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A Forest Of Stars - "A Shadowplay For Yesterdays" (CD)

A Forest Of Stars - "A Shadowplay For Yesterdays" CD cover image

"A Shadowplay For Yesterdays" track listing:

1. Directionless Resurrectionist (3:13)
2. Prey Tell Of The Church Fate (7:27)
3. A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh (10:11)
4. The Blight Of God's Acre (6:09)
5. Man's Laughter (3:00)
6. The Underside Of Eden (8:14)
7. Gatherer Of The Pure (8:20)
8. Left Behind As Static (6:43)
9. Corvus Corona (Part 1) (3:15)
10. Corvus Corona (Part 2) (6:13)

Reviewed by on August 29, 2012

"If a ‘70s prog cover band got lost in Norway for a few months, they would put out an album like “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays.”"

If one is in the market from sophisticated black metal, something that transcends the average mess the genre dishes out, A Forest Of Stars is a band to get aquatinted with. Their cinematic music takes a Victorian setting and pops it into the grim underbelly that black metal proudly stands in. “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” is the band’s third take on this sound, a move towards more concise songwriting and melodic twists. There’s still a barrier to contain immediate accessibility, but as an encompassing work, the album is a marvel that tops the last two releases.

Brevity has never been a trait of A Forest Of Stars, but “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” flirts with it. Double digit lengths were the past norm for the band, but only “A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh” crosses ten minutes (and barely at that). It’s a move away from a safe haven, having to express their message in a contained space. There isn’t a learning curve apparent, and whether it’s a three-minute interlude or an eight-minute juggernaut, A Forest Of Stars fits the necessary components into whatever time is allotted.

Theatrical in design, the album has a feel of a winding play, with multiple acts and a few intermissions. Mister Curse is the conductor of this English delight, and his manic raspy yells and whimpers puts a showmanship spin on the album. Violinist/flutist Katheryne, Queen Of The Ghosts (Katie Stone) is not just a folksy presence, but a soothing contrast vocally to Mister Curse. While not getting many starring performances, she makes the most out of them on “A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh” and “Corvus Corona (Part 2).”

Black metal is only a portion of “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays,” regaled to small bursts that seem to be more to remind the listener that, yes, A Forest Of Stars likes blasting drums and shapeless riffs. They certainly aren’t the selling point; that is saved for dark whimsical jabs like “Gatherer Of The Pure” and the two-part “Corvus Corona.” The shift from a ritualistic beating to a Jethro Tull-esque groove is always in opposition, and always exciting to pick up on. If a ‘70s prog cover band got lost in Norway for a few months, they would put out an album like “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays.”

The Victorian garment and pseudonyms are reflected upon the lyrics, which sound like rambling from a 19th century street poet. For a listener accustomed to ideas being spelled out in simple language, this elegant prose on “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” will bound to puzzle many. Having the lyrics nearby will be useful for those who really like to dig into music, and not just use it as pointless background noise. Vivid imagery of religious figures like Azrael are just the obvious allusions made; plenty more are hidden within each verse.

A Forest Of Stars hasn’t been overlooked per se, but they also haven’t been given the admiration they deserve. “Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring” was a revelation for black metal, and “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” confirms the validity of the band. It seemed like it was going to be hard for the band to eclipse their second album, but they did that. The band is in tune with what they want out of the music, and there is no dilly-dallying around with these tightly-composed songs. “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” is an impressive display of what black metal could become, an approach that makes them a bright star for the genre.

Highs: Band has fully come into their own, progressive take on black metal, feels like an hour-long play, surprises are the norm

Lows: Vocals could be hard for some to digest

Bottom line: "A Shadowplay For Yesterdays" is a phenomenal take on nontraditional black metal that is unique and tailored towards an open-minded crowd.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

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)