A Forest of Stars – A Shadowplay For Yesterdays

Having been a music critic for many years now, I can look back and think of countless times when I have crucified decent, but stylistically redundant bands for not being original, or creative enough. Like my unimpressed facial expression and stubborn/arms folded in front of me shield of judgement means anything outside of my little world, but when one is faced with countless bands that tend to ape a sound handed down by their musical influences, one tends to be overrun and dragged down by reanimated riffs and predictable presentation. But what does one do when the pendulum swings in favor of complete artistic freedom? Does one eat their crow while being taken aback and a bit turned off by the pure creativity devoid of inhibitions? Serve me up that dirty bird deep fried with a side of slaw if you would…
With “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” being my first experience with England’s A Forest of Stars, I guess my initial reaction was complete befuddlement. I had no expectations going into it, so I was instantly impressed with the bands theatrical grand scope when it comes to fearlessly combining black metal, prog, neofolk and an obvious pension for the overly dramatic. Did I like this open minded, multicultural, multi-genre absorbing take on the arts? Not exactly. It has taken several heated listens to peel back the layers in an attempt to find that thread of atmosphere and sorrow that I tend to gravitate towards when it comes to black influenced metal. “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” is set up in what feels like the “acts” of a play with a budget behind it. Professional actors/performers who live for the theater, pouring their souls into every scripted word, dance and tragedy, acting out their desires and passion in front of a captivated crowd. Such flamboyant images put to music generally strike me as pretentious and geared more towards the few highbrow metal connoisseurs out there sitting in their basements in frilly greek sailors shirts while sipping red wine, but this bands delivery, overall attention to detail and mighty songcrafting skills began to chip away at my uncertainty by the time I made it through this album 3 times. Electronics, fiddle, various cultural percussion styles, both male and female pitch and harsh vocals, clean and gritty guitars… the dynamics commanded by AFOS are quite impressive and at times dare I say “otherwordly”. The story they are portraying with this music is indeed twisted and sometimes hard to stomach. When the black metal hackles rise, speed and a vocal ferocity borrows from decades of BM musical building blocks, but never sounds like any band in particular, giving A Forest of Stars their own identity. Tracks like “The Underside of Eden” and “A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh” settle in a heavy groove/flow that washes over the listener with a fresh movement and memorable hooks that do come away with you after the album ends. This was the connection I needed to fight to obtain with this band. That one song or 2 that felt somewhat comfortable, or attempting to be “normal” enough to make me want to investigate further. Of course AFOS expand upon the themes with a depressive violin line here, morose singing and an accordion there as found buried in the Pink Floyd theatrics of “Gatherer of the Pure”, to hurl the feel of “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays” under the bigtop in much the same way that “The Wall” portrayed a bad acid trip at the circus. The melodies/harmonies are always smart and every twist that contorts out of this whirling dervish of an album seems mathematically planned. Exhausting. Confusing. Bizarre. But planned.
So getting back to my initial thought of what makes a band worth your time…. “good” uninspired, or over the top original? Really, both can be a bad thing when looking to spend time with an album. Even though the wall of art that A Forest of Stars fearlessly constructs and maintains with their borderline schizophrenic songs was tough for me to scale, I have invested the time and truly want to see what lurks on the other side. This to me is the sign of a good album. The more you spin it, the deeper the connection, or realization of the artists intentions. I can’t say that I love “A Shadowplay For Yesterdays”, nor will I want to listen to this album often, but every time I do, I will be entertained, amazed, and one step closer to getting it. The band describes themselves as “the decadent Victorian Gentleman’s Club”… that description really hits the nail right on the head. -Marty
Prophecy Productions

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~ by martyworm on September 30, 2012.

4 Responses to “A Forest of Stars – A Shadowplay For Yesterdays”

  1. First time I have hit your site. It is nice to see that a critic actually values creativity and creativity and innovation. Most put it low on the totem pole, and it fucking drives me crazy. I have encountered the first two AFOS albums prior to this, so I wasn’t surprised, and instead bought it quickly and think it is a masterpiece. FYI, I don’t have a basement, and neither fit the M.O. you suggested (as funny as it was). This band is brave and has conviction. That is to be immensely admired. Most bands that brave a new sound and direction end up failing. This was a success! They seem to have a fine aesthetic!

  2. Agreed! AFoS indeed are quite brave and have a definite idea of what they are/where they are going. Thank you for taking the time to investigate the site. We will be updating every week or 2, so stay tuned!

  3. I haven’t heard this yet but I liked their last album quite a lot. Usually I don’t place much stock in packaging but their last album was nice to look at from a visual aesthetic as well. Any way, I enjoyed this review and look forward to investigating this site a bit more.

  4. Thanks Angel Cat for taking the time to stop by and we hope you enjoy your stay. We update every Tuesday. Hope to see you on here even more.

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