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A Forest Of Stars - Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring CD (album) cover


A Forest Of Stars

Experimental/Post Metal

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5 stars Opportunistic Thieves of Spring is a really interesting metal journey for the prog listener, and an outstanding eclectic one for the metal fan.

You will find black metal passages full of power and fast pacing, and some deep violin harmonies, growls, digitalized vocals, and lots of surprises. LOTS of surprises.

1. Sorrow's Impetus (13:01) (4/5) The album begins with some noisy soundscape, that slowly fades into the first black metal verse of the album. Tremolo guitars, blast beats, and growls, nothing that was never seen. It looks like the average black metal album. Suddenly the violin comes in, weeping gently, over the blast beats. The "average black metal" turns into a middle-eastern, violin-driven, distorted fantasy, leaving the listener with a mouth-open, ear-gasmic exotic feeling. Not even 4 minutes have passed. A slow, tranquil section begins, with clean/chorused guitars, and the violin. Then BLAST! More metal, but this time, more powerful and less speedy. This is amazing! I want more! And the violin never stopped adding that mellow feel to the thing. Another ambiental section at the 9 minute-or-so mark; with lots of layers and wall of sound, that suddenly breaks out in a lo-fi guitar and drum only riff. The song comes back to "normal" again, ending with that violin-black metal that AFOS is distinguishable of. And this is just the beginning.

2. Raven's Eye View (9:23) (5/5) Strange guitar sounds, strange piano (marimba? wtf is that sound?), and strange modd in general, until the black metal kicks in, and brings the listener to that "wow this is splendid" sort of euforia. But wait, there's more. After that, the all-mighty violin appears again, in a just-a-bit slower riff, that sounds particularly good, leaving you wanting for more. Then, [%*!#] it, some kind of folky bridge, with rare instruments and stuff. These guys are nuts. Unpredictable, yet natural. The flute appears with a peaceful and moody melody, that suddenly gets all tense and moody (in the other meaning of the word) when the black metal appears. That melody is the main theme of the song, and will be reprised several times. At around the 6 minute mark, an eastern percussion appears to give the metal riffs some company, while the main melody is played by other instruments. One of the greatest moments, that left me looking in awe at the mp3 player, is the break at 8:06. The band stops, the last chord played is maintained, and suddenly, at 8:13 you hear a coin. A thief throws the coin upwards, letting it fall in his right palm, then crossing it over to the back of his left hand. Heads! And the main theme starts again, with all its power. Simply superb.

3. Summertide's Approach (13:27) (5/5) Enough with the metal. This song starts with a polka-tango-sort-of-thing, piano and violin playing an upbeat dancing tune. It slowly fades into a sober, shadowy repetitive piano key. and the metal brutal chords rip away all that. You can hear, in the back, what will be the main theme of this song, and at 2.09 it is officially presented to you. But don't think that you've heard everything. After some black metal verses (that sound particularly good, really different of what the average black metal sound represents) and strange piano bridges, the (in my opinion) highest moment on the album gets in the stage. Everything stops, and the violin is left alone with some strange percussion and background noises. A really desolate and passionate melody is played. The bass kicks in, adding a beautiful line. The rhythm section is inspiring. Then the whole band appears (9:43), and you get the chills. It's not something that you choose. Every time you listen, you get them. A piano melody is heard in the back, like asking for permission. The distorted guitar thinks for a bit, and finally lets the piano come in. A beautiful, hard to describe harmony is achieved, showcasing the best of AFOS. Not hard, not fast, not brutal, not noisy. Plain beauty, piano, violin, and metal.

4. Thunder's Cannonade (8:01) (5/5) Bells, strings, and a spring-inspired instrumental section sets the path for this song. Happiness, smiles, and even a bit of nostalgia surrounds the tune. And then the band comes in (around 3:00), without losing that melancholic yet heaven-sent sound. I really wonder how can these guys do it, I really envy their sound. Black metal dismembers all that beauty, growls and blast beats stomp out what was created, and generate a tension unique to AFOS. Instead of finally liberating and breaking that tension, it is yet amplified, with spooky and weird violin high noises. Black metal comes again to stop that, and relief comes at the final section, with powerful and paced riffs, with that violin worthy of gods.

5. Starfire's Memory (11:50) (4/5) A long, almost futuristic ambient intro is heard, that transforms into a spacey and lengthy dark riff. Maybe the most obscure song in the album, it features some goth female singing, that create those amazing harmonies typical of AFOS. Another instrumental break that comes alive with notable drum fills, and the darkest black metal riff of the album finishes the song.

6. Delay's Progression (16:28) (5/5) Tech-strings start this song, the longest intro of the album. Female whispers and chorused guitars are heard. Then a classic guitar with strings comes in, just to get smashed with brutal chords. However, some strange, sci-fi-ish background noise is present. And then you understand what they were trying to tell you. The voices are all technologic, like a post-acopalyptic auto-tune, that fits so well with the riff being played. It suddenly changes to a harshest growl and double-bass drum beat, that is followed with weird percussion, and then with more violin. Then the classic guitar is left alone with the techy-vocals. It sounds so mellow yet dark, in a sinister and futuristic way. Rare, unique, and simply amazing. And we're not done here. A new black metal riff blends in again, with chords that sound weird, until you notice they are not weird. They are triumphant, with choirs and stuff. The end is near. And it ends. In an epic, celestial and heavy way. The last chord is strucked. "That was awesome" you say. But 2 minutes still remain. You hear bells sounding softly because of the wind, and sinister voices in the far background. They come near, and the REAL final chords are played. Chill-inducing, awe-inspiring, final chords, redefining epic. The album comes to a full stop.

