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Still ahead of the pack - 95%

PhantomMullet, November 16th, 2011

As usual, Woods of Infinity continues to surprise me with new ideas and styles release after release. The band has thrown some new elements into the mix while still keeping their old ideas, which allowed them to get in touch with their creative side and put them ahead of the pack in a world filled with generic black metal and plenty of ripoffs. Woods of Infinity need not worry about that with Forlat.

Since the release of the excellent Hamptjarn, WoI has fed us with a few decent EPs and splits so I did have a faint idea of what Forlat would sound like. In general, the band members still play strange sounding black metal filled with lyrics that only a Swedish person could understand, let alone interpret their meanings. Samples from various media are randomly thrown in the tracks and Ravenlord still employs his diverse vocal range - from really high pitched shrieks, to strange chanting vocals, to heavy shouts under that thick Swedish accent - and lots of things in between. Like Hamptjarn, many tracks on Forlat sort of have a wintry theme from some fantasy world.

The main differences have to do with Forlat being WoI's most symphonic and melodic album yet. Tracks like Underbart and even that instrumental introduction showcase this symphonic side well. The use of symphonic instruments is anything but bombastic, but rather well-structured and majestic. It puts me in a Tim Burton-movie kind of atmosphere. Sometimes it reminds me of the symphonics used in various Sognametal bands like Windir. It gives off that cold but romantic vibe. Many tracks are very melodic as well, like Morkradd. Not only do the guitars have very engaging riffs, but everything is either memorable, catchy, or both. Another neat aspect is the allusion to previous WoI songs....track seven, Gangrat Fran Vallhalavagen sounds very similar to some parts in Hamptjarn's Stilla...It has a completely different pace and structure, but the underlying melodies are pretty damn close.

The vocals are still excellent and give many of these songs extra character. The variation in vocals adds a layer of richness that other bands never really accomplish. As usual, Ravenlord can go from clean to high shrieks in a natural manner with great transitions, making everything sound fantastic. Overall, every track has some sort of jovial, but sometimes serious mood beneath. There's a ton of ambiguitiy and a lot that can be interpreted. The fact that most of these songs are written in Swedish makes Forlat even more a mystery. On a hunch, it feels many of these songs are about nature, bliss, societal problems, and maybe even some really random themes. It may not look like it, but I find there's a lot of depth to these songs.

My only complaint is the 26 minutes of random samples from various Swedish folk, classic rock, pop, and other mainstream Swedish bands. They must've used nearly 100 different excepts from songs as samples (roughly 10-20 seconds each). Unless you live in Sweden, chances are you will have never heard of most of the artists they sampled. It's 26 minutes, which is far too long, but because it's the second to last track of the album, it's not a big hinderance to the entire album listening experience.

Forlat is fantastic and another unique piece of metal that will be welcomed in anyone's collection if they're interested in out of the ordinary things. It's tough to decide which album is better: Hamptjarn or Forlat - my personal opinion leads towards Hamptjarn as my favorite songs from that slightly trump my favorites from Forlat. Still, Forlat is something you don't want to miss and Ravenlord and Melkor deserve tons of praise for creating it.