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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.