Tuesday, 7 December 2010

UKBMW VI: A Forest of Stars

"I do have a great admiration for the more eloquent end of vicious verbal assault"
Mister Curse, A Forest of Stars

A Forest of Stars are a truly unique proposition amongst their peers: a revolutionary, progressive, experimental gentleman steam-punk black metal band. Even their website is borne of an entirely novel way of thinking.  Where their first album, Corpse of Rebirth featured the sounds of high tea and tinkling china their new Opportunistic Thieves of Spring leaves such grounded earthly concerns in the past, blasting out into the cosmos on a psychedelic trip out into tranced rhythmic percussion and introspective passages of boundary pushing music that often leaves little trace of pure black metal in its wake; to which vocalist Mister Curse says “These days, black metal is just a term – however, I haven't lost sight or touch with the genuine, churning urge to fight back against the mediocre and weak of will. I'd say our music fits somewhere in the ethic (ha!) of black metal, though we tend to float around the periphery. We are simply, or not so simply, shall let others decide on that one, a band that makes dark music, and I'm happy to say that many influences have been stirred into our rancid little cauldron.”

This elevation above and inclusion within the base elements is something to which
Pianoforte playing percussionist for the band The Gentleman adds “My interpretation of black metal is not something pure or orthodox, its an amorphous thing that changes, shifts, moves and absorbs all influences around it, that doesn’t have boundaries. Granted, there is a certain feeling, an atmosphere that tends to unify, but black metal is such a wide spectrum, that say, Ved Buens Ende sound absolutely nothing like Sort Vokter and yet they can both be put under the same broad heading.

Broad indeed is the church of
A Forest of Stars; the scope of this band's ambition is phenomenal; the leap from the field-recording embellished blackened post-rock drone of the first to the stately enlightenment of the second is grander than that even sounds, and there is really no other band that sound like them; they exude a certain Englishness, through their Victorian outlook, and folk influences, yet also figure a heavily tribal percussive element too, if the Incredible String Band or Jethro Tull produced a black metal opus this might be what it sounded like.  

“Whether we like it or not, being English means we will always have a sort of, well, “English” feel to our work, not least because of the personalities of the people involved.” says the Gentleman. “We just write and play the music and it comes out like it does – there’s no calculating how “English” or “Eccentric” it should be, it just always seems to end up that way.”

Along with the very heavy primitive tribal element in the percussion, and a cosmic krautrock rhythm, there are distinctly English influences in the band's sound that are not included in any other countries sounds; most notably 80's new-wave and post punk, and an almost industrial P-Orridge/Whitehouse abrasive, aggressive stance to the lyric delivery. 

Curse responds “From a lyrical perspective, there is a great deal of confrontation evident in my spiel. This is simply down to the situations I have been faced with throughout my life and the ways in which I have had to deal with them. I have to call a spade a spade. Having said this, I do have a great admiration for the more eloquent end of vicious verbal assault. A little venom never hurt anyone(!)
The Gentleman picks up the tribal reference; “the percussive/tribal element comes from me having played and been involved in Arabic/Tribal/Bellydance movements, haflas and events for the last 10/12 years. As a drummer (well, not in this band anymore, but you know what I mean), I love the completely different approach to rhythm and wanted to incorporate it into what we did. Nobody objected, and so there it is. Nothing more, nothing less”

With such far flung influences, drawing conclusions as to the environmental aspect of the bands sound, yet there is still, a rural influence to be heard, but not necessarily one which specifically informs the music as explicitly as other bands. The Gentleman: “Perhaps it does, but not intentionally. At least it wasn’t meant to be intentional, but when I think about it, it probably has; after all, we do write the vast majority of the music in the Dales, with greenery of one type or another all around us. Nature is a powerful, driving force that creates and controls everything we do (and is not to be confused with The Force™), how can that not influence on one level or another? Unless, of course, you choose to deliberately ignore it, which can lead to very interesting results (see the excellent Axis of Perdition, for example).”

Curse: “Personally speaking, although it may not come across particularly in the lyrics a lot of the time, my physical environment has a tremendous effect on my general outlook and my creativity (or lack of it). Stick me in a stone circle or under a cromlech and my aura will certainly be improved greatly upon that which it would be if shoved in an inner city bus queue. I suppose I'm stating the bleeding obvious, but still... So yes, to answer your question, I would say that to my mind at least there is a great pull towards unsullied nature evident in real black metal (to use the term loosely once again). Heathen pride and all that. Never could identify with propheteering.”

From the album Opportunistic Thieves of Spring, here's the official, magickal mysterious sideshow video for Raven's Eye View (Louis Le Prince Edit).Check out the pressure drop in rhythm around 6 minutes, then the slow interstitial layers of extra percussion, instruments and melody lines which runs into a sweeping change of tempo again as choral, operatic vocals sweep in across a heaving tidal riff, sewn together with plaintive flute before it slams to a close.

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