Whereas chaos often turns people away, it was the musical maelstrom of “Precipice Pirouette”, captivated yours truly. The raging vocals of singer Mister Curse, reminiscent of a disturbed man, trying to tell his tale of the nightmare he lived through in obscure, yet oddly Victorian other dimension, combined with pummeling drums, a folkish layer added with string quartet, were enough to get lured into ‘Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes‘, of avant-garde black metal band A Forest of Stars (AFoS).
Hailing from Leeds, the band has been crafting otherwordly stories since 2007 and ‘Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes’ is the fifth chapter in their sinister book. In storytelling terms, A Forest of Stars are not the first with a novellistic approach to black/extreme metal. The Great Old Ones, with ‘EOD – A Tale Of Dark Legacy ‘ (2017) were inspired by the horrors of Lovecraft. One could even argue that it started somewhere with groups being inspired by fantasy books like Lord of the Rings (Summoning). There are naturally more metal acts out there to include if you were creating a branch in the Heavy Metal Family Tree, but that is not the point here (I digress, thank you Banger TV) .
Songs like “Children of the Night Soil,” lean on chaos in a more straightforward black metal fashion, rather than tension builiding, extreme metal hybrids you’ve heard before. The speed is dictated by indistuigishable riffs and that good old blastbeat. It’s about as heavy as the record gets, without losing the earlier built character with the other instruments. Fast and furious, nothing to dislike here.
Almost at odds are tunes like “Tombward Bound”, and “Taken by the Sea,”. Both songs create a moment of rest in the turmoil. The emphasis lies heavily on the crystal clear vocals of Katheryine, Queen of Ghosts and they are carried by the soothing sounds of strings and a piano. Especially “Taken by the Sea,” opens up a different sonic pallette near the end, and turns into a smooth, almost folk rock like ballad, attesting that A Forest of Stars of capable of a lot more than firing away riffs and screams. Even though I wouldn’t describe these tracks as anything other than lovely and fascinating, they are the only thing I tend to skip while listening to ‘Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes’. It is of course a pure personal preference, but it was mainly the ravishing madness that attracted me to the album (editorial note: admittedly, “Taken by the Sea” has started to grow on me).
A not too overtly (musical) connection can be found between “Taken by the Sea” and “Scripturally Transmitted Disease,” and album closer “Decomposing Deity Dance Hall”, building on “Precipice Pirouette”. “Decomposing Deity Dance Hall,” sounds more controlled and groovier, opening up room for (fitting) experimentation. During the last minutes, the tempo pick ups again, giving a wholesome atmosphere to this record that ultimately fades off with the spookiest keys you’ve heard so far.
Combining folk, black metal passages, and psychedelic aspects, ‘Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes’ is extremely dynamic. All these diverse elements are interwoven in an excellent manner, and seen in its entirety, Grave Mounds never loses focus. It is however the type of album that needs time to settle, before it can be fully appreciated. Give it that time and you’ll hear that it’s a gem.
Words by Laetitia
Release date: September 28, 2018
Label: Prophecy Records/Lupus Lounge
1. Persistence Is All – 01:41
2. Precipice Pirouette – 10:19
3. Tombward Bound – 09:53
4. Premature Invocation – 07:31
5. Children of the Night Soil – 06:39
6. Taken by the Sea – 08:07
7. Scripturally Transmitted Disease- 10:59
8. Decomposing Deity Dance Hall – 08:57