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A TIMELESS MASTERPIECE - 99%

Morgothesadman, February 25th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum (Limited edition)

I discovered this album ten years ago and it was already twelve years old at the time, twenty-two years after its original release and it is still one of the greatest works in black metal history. Along with a few bands such as Burzum, Forgotten Woods was the pioneer of the now called “depressive/suicidal black metal”, but if you listen to this mastodon record, you’ll find barely a gleam of that genre, the most notable being Thomas Torkelsen vocals, but 'The Curse of Mankind' is aggressive, heavy, ever-changing, challenging, epic and captivating.

A black metal masterpiece far away from the DSBM dull records, since it is not focused on those topics proper of this - at the time - unknown genre, 'The Curse of Mankind' is more melancholic, artistic and progressive. Every aspect of this record seems to be there for a specific reason, you can feel that the musicians were comfortable with each other, that the ideas flowed between them naturally. And even when the production was low-fi, you can listen and appreciate every instrument, even the bass line is perfectly listenable, the addition of acoustic guitars mixed with the raw distortion of the electric ones, make a perfect “forest-ish” ambiance. I feel that in this new edition where they improved the mastering a little, and the vocals, at least to me, sound better.

I don’t like labeling Forgotten Woods music as depressive black metal, because as you listen to their catalog, you realize their sound was violent, full of strength and passion, nevertheless they also expressed their sorrows through that music, with beautiful melodies and complex passages, so I have always said, Forgotten Woods plays melancholic black metal, a genre that obviously is non-existent, but I could name bands in the same vein being these ones: Dawn, Peste Noire, Drudkh, In the Woods… (first record), Miserere Luminis, Nagelfar (Germany), Angmar (France), Baptism (Finland), Vinterland and more; all of them share those aspects of aggressiveness, complex compositions, epic long hymns and sadness, but never falling into the depressive/suicidal department. Their music is, as I said, melancholic. Take 'La Sanie des siècles - Panégyrique de la Dégénérescence' the first album by Peste Noire, it is raw, brutal, enigmatic and ruthless and even so there is beauty in the music, acoustic guitars, calm parts, moments of sadness and mourning, just followed by terrific guitar riffs that make you shake your head and start head-banging. And I could say the same of every other band mentioned before.

“Overmotets Pris” is a perfect example of the melancholic black metal genre I was talking about; it starts with a blast beat along with some trve black metal tremolo, after a few compasses it’s followed by a change of pace to let the grim vocals howl your ears, and that’s enough to create ambient, the next you know is they got back to the first tremolo for speed, after that you feel a very dark atmosphere emerging, but out of nowhere the rhythm change again, a beautiful arpeggio in acoustic guitar escorts the electric guitars in a slower tempo, clean spoken vocals hit you like a thunder, a new change, an enjoyable black metal/punk drumming follows, and your head is dancing to the music rhythm; we are only 3 minutes inside an almost 13 minutes length song, and it keeps growing, it keeps amazing you, there is no repetitiveness, no dull song writing, no boring structures in the music, is unpredictable, it is overwhelming. Not even a single second is wasted. There is beauty in darkness.

And the ending… God damn it! That ending! Near the minute nine of the song, you are already familiar with their music, they use that beautiful acoustic arpeggio from the beginning again and you are expecting the end as if an orgasm, as if it enough, but it is never enough for this geniuses, a black metal riff of war, full of power destroys the calm and it gives the song a new path, and it is not over yet, we get a new riff, the drummer is playing as if there is no structure in the music, then blast beats, all the strings creating a harmonic chaos, the vocals calling you from the abyss - silence - a bass line, here we go again with a malevolent riff, and before you know it, the song is over.

To me the only thing DSBM bands learned from Forgotten Woods was the vocal style, I’d like to know a depressive black metal band with such rich songs and complex music. Back then to my time a listened to a lot of DSBM, I know that scene, and there are great bands like Nyktalgia, Gris, Mourning Dawn, Penseés Nocturnes, Hinsidig just to name some of them, but check them in the encyclopaedia or their own pages and they play black metal, melancholic black metal if you ask me. Bands like Happy Days, Make a Change... Kill Yourself or Trist make slow, simple, long tedious songs, even Nocturnal Depression plays black metal! The only two true depressive bands I know capable or greatness are Silencer and Eiserne Dunkelheyt but they are long dead, I could mention Thy Light but they have only one song that is a monument to the genre. Anyway, I can’t see any other aspect DSBM bands took from this particular record to make it its flag as the pioneer of that music style.

One thing you need to know about 'The Curse of Mankind' is that it has a very particular song. “With Swans, I’ll Share My Thirst” is an unexpected piece of music in a black metal album. It is an instrumental song, after a lot of thinking I couldn’t decide on a genre, but it is just beautiful, you could say is classical rock, post-rock (ahead of its time) or even a folk/post-rock/avantgarde song, sounds crazy I know, but musically it is a piece of art, it starts sad and sullen, relaxing almost, but at the end is full of joy and grace, a mouth-organ (or harmonic) is the protagonist of the last part of the song. The first time I listened to it I was fifteen years old and I wanted to be trve, I thought it was the weirdest thing it ever happened to an extreme metal album, I even thought it was a mistake, nevertheless, I knew it was pure art, I knew it then and I know it now. One of my lifetime favorite songs.

To close this masterpiece, we get the malevolent “The Velvet Room”, a song with a strong, evil leading guitar riff that takes you to hell, but enough catchy to enjoy and headbang to it. The drums in this song are superb, kind of a jazz effort; I challenge you to predict them even after listening to the song several times. A true masterwork.

