A Forest Of Stars - Beware the Sword You Cannot See
Lupus Lounge
Progressive Black Metal
11 songs (59:24)
Release year: 2015
A Forest Of Stars, Lupus Lounge
Reviewed by Goat

'England's best black metal band' hasn't been a label that many have thrown around in a few years, since The Axis of Perdition split up and Anaal Nathrakh peaked. Yet A Forest of Stars, who started off with The Corpse of Rebirth's near-impenetrable ten-minute tracks and came to an explosion of quality with 2012's A Shadowplay for Yesterday, are definite contenders. Beware the Sword You Cannot See, the band's fourth full-length since forming in 2007, is their best yet, a complex morass of progressive black that includes everything from folk to female vocals in search for the ultimate psychedelic listening experience. If you're unlucky enough to have never heard them, then imagine a more eccentric My Dying Bride that rejected doom in favour of atmospheric black metal, and you're partway there. The band never made as much of their 'Victorian black metal' image as they could have done, certainly falling short of Akercocke in the style guides, and content to let the music speak for itself. This has given them the air of underdogs, always recommended (I've been singing their praises for six years now) yet never quite breaking through, which is lovely for us fans but which rather sucks for the band.

After all, as nice as it would be to keep the likes of droning melodic opener Drawing Down the Rain to ourselves, the band deserve the coverage for making an atmospheric black metal masterpiece that easily quashes recent efforts from the likes of Drudkh, complete with mournful violin and distorted spoken vocal sections. The folk elements are perfectly absorbed into the song, adding to the overall mournful vibe and providing enough variety to make the nine-minute length fly by. The following Hive Mindless continues this path, initial savage blasting soon turning to Hawkwind-esque psychedelic rocking and continuing to mix the two to great effect. You have to wait for the album's true masterpiece, however; as good as the intervening tracks are (the dark soundscapes of A Blaze of Hammers and Proboscis Master Versus the Powdered Seraphs are more than worth hearing) the closing multi-part epic Pawn on the Universal Chessboard is the true prize.

Opening with Mindslide, A Forest of Stars are initially content to take their time, female vocals mixing with swirling keyboards. Have You Got a Light, Boy? introduces guitars and a Pink Floyd-gone-funeral-doom atmosphere takes hold. Perdurabo and especially An Automation Adrift take this atmospheric approach further with more and more black metal influence. The tracks blend together and it's hard to view them as anything but a single long piece, especially by the time that Let There Be No Light rolls by with its weirdly gothic vibe and return to female vocals. It's an intriguing piece, not one that you'd immediately love but one that proves its quality with multiple listens, and ultimately enough to help propel Beware the Sword You Cannot See to the top of the band's discography. Let's hope it draws A Forest of Stars the attention that they deserve.

Killing Songs :
Drawing Down the Rain, Pawn on the Universal Checkboard
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by A Forest Of Stars that we have reviewed:
A Forest Of Stars - A Shadowplay For Yesterday reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
A Forest Of Stars - Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
A Forest Of Stars - The Corpse Of Rebirth reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
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