Released: 2012, Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Supposedly A Forest Of Stars were founded in 1890 – well either their youthful looks betray them or they’ve been knocking back some Victorian anti-aging secret in that Gentleman’s Club of theirs. Still, it makes for a nice back story and if there’s anything that us Brits can pull off well it’s decadent posturing with the whiff of the old-world about it. I mean we were made for frock coats and canes – it’s the accent I do believe.
Anyway, A Forest Of Stars’ third, and first truly full-length, album A Shadowplay For Yesterdays doesn’t betray this illusion, sounding as though it has been recorded on a hand-cranked gramophone during a particularly lively séance session.
As in the past, the band have continued to practice in the ways of avant-garde black metal with a distinctly progressive streak at its core, and as such former fans won’t be disappointed in A Shadowplay For Yesterdays. That said this is a more mellow meander, a curious glance into another world, in comparison to out-and-out crossing over into the darkness.
Mr Curse, who I doubt will be inducted into the Mr Men roster anytime soon, still sounds like a sufferer of vocal possession as on ‘Prey Tell of the Church Fate ‘ but there are fewer shrieks in the repertoire. The desperation is striking in ‘The Underside of Eden’ and you can’t help but feel that things may be teetering on the brink of sanity – a sentiment which only escalates with the accordion-circus tune and black metal cries of ‘Gatherer of the Pure’.
At over ten minutes long ‘A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh’ is given the space it needs to grow naturally, gently lifted up by poignant violins whenever it feels like it’s beginning to flag. Largely instrumental, the calling vocals of Katie ‘Katheryne, Queen Of The Ghosts’ Stone make just a fleeting appearance, but one that is long enough to prickle the skin.
The blastbeats of ‘The Blight of God's Acre’ initially seem ill at ease with the scraping violins, but as the strings begin to match the challenge so the different parts come together in their charge. Sitting less well with myself is ‘Man’s Laughter’, which may be all conceptual and shit, but the soft scratching and electro-percussion makes it feel as ill-advised as a Victorian mission to Mars. Far superior is instrumental late-one ‘Left Behind As Static’ which emerges as a rusty-sounding acoustic and mutates into a fuzzy-round-the-edges cacophony.
Although it is actually at the close of A Shadowplay For Yesterdays ‘Corvus Corona (Part 1)’s’ hurried spoken word makes it sound like the opening act where again the less-traditional violins step up alongside the guitars and drums. The drum-solo ending bridges the gap into sister track ‘Corvus Corona (Part 2)’ which continues with the tortured spoken verses but reaches its pinnacle at the intertwined male and female vocals.
Casting an ever greater shadow than A Forest Of Stars ever has before, A Shadowplay For Yesterdays may not be to the taste of the average metal fan, but for those with an ear for the odd it’s right up there. Be aware though, this is the kind of album where you start off thinking you’re turning the key but in reality you’re the little ballerina twirling away in A Forest Of Stars’ Victorian sideshow.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs