Dark Forest - Dark Forest
Eyes Like Snow
Heavy Metal/NWOBHM
10 songs (49'32")
Release year: 2009
Eyes Like Snow
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

UK’s Dark Forest is going to present an interesting dilemma to those into NWOBHM and other forms of traditional 80s metal. How much are you going to appreciate brimming youthful enthusiasm and dedication to style in order to overlook the obvious shortcomings in the vocal department? Christian Horton & Co. are certainly putting out good enough material to start scratching your head real hard.

The album presents ten tracks, the combination of two earlier EPs Fear Dearg and Phantoms of the Sea, and each of the songs ought to impress you with its excellent guitarwork and catchy songwriting, swinging the pendulum from fluid harmonies to jumpy galloping riffs. Christian Horton and his partner in crime James Lees are unabashed in their desire to go on extended solo runs (Pipes of Pan, Fear Dearg), or make it a full instrumental (Hollow Hills), twin-axing you to death in the process.

Dealing with the subject of British Isles mythology and folk culture, the songs range from playful and hokey (Fear Dearg, Dyed in Crimson), yet delightful at the same time, to monumental marches (The Wrekin Giant), to in-your-face almost corny “songs about metal” (Fight for Metal). There are even a few stabs at epic, Excalibur and The Wrekin Giant being notably extended, but if in the former the band just throws a mid-song transition to simply be there, the latter has its riffs emerging directly from the acoustic opening. Dark Forest have an outstanding sense of melody, and as a band dealing with Celtic topics, they can be proud of capturing the feeling completely on Hollow Hills, Dark Forest, the song, and The Wizard of Alderley Edge, which certainly references Gary Moore’s Wild Frontier.

Aside from the plastic sounding snare (which certainly can be corrected with the better production), my biggest beef with this album is the vocals, and I have an idea I won’t be alone on this. Now, for me, who grew up on traditional metal, but who long since crossed over to the more extreme side, perfect vocal pitch is not an absolute must. However, I sense that for many other “traditionalists” Christian’s vocal (in)abilities will be something those folks will pay attention to, and will be the test whether Dark Forest passes the mustard. Me, I just could see how better, more soaring, vocal lines can elevate songs like The Wizard of Alderley Edge. The others, they would have to get over the vocals, which are sometimes out of tune, weepy, and possess little grit or power. Even Manowarish Fight for Metal would have been better if Christian was more like Eric Adams, but Eric Adams he is most certainly not.

And while those picky folks would be evaluating Dark Forest’s worth in all of its “entirety”, let me just briefly mention, that Christian is most likely the brains and the heart behind all of Dark Forest, its founder and main songwriter, so he is there to stay. Assuming, of course, that him recently taking over rhythm guitar duties in Cloven Hoof won’t sidetrack him too much. I guess Iron Maiden position wasn’t available, but Cloven Hoof is by far a better fit (and reference point) for anybody associated with Dark Forest anyway. The band are certainly not looking for every song to turn into a Rime of the Ancient Mariner epic. What the young Brits don’t have in sprawl and ambition, they more than make up in loyalty and commitment to the style.

Killing Songs :
The Wizard of Alderley Edge, Dyed in Crimson, Fear Dearg, The Wrekin Giant
Alex quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Dark Forest that we have reviewed:
Dark Forest - Beyond the Veil reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
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