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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