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A Forest Of Stars - "Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring" (CD)

A Forest Of Stars - "Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring" CD cover image

"Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring" track listing:

1. Sorrow’s Impetus (13:02)
2. Raven’s Eye View (9:24)
3. Summertide’s Approach (13:29)
4. Thunder’s Cannonade (8:02)
5. Starfire’s Memory (11:51)
6. Delay’s Progression (16:29)

Reviewed by on June 26, 2010

"When the dust settles at the end of 2010, “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring” could be the sleeper hit of the year."

Experimental black metal is A Forest of Stars’ M.O. on “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring.” Long compositions are wrapped around a hodgepodge of musical ideas that ranges from peaceful violin solos to mind-numbing brutality, all usually within the span of a few minutes. This premise was put to solid effects on debut album “The Corpse of Rebirth” and “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring” continues in this direction. The band’s sophomore effort is tighter and more fluid, which is surprising considering it is longer than their first record. The lines between black metal and progressive/experimental are blurred even further, signifying an unpredictable sound that can shift gears at a moment’s notice.

With the majority of the songs over the ten-minute mark, there is no rush in getting to the aggressive sections. The band seems content with sticking to calm passages for extended periods of time with little recourse. Ambience plays a role in the later tracks, which is the main offense against “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring.” While it can be used to enhance a mood or build towards a rousing finish, A Forest of Stars uses ambience to pad out the song lengths. This is most evident in “Starfire's Memory”; a wonderful song that should have ended five minutes earlier than it did. The overindulgent instrumental outro isn’t poorly performed, but seems unnecessary after the band seemed to end things on a strong note before going into the outro.

The rest of the album avoids this pratfall by switching between soft and heavy moments with relative ease. The shifts are sudden, keeping things moving at a steady clip. The momentum is always at a peak position, avoiding long stretches of tedious songwriting. Closer “Delay's Progression” is the perfect representation of this motif. An early synth piece leads into female whispers and acoustic guitars before maintaining a mid-tempo pace built upon lush violin lines and vocoder work. The blast beats and tremolo riffs don’t come in until the last third, making their appearance more effective.

Black metal is a small part of the album, as opener “Sorrow's Impetus” is the only track fully immersed in this sound. The other songs are craftier in their approach, keeping it to short bursts evenly spread out. This is a brilliant decision on the part of A Forest of Stars, as it keeps the intensity given off by the black metal onslaught from getting dull or repetitive, as can be the case with many bands in the genre. When the album picks up and things start to get crazy, a refresh feeling sweeps through.

Beneath the murkiness lies vivid beauty that peers out of the shadows at select moments to show a different side of the band. The majestic violin solo that begins “Thunder's Cannonade” is masterfully executed, while the backwoods acoustic feel of “Raven's Eye View” is highly unique. The cabaret/saloon piano on “Summertide’s Approach” is also another noteworthy oddity in an album stacked to the brim with them. The lyrics have a haunting beauty to them, with sharp imagery and poetic quips like “Soul starved bodies crushed, throats stuffed with my falling angels” and “She cleanses these gutters with her utmost purity. Onrushing dark leaves your false light lonely.”

The release of “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring” was quite low-key, a shame since this is a thrilling black metal album that deserves way more attention than it has been receiving. Some have said that A Forest of Stars is the UK’s answer to Wolves in the Throne Room, but other than both bands having lengthy epics, the two really don’t have much in common. A Forest of Stars is its own entity, one that is easily recognizable among the crop of bands in the genre. When you hear a song from A Forest of Stars, you are hearing something distinct and fresh; a twist on an ancient formula. When the dust settles at the end of 2010, “Opportunistic Thieves of Spring” could be the sleeper hit of the year.

Highs: Majestic violin work, songs progress in a natural fashion, solid blend of black and progressive metal, unpredictable songwriting

Lows: A few ambient sections drag on, especially on "Starfire's Memory"

Bottom line: A marked improvement over their debut album that aims for the more ambitious side of black metal.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)