My nerdiness allows me this moment of enthusiasm. As one with a great interest in both the Victorians and theatricality in music I have been eager to check out A Forest of Stars for a long time. I had plenty of opportunities to buy their albums when they were released by Transcendental Creations (The Corpse of Rebirth in 2008 and Opportunistic Thieves of Spring in 2010); but for whatever reason I abstained. Lucky for me, these albums are getting the Prophecy treatment this year with the intent to make them more available to European audiences (May 23, 2011), and in a roundabout way that makes them more available to us greedy Americans...
A Forest Of Stars aptly describe themselves as a “musical attempt to merge the atmosphere and majesty of space with a suffocating darkness and a haunting, ghost-like quality,” which actually sums it up rather well. They understand that the Victorian age was marked by extreme contrasts and opposites (for instance, extreme sexual prudence and rampant child prostitution) and new attempts to experience spirituality outside of organized religion. This last point resulted in what might be called the first “New Age” movement. Coupled with Romantic exoticism it led to all kinds of ghostly rituals and gatherings involving wormwood and opiates. This is essentially the framework for the concept behind A Forest of Stars.
Bouncing fluidly from the bazaar to the séance, Opportunistic Thieves of Spring is full of varying moods welded into a full length devoid of dull moments. “Summertide’s Approach” for instance begins with a lighthearted fiddle and piano ditty, gets dark and ends in a majestic trance—all quite naturally. “Delay’s Progression” throws in some vocoder to excellent effect. And “Raven’s Eye View” shows the unique melodic sensibilities of the band and their ability to write a good hook—in this case a very blackened riff given over to the woodwinds. All of this, of course, for the purpose of capturing that flavor of the exotic and supernatural from a late nineteenth century perspective.
I’m not sure if the “psychedelic” label works for A Forest of Stars, at least not as I understand it. It feels to me like more thought went into the creation of the music of Opportunistic Thieves of Spring than might be expended on the typical “jam” music I tend to think of as being “psychedelic.” Eerie bells, cosmic keys, expressive strings and woodwinds, and atmospheric production (not too clean, not too lo-fi, just enough wash to make it sound big) are all used with calculation and taste. Even the noisy ambient bits such as the one that opens the first track, “Sorrow’s Impetus,” lasts only as long as it should to add color to the song. For this reason even where there might be improvisation each lengthy track feels composed.
One of the more original bands in the modern black metal scene, A Forest of Stars melds a unique fantasy and image with a dense, supernatural sound entirely their own. If, like me, you find the label “psychedelic” a bit off-putting, rest assured it does no justice to this band. Rooted in black metal, but so much more, A Forest of Stars’ Opportunistic Thieves of Spring is an album for stormy summer days... and perhaps a cup of tea.
-Bryan A. Wysopal