symphonic elements as well as a more cinematic vibe.

The instrumental outro "Memories" is also a crucial piece to the puzzle as after all the songs seemed to keep building a deeper and more intense atmosphere, this one works very well to detensify. It's soothing, relaxing, very melodic and eases your way out of the fantasy realm that you've been kept in throughout the record.

In the end, most of this album's flaws aren't enough to take their toll on the experience and as it's been kept at a humble 34 minutes run-time, it comes around as an easy and very enjoyable listen that I strongly recommend. There is a lot of potential in this group and I hope they keep evolving and getting even better but for now, they really deserve the recognition.