A Forest Of Stars - Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes
Progressive Black Metal
8 songs (1:04:46)
Release year: 2018
A Forest Of Stars, Prophecy
Reviewed by Goat

English oddities A Forest of Stars are back with their fifth full-length, one of those bands that appears from nowhere and impresses each time with a unique take on the genre, each album different in its way and worth revisiting even as new releases take their sound in new paths. Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes keeps the Victorian shtick and the murky psychedelia but returns towards the colder, darker sounds of the first two albums rather than the more warm and proggy direction taken with the more recent releases. Tracks like Premature Invocation allow space between the moments of rage, very at ease with allowing the listener time to absorb the creepy backing synths that make so much of the album's atmosphere. And said rage and tension comes much from the frantic, wild-eyed ranting that forms much of the male vocals, courtesy of Mister Curse. A cross between David Tibet (Current 93) and Aldrahn (ex-Dødheimsgard) is the best description that I've seen of his vocals, a clearly understandable but equally clearly insane spewing forth of paranoid threats and boasts that moves from more guttural growls to shrieks like some Lovecraftian madman.

It adds immeasurably to the atmosphere of this, and past albums, not least for being completely original and unlike anything other bands do, allowing that Victorian atmosphere summed up on the spooky cover art to take form, aided by such moments as Taken By the Sea which is largely a gothic, folksy ballad led by Katheryne, Queen of Ghost's breathy female vocals and violin. And it's worth dwelling on said violin, too, an element perhaps borrowed from big influence My Dying Bride (who Katheryne was briefly a member of) but an important one, providing a hefty tone of mournful melody atop the blackened morass of the rest of A Forest of Stars' music and not a little emotion as well. The added electronics on Tombward Bound are an intriguing touch, soon joined by almost ambient keyboards and Mister Curse feeling more David Tibet-y than ever thanks to an emotive spoken word that feels more like The Meads of Asphodel than what A Forest of Stars have tended towards before, thereafter indulging in some hand percussion and subsequent doomy riffing before smoothly returning to a melodic yet blackened rumble.

Don't underestimate how black metal A Forest of Stars still are. The torrential blasting that opens Children of the Night Soil may be softened by the psychedelic edge of the keyboards and Katheryne's violin and vocals but it's still heavy and packs a powerful punch. And the band are at their best in moments like the peak of Decomposing Deity Dance Hall, where all the instruments are raging and Mister Curse is in full flow. The band begin and end the album with moments like this, first track proper Precipice Pirouette starting and staying heavy but undermined a little by some of the bloat that can sometimes creep into A Forest of Stars' sound making itself known in the form of multiple false endings. Sure, the band use the extra time they've given themselves well, but unless you're completely taken over by their sound the hour-plus length of this album can weigh heavy. It's a minor criticism, and really Grave Mounds... is not much longer than previous releases. I think my favourite album from A Forest of Stars remains Beware the Sword You Cannot See, its ability to blow the listener away a little more consistent, although none of the others are far behind and Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes more than fits into their increasingly fascinating discography.

Killing Songs :
Tombward Bound, Children of the Night Soil, Decomposing Deity Dance Hall
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by A Forest Of Stars that we have reviewed:
A Forest Of Stars - Beware the Sword You Cannot See reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
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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