Thursday, April 14, 2011

Forest Stream - The Crown Of Winter (2009)

Bands are formed in many ways, and for many reasons. The old fashioned view of "sex, drugs and rock & roll," while still applicable today, isn't the mantra of all. In the case of Russia's Forest Stream, the journey was long. While studying jazz as a teenager nearly ended his desire to play music, band founder Sonm found the inspiration to continue on. He was introduced to the music of Metallica, considered evil when compared to the flute and saxophone he had been forced to learn. While listening to "...And Justice For All", he thought to himself "This riff could be slower and guitars should have been tuned much lower as well!" And so, the concept of Forest Stream was born.

From the onset, it is clear that this is not a Metallica clone. The influence is barely present at all. The keyboard and symphonic elements take the fore, with the stunning "Intro (Feral Magic)," with strings layered throughout. A flawless segue into the most powerful track, "The Crown Of Winter" builds from a somewhat dainty piano, before the powerful kick drum starts the beat in motion. Delicate keys pad out the opening vocal melodies, and continue to play a lead role. Clean, almost chant-like vocals give way to first round of growling screams. The drums build to a more aggressive pace, but are always lined with the orchestral undertones.

Percussion is a strong suit for the band, with thunderous fills and rolls scattered through "Mired." The band is at their best in the middle passages, achieving a great blend of all elements, including a noticeable bass presence not felt on every track. The synthesizers return to provide an outro, making way for the headbanging, fist in the air "Bless You To Die." Black metal mastery is obvious, from the screeching vocals, to the double kicks, and on to the atmospheric keyboard. By far the heaviest track, the band do themselves a disservice by trying to incorporate clean vocals.

The tempo continues with "The Autumn Dancers," a song in which the drums simply do not stop. A chanting vocal breakdown is welcomed, creating a haunting stir. The outlook is bleak, the lyrics are dark. "The Seventh Symphony Of Satan" would be right at home on an album by Kampfar, Emperor, or Dimmu Borgir. The vocals are top notch, from black metal screeching to effects laden speech. Excellent keyboard placement helps to build a mood, both dreary and emotional.

"Beautiful Nature" begins with a call to awaken. "Good morning, just woke up" speaks an accented voice as the piano begins. A guitar whines in the background, as the song grows into a greater outburst. Sparse chunks of heaviness, mixed with an ever present keyboard solo, all topped with spoken, somber lyrics. It fades away, and leaves you where you started; orchestration, piano, and a sense of sadness. And just like that, it ends.

There is a tremendous amount of talent and creativity to be had. Forest Stream have put together an impressive collection of songs. However, use of clean vocals holds the album back at several key moments. Momentum is so important, especially in an album of this length. Growth will place a major role in where the group goes from here. The journey to this point was long, and well worth the wait.


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