I think there's not much more to say. Pay full close attention to every second of the record, you never know what fine detail will get you. An album crafted by experts, indeed.


Report this review (#782189)
Posted Wednesday, July 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Forest of Stars offers up a broader range of sounds than expected for black metal, even in the experimentation- happy realms of the "atmospheric" subgenre of it. Between them Mister Curse on shrieked vocals, T.S. Kettleburner on guitar and bass, and John "the Resurrectionist" Bishop on drums provide all the tools for the black metal side of the equation, but the inclusion of the Gentleman on synths and pianoforte and Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts on violin and flute allows them to incorporate ambient, folk and Victorian chamber music influences into their sounds.

On this second album, they indulge themselves with long song structures that allow all of these diverse sounds to come together in a psychedelically-tinged blend. Like much of the atmospheric black metal subgenre, this isn't an album for dipping into and out of - you'll want to listen to it all the way through to get its full effect - but I'd say it's decidedly worth setting that listening time aside for.

Report this review (#1788052)
Posted Thursday, September 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars A FOREST OF STARS experienced absolutely zero slump on their sophomore album OPPORTUNISTIC THIEVES OF SPRING. Already on their debut 'The Corpse Of Rebirth,' this Leeds, England based post-black metal band that loves to dress up all Victorian displayed a stunning maturity as they seamlessly melded a 70s progressive folk style with all the modern day atmospheric black metal touches which included extensive use of sophisticated dark ambient passages and wove it all into dreamy celestial realms. While the fearless fusion was the result of their bold experimental approach, the effect was one of the most well laid out examples of how to adapt a marriage of psychedelic folk and caustic black metal within the greater context of an extended post-rock paradigm.

OPPORTUNISTIC THIEVES OF SPRING takes the band even further into the deepest recesses of their fertile imaginations and creates another staggering journey into the slow burn world of monumental epic tracks that extend to infinity and beyond. Well, to be honest on this one, two of the six tracks actually do NOT hit the ten minute mark but the epic sprawl of the opener 'Sorrow's Impetus' dips past the 13 minute mark and the grand finale in the form of 'Delay's Progression' extends all the way past 16. While it sounds like the ultimate test of patience and the perfect recipe for an overweening post-whatever album to wear out its welcome by the second track, somehow A FOREST OF STARS breathe vitality into every cadence and every rhythmic drive that emulates from their magic grab bag of ideas.

As with the debut, this second offering relies on a post-rock driven atmospheric flow that delivers the expected gentle slow burning approach that ratchets up the intensity to bombastic blackened crescendoes. Also all along the way, the musical march is haunted by the mournful melancholy of Katheryne, Queen Of Ghosts' foik-laden violin performances with the occasional flute accouterments to add that extra folky flavor. Also back for a reprise are the Ralph Vaughan Williams inspired classical touches that find their way to the surface during the brevity of the piano tinkling but comprise a structural underpinning that offers a complexity not apparent to the casual listener. Add the black metal bombast which tackles the usual suspects of tremolo picking, bombastic riffs and distortion like there's no tomorrow and the band ratchets up their successful formula a few notches by adding touches of accordion and sitar just to name a few.

What probably propels OPPORTUNISTIC THIEVES OF SPRING a few notches above and beyond 'The Corpse Of Rebirth' is the prowess of the six compositions that finds the band delivering a much more interesting flow of musical ideas as they hit their stride. The black metal, folk, classical and post-rock elements have mastered cosmic bliss as they perfect the marriage of elements that unleash pure magic. What? This album is really 72 minutes long and i didn't get bored? How often does that happen? Interestingly enough, the music never once misses a beat. It flows impeccably as one sonically stretched epic track cedes into the next. This is music to get lost in and despite the metal elements, has more in common with chamber orchestra works from previous centuries than anything from the second wave of black metal.

Despite a classical / psychedelic chamber folk band in metal clothing setting, A FOREST OF STARS sets itself apart from its contemporaries and the band doesn't shy away from unleashing the full effects of black metal bombast. Mister Curse delivers his insane asylum theatrical vocal style unapologetically with glee while blastbeats and distorted tremolo guitar picking aggressive dominate the subdued violin and piano sounds that only emerge when the metal takes a breather. Whereas the debut had more of a predictable flow as the atmospheric and folk touches tended to initiate the process and allow the metal to build up its intensity, on OPPORTUNISTIC THIEVES OF SPRING, the band throws in more curve balls and carves their compositions into suite-like creations of epic proportion. It's almost like a black metal opera version of Sigur Ros as the hypnotic repetition mixes and melds with the extreme metal decibalage.

Also for good measure, A FOREST OF STARS still sounds a lot like the (more progressive) atmospheric black metal counterpart to My Dying Bride as both bands rely heavily on a dirge-like violin line to create the proper elegiac elements which in this care are amplified by the spooky cosmic dark ambience and post-black metal heft. Notably as the standout of the crowd, 'Starfire's Memory' offers a diverse mix of clean male and female vocals in addition to Mr. Curse's unhinged shrieks of insanity. On their sophomore album OPPORTUNISTIC THIEVES OF SPRING, i have to say that A FOREST OF STARS hits musical perfection as every STAR within this FOREST aligned in astrological perfection. Every single aspect about this one exudes a grace and elegance unlike most albums that would fall into the greater black metal universe. This is clearly designed for connoisseurs of musical diversity because if the listener isn't fully onboard long interludes of formless dark ambience, post-rock repetition or black metal bombast, one's attention span could easily be derailed however for my money, this one is a bloody masterpiece!

Report this review (#2047577)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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