In conclusion, 'The Curse Of Mankind' is a must listen not only for black metal enthusiast, but for extreme metal fans in general, as it has everything a metal album must have, great guitar riffs, long songs, terrific vocal efforts, a cohesive collection of tracks, challenging paces and rhythms and some kind of magic it'll make you say it is a classic.

Originally written for www.thepitofthedamned.com

The Epitome of Sorrow - 100%

hardcoremetal6969, December 6th, 2013

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.

Listen And Learn. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, February 19th, 2008

Forgotten Woods are the critically acclaimed creators, alongside bands like Burzum, of the depressive/suicidal black metal scene. 'The Curse of Mankind' set upon it's audience like a pack of savage wolves. It tore into the audience's heart with it's sharpened teeth like a hand passes through water, with ease. This brand of black metal wasn't the norm back in 1996, so I can imagine it took one half of the scene by the hand and left the other half turning it's cheek. You could be forgiven for thinking this style wouldn't live long in the memory, but here we are, some twelve years later and still talking about the affect Forgotten Woods had on the underground black metal scene back in the day.

It took the band some eleven years to issue a follow up to this full-length in, 'Race Of Cain' but when it did finally arrive, it was met largely with open arms. 'The Curse of Mankind' was released to the public in the same year that Joyless, what seems to be the side project of a few of the Forgotten Woods members, released their first album, 'Unlimited Hate'. The two are very similar in my eyes. You can see the influence of Forgotten Woods' sound on Joyless. It's hard to miss. Joyless would later go on to adopt a new style as a new vocalist pushed her way to the foreground, but it's this style of depressive/suicidal black metal that will be remembered with fondness.

'The Curse of Mankind' is where it all began for me. 'As The Wolves Gather' was the debut of Forgotten Woods, but it's this full-length that stands tallest, though I do like the debut as well. Whilst the mid-90's was a bit of a dry spell for black metal, Forgotten Woods were quietly doing their thing in the midst of the outrage of fans at the lack of talent available in the underground. It was only really until the turn of the century that black metal really took shape, but it was on albums like this, 'The Curse of Mankind', that lazed the foundations of the genre. It was on albums like this that black metal found it's footing and stood tall and proud. Rightly so, if you ask me. Forgotten Woods, despite the lack of recognition, are influential. Many of the great bands by this day and age's standards were influenced by the early recordings of Forgotten Woods and 'The Curse of Mankind' is a fine example of why that is exactly.

Black metal is known for it's pace, but Forgotten Woods are one of those rare bands within the genre that like to portray it's themes over longer periods of time. The sub-genre of raw black metal, for instance, prides itself of creating short and sharp bursts of noise that will drag you along the floor by your hair until it's comes to an end shortly after it's begun. 'The Curse of Mankind' isn't like that whatsoever. As one can see, the tracks available are fairly long, aside from the one song. For Forgotten Woods to keep up a fast pace throughout the entirety of their songs, that would require a lot of effort. It would either go one of two ways. First, each song would either be highly repetitive and thus become tedious because of the fact that it would be hard to follow at a fast tempo, or second, it would be too varied. The audience wouldn't be able to keep up with what's going on, the small adjustments would become lost behind the wall of noise and again, that would become tedious. So, Forgotten Woods have opted for a somewhat different approach to black metal.

Slow build ups, leading to a progressive middle section and finally, a burst of noise which eventually comes full circle and finishes back at the slower sections. Song structures are incredibly important to 'The Curse of Mankind'. Musicianship is at the top of it's game here, that much is evident. Like any good story, the songs unfold in three parts. First, we have the beginning. This generally means two riffs layered over each other. One lead and one rhythmic. Both equally important in creating the divine soundscapes that contain that lush sound which ebbs away. Second, we have our middle. This leads to changes in tempo, usually multiple changes, from fast to slow and back again. The percussion tends to take hold on the audience here as it's usually quite catchy. The bass also figures, it's sound lulls the audience and creates a barrier for the rest of the instruments to play over. Finally, we have our ending.

Each song culminates in a fine finish. Polished pieces of art. Visionary riffs which keep the emotion rife. Although those depressive feelings are kept on edge throughout by the lulling of the base and the variation in vocal styling, most of the songs on offer are actually quite catchy, as I said. This leads to an intriguing piece of work. With lots of variation, coupled with the dynamism of the riffs and percussion, everything neatly slots into place to ultimately create one of the definitive black metal releases of the mid-90's.

Depressive Black Metal starts here - 96%

Kopp, May 24th, 2005

Together with Burzum, Forgotten Woods are the fathers of what is today called "depressive" or "suicidal" black metal.
Music that transmits depression, isolation and sadness. This album continues on the same line of "As the Wolves Gather", but in my opinion this one is more mature. Production is a little (but very little!) cleaner, and the attitude of the band is the same.
Six long songs for over an hour of total misanthropy. Prevailing rhythms are slow, riffs easy and repetitive, gapped and often coupled with gloomy and beautiful acustic moments.
Screams are despaired and anguishing, supported by choirs that underline the sound of the guitars: they partecipate to increase the melancholy element of the compositions, without being epic or in no way "happy".
The result is raw, minimalistic and repetitive, however fascinating because melodies created by Forgotten Woods are easy to assimilate but they never bore the listener. It's a particular mixture between old school black metal with doom and dark influences: also if it has been copied by dozens of bands through the years, mantains vitality and originality still today.
If you are looking for headbanging-music, search something else, here you'll find nothing but desolation and despair.
If you like true black, black/doom and suicidal bands like Abyssic Hate, Forgotten Tomb or Shining, don't hesitate to buy this album.
It's one of the best releases produced by Norwegian Black Metal scene in the 90es and it's one of the best transpositions of sadness in music.
My favourite song:"The Starlit Waters"