Review: A Forest of Stars – Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes

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Father hadn’t been the same since Lizbeth died. He stayed shut up in his study, endlessly staring into the photograph of her corpse sitting on his lap, her blank eyes left open. I had offered to take him to a séance, to put an end to it all. He threw his tea to the ground, screaming that spiritualism was not for decent folk to dabble in, filthy and rotten as it was. Tonight I took matters into my own hands. Mssrs. Kettleburner and Lungbutter sat across from me as we turned the gas lights low, lighting candles around the room before we joined hands around the table.

A rumble tore through the streets outside, fire soaring up into the darkened sky. The gas lamps flickered and died as the window shattered and wind ripped through the room. I saw them all. I saw sweet Lizbeth. As I began to beg her to give father closure, the man himself burst through the door. His hair hung over his face in oily strands and his collar had dug into the sides of his neck until they bled. With shaking hands he ran up to Mssr. Kettleburner, pushed him against the wall by his collar, and screamed:

I hadn’t heard of A Forest of Stars until I had received this promo and I have to say I’m glad I know of them now. Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes was one of the best introductions to the band I could have gotten. Bleak and theatrical black metal, with a great mix of experimental and classical influence.

Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes opens extremely strong with an atmospheric, slightly folky intro that leads straight into the frenetic and frantically crazed “Precipice Pirouette,” which remains strong throughout as it moves through several different sections. The pleading, hopeless tone of vocalist Mister Curse only adds to the bleak weight of the song and the album overall.

“Tombward Bound” has the feeling of a crazed gloomy ’80s dark pop ballad as Mister Curse’s crazed rambling stomps over the somber plodding synths and female vocal lines. “Premature Invocation” has great atmosphere and a great black metal backbone, and some of the best use of dynamic buildup and contrast I’ve seen in metal for a while. While I do like Mister Curse’s vocals on the album overall, it is on this song that his theatric rambling begins to feel a little one-note. No time to dwell on that too much, though because the moment you begin to notice, “Children of the Night Soil” hits you and it rips hard. This is the most black metal-based tune so far and it also features an expanded vocal toolbox, as growls are layered underneath Mister Curse’s pleading howls.

You get a bit of a breather on “Taken by the Sea,” a gothy dark pop ballad featuring the vocal stylings of Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts, who also takes up flute and violin duty for the band. “Scriptually Transmitted Disease” ramps things up after that gloomy breath of air and Mister Curse is more crazed than ever as his yells break into throaty growling. You can practically hear the spittle hit the microphone as he loses his mind.

Unfortunately things are coming to an end, with “Decomposing Deity Dancehall” marking the final track of this lengthy record. The juxtaposition of violin and acoustic guitar strumming against the electronic instruments as Mister Curse harangues you give me some fairly strong Vampillia vibes and the mix of vintage-sounding synths, acoustic folk, and roaring experimental black metal make for one hell of an album closer.

Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes is just as bleak and hopeless as it should be with a name like that, and with its themes of death, loss, and inevitability. And their chosen style of playing experimental black metal while a Victorian-era British aristocrat yells angrily at you just works. Where other bands with these themes would have slowed down to a defeated crawl, an approach that works great in its own right, A Forest of Stars have decided to explore the more frantic side of hopelessness, which lead to an interesting and frenetic album that left me wanting more when it ended—which isn’t that easy to do on an album with over an hour of play time.

4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes is out September 28th through Prophecy Productions.

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