You Forgot About Forgotten Woods, Didn’t You?
Then again, it is difficult to forget about a band when you never knew they existed in the first place.
There may be some among you (Karhu, probably) who know a little something about Forgotten Woods–or at least have heard the name. Or not. I don’t know. I don’t know much of anything.
The deal is that this Norwegian black metal band has existed since 1991, and they may very well be the least popular Norwegian black metal band in existence. Why? Perhaps because they’ve only released three full-length albums on obscure labels in their long, hiatus-like existence. Or perhaps because they were so focused on making art for themselves (albeit very, very slowly) that they never gave a toss about getting their name out there. And although the tunes churned out by these lethargic misanthropes are anything but synonymous with the classic Norwegian black metal sound, I daresay their obscurity cannot be the result of making awful music.
Then again, this is me talking–so that last sentence might be a bit of a stretch. I tend to like black metal most when it strays from the rigid genre template with irreverence bordering on obliviousness. And oh boy, do Forgotten Woods stray. While listening to anything they’ve recorded–especially the earlier works–you can’t help but suspect that they began playing black metal coincidentally, unaware of the hype-storm that raged elsewhere in their homeland.
On that note, I bring you The Curse of Mankind. Or, rather, Italian label ATMF brings you The Curse of Mankind. This is a reissue of the band’s second full length album, originally recorded in 1996. An album that others have found so weird they’ve wondered if it was just a joke. I don’t quite find it that weird. But maybe I would if I was the kind of person who spent most of high school listening to Mayhem in his room. Except for a few explosions of brutality, this thing is almost entirely mid-paced, so even of keel that it kind of sounds like a proto-black’n’roll album executed by a bunch of kids on a heavy dose of mood stabilizers. They never get quite angry enough to match the fury that had made black metal so popular; nor do they ever get morose enough to plummet to the level of DSBM. There are tinges of folk, but these moments are far more subdued than the folk-isms of their compatriots. The long, meandering compositions remind me of early Fleurety; the pitch of the vocals and clarity of musicianship bring to mind early In the Woods… The imperturbable, almost jangly strumming of the lightly distorted guitar is reminiscent of…certain sounds that would crop up in Sweden much later, in bands like Hypothermia and Lifelover.
It would be unscrupulous to claim that a band as willfully obscure as Forgotten Woods became an inspiration for other bands–to say nothing of entire microgenres. What I can say without endangering my scruples is that Forgotten Woods had tuned into new ways of playing with the black metal formula long before other bands who bear a resemblance to them. If they’d ever bothered to promote themselves, perhaps they would be able to claim some manner of WE DID IT FIRST cult status now. As it stands, all we have are these ATMF reissues (more on the way), to which we can listen while wondering what in the fuck these kids were smoking.
The digipack reissue of The Curse of Mankind, limited to 500 copies, was released January 8, 2018.