Thrawsunblat Thursday: Great Brunswick Forest
No tech this week; I’m just here to tell you about how Thrawsunblat really like Canada.
Like, they really like it. Enough so that they ditched the distortion and the screams in order to write an impassioned ode to the Great White North. While acoustic guitars, clean singing, and an undying love for their home country aren’t really outside their purview, hearing they were going all-in on their folk side made me a little leery (note: I wasn’t aware of their Vast Arboreal Sky EP until after I had finished writing this. Oops). My past experience with all-acoustic black metal has been, uh, less than favorable, so I approached Great Brunswick Forest with some trepidation. Trepidation that was almost entirely unwarranted, as luck would have it.
You see, Thrawsunblat are really good songwriters, and stripping away the distorted guitars and adding violin opened up the band to more intricate compositions that would be horribly muddy with any substantial amount of fuzz. Their penchant for big, rich harmonies puts them in their element here, with a variety of textures and voices at their disposal. Splashes of banjo and lightly overdriven guitar keeps the music sonically diverse, never leaning on any one “folk” instrument too hard and thus avoiding the biggest pitfall encountered by so many folk metal bands. The choice of instrument, as their choice of notes, is ever tasteful and pleasant to the ears.
To me, the most impressive part of Great Brunswick Forest is that it still sounds like a black metal album despite the lack of blast beats and shrieking. Tremolo picking abounds in both the leads and rhythm, and the combination of epic chord progressions and mid-paced rollick means the music retains the adventurous feel emblematic of Thrawsunblat’s heavier albums. The drums, while less busy and dialed back in the mix, are still of a distinct metal persuasion that drives the songs forward and keeps things exciting. Not that the instrumentals need any help in that department; clean as they tend to be, this album is nothing if not fun. Even as the song structures start to get a little repetitive towards the end, you’ll still find your head bobbing to the beat and those melodies worming their way into your ears.
The one place this album really stumbles is in the vocals. For the most part, they’re pretty solid, and fans of Blood and Sun and the like will appreciate their raw, earthy tone. However, they get a little too raw in some places; the mid to low registers are just fine, but once they get up into a higher range, they tend to waiver and fall slightly off key. This isn’t a huge issue with a solo voice, but there are a handful of sour harmonies that really grate for a couple bars.
Vocal issues aside, I was surprised at how well Thrawsunblat’s formula translated to the acoustic format. This is still a metal album through and through; it’s just delivered with a gentler touch than you’d expect. Great Brunswick Forest was clearly made with a lot of heart, and you’ll quickly find yourself caught up in the journey it takes you on. Plus, you can play it around your non-metal friends and family without making them miserable!