ASTRAL WINTER – Forest of Silence
The Australian black metal outfit Astral Winter is back with yet another epic album filled to the brim with grandiose melodies and sweeping atmospheres. This third full-length assault is even more symphonic and grand in scope than its two predecessors, but such is musical evolution, I suppose. After all, the two previous outputs kind of hinted at greater and more majestic things to come and I guess "Forest of Silence" is the natural culmination, or product, if you will, of the past five or six years of exploring the field of melodic black metal. "Winter Enthroned" and "Perdition" were good albums, but "Forest of Silence" combines the best parts of those two and adds a third layer to the musical universe spawned by main man Josh Young.
"Forest of Silence" is not one of those run-of-the-mill symphonic metal releases that goes nowhere fast. Truth be told, I was neither blown away nor spellbound the few first times that I immersed myself in this hour-long piece of work, but I could tell that there was something there, some undefinable quality of sorts, and I was not wrong. The music is not as straightforward as one might be led to believe. There are lots of subtle nuances and wicked twists and turns throughout that one picks up on the more one listens to the album. The vocals are suitably varied and compliment the music nicely while the keyboards and guitars are nicely entwined with an emotional charge and pathos. Also, the guitars never undermine the keyboards or vice versa. The emphasis merely shifts from one instrument to the other and then back again, if that makes sense. The bass could have been louder in the mix, though. That would have provided the album with a more forceful and punchy sound, but on the other hand, one could argue that the cold and wintry mood of the album benefits from the lack of rumbling bass parts. That is a matter of opinion and preference, I reckon. The fact that I even brought it up is quite pathetic given that it is a rather minor detail in the overall perspective.
As to the lyrics, they strike me as being just as important as the music. The words are vital if one wishes to grasp the theme and motif of the album in the sense that we are dealing with the sublime and different aspects thereof. Of course, the sublime connotes different things to different people, but in this case I am referring to the never-ending struggle between the fragile existence of mortal men and the rapturous splendor and unfathomable power of nature. That eternal dichotomy between the two never ceases to fascinate me. Mr. Young, if I am getting all of this wrong and are way the fuck out here, please let me know!
"Forest of Silence" is a solid and atmospheric black metal release that reeks of withering illusions, storms of destruction, frozen seas, and endless cycles of life and death. Thematizing and discussing man’s inability to comprehend the crushing force of that which is infinite, namely nature, by means of music and lyrics never gets old. Try listening to this melancholic affair on a dark and seemingly ceaseless winter’s night and I guarantee you that "Forest of Silence" will seem like an inviting musical journey. Given that the album is soaked in keyboards, it might be too much for some and come across as somewhat overblown or even downright cheesy in places (depending on how kvlt you are!), but If you are in the right frame of mind when listening to these seven long compositions and dig those icy musical spheres, it will move you. Trust me on that. It lacks those truly chilling and otherworldly moments that make the hair on your arms stand up, but, like I said, it is solid and interesting from start to finish as well as moving, so check it out sometime.