Dark Forest (Canada) – Aurora Borealis

‘Dazzling’ would be a good word to describe this. ‘Aurora Borealis’ is home to some of the most beautiful moments in heavy metal; granted, there are only a few, but those few are absolutely stunning. Halfway through ‘Wind And Waves’ is a section of clean vocals which unite with the riffing, keys, and drums in the sort of way that makes a song like ‘One Rode To Asa Bay’ so awe-inspiring. The majority of the music is certainly good, but there are moments so sublime as to dwarf everything else on this disc. Dark Forest’s 2005 demo was a good if somewhat unremarkable piece of work, but this album is miles beyond anything one could have dreamed upon hearing that little CDr.

This album really is the perfect synthesis of black, folk, and viking metal. Sections move into each other seamlessly and luxuriously, always thriving with lush instrumentation and delivery. The music here is overwhelmingly melodic and clearly very influenced by Enslaved, though the material on ‘Aurora Borealis’ is a bit more traditional in nature; almost power metal styled at times, such as with the tinkling keyboards on ‘Thurisaz’. There is a beautiful richness to Dark Forest’s music on this release, as though you were hearing the very essence of the forest on the album art. There are some truly marvelous tracks on this LP; ‘Wind And Waves’ is an early stunner, but then comes ‘Under The Northern Fullmoon’, a reprisal from the previous demo which benefits enormously from the more straightforward production. Most of the music on this album languishes in a rolling midpace, allowing the band to explore every aspect of this organic, frozen atmosphere they craft so beautifully.

The flowing viking melodies of this album are genuinely engaging and never become boring, and are spiced up with just enough blasting and aggression to provide a substantial level of variation. Every instrument is played very capably, but more importantly, each is played with a sense of style which dovetails beautifully with the songwriting. It’s forceful, natural, and organic, and none of the material here seems relentlessly click-tracked or engineered. Similarly, the songwriting is very natural; what it lacks in surprises and twists it makes up for in consistently memorable and well-crafted melodies. This is a very easy to listen to and pleasant album all the way through. It does slump in some of the protracted folk/ambient sections; they could likely have been cut from the album without affecting the overall presentation, but there is more than enough excellent metal to be worth your time.

To all those who enjoy melodic, epic metal, ‘Aurora Borealis’ is most certainly an album to get. This Bleak Art re-release features the tracks from the long out of print 2005 demo as well, so there truly is no reason to not give this a go and hear all of Dark Forest’s material to date in one fell swoop. It is black metal without being raw, folk metal without being cheesy, and viking metal without a lack of variation; in short, it is the best of all worlds in a single CD. Most certainly worth your time.

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~ by noktorn on December 20, 2007.

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