Spirit of the Forest, hailing from Quebec, are a band I had never heard of before, and based solely on their album cover you’d expect a very samey atmospheric black metal band with some pagan influence. Which in many ways is what they deliver, though personally I think they do it much better than most, following in the footsteps of bands such as Emperor, Windir, Falkenbach and Dissection.
A Void in the Fields of Silence:
The intro track “Into the Deep” brings an atmospheric folk metal/epic feel to set the scene for the rest of the album. Which is immediately crushed with the black metal riff driving into the immense body of “Crossroads”. The main thing that grabs my attention with this track is the catchy repetitive tremolo picking and almost Emperor like feeling. The slow paced drums and atmosphere created in the first track delivers something different to most atmospheric black/blackened folk metal bands who follow the same theme. A small folk interlude kicks in to create an amazing feeling, leading back into the body of the song. A spoken word part creates ambience towards the end of the song, followed shortly by a melodic solo fading out into the intro of the next track “Hidden Castle”.
The melodic intro is swiftly accompanied by some much heavier guitar work with the characteristic drumming continuing from the previous song. Harsh vocals come in joined with the melody to create an all in all epic sounding black metal track. The melodies continue throughout the track, and again spoken word is used to create great atmosphere. One thing in particular I like about this part is the switching between spoken word and harsh vocals. The song builds towards a slight breakdown riff which is still accompanied by melody, before returning to the verse and tremolo motif. The drums have picked up pace a lot and this creates a typical black metal feeling, however the speaking and melody takes it one step further towards being something different. The length of this track adds to the overall epic feeling it delivers throughout, easy to say this is my favourite track thus far.
The next track “Enter the Fields of Silence” is opened with some beautiful acoustic guitar setting a folk theme again, which similar to the first track, is crushed with the black metal guitar and vocal work along with the melodies. The characteristic riffs are continued to a point where a tempo change sets a new theme for the song. The vocals grow slightly heavier in sound and the melody continues creating a sound I find difficult not to nod along to. The song picks up speed again with triplets and then returns to a very blackened verse, followed by a melodic solo leading to the combination of harsh and spoken outro which fades into the next track.
“The Dark Era” opens with another folky intro which is much heavier than the other intros to this point. The song carries on the catchy and typical feeling the album creates but whilst in this track loses the tremolo style of the melody, replaced with a softer kind of melody and the rhythm lends itself to a more aggressive tone overall. The melody is picked up again later in the song with some more spoken lyrics. This is followed by a chuggy verse, which swiftly ends with yet more melody kicks in, drifting into some faster parts and back to the melody. The song then continues its typical feel towards an amazing folk fill containing a flute accompanied with an acoustic guitar, and back to chuggy guitar and harsh/spoken word vocal the album carries throughout. The speed again picks up leading towards the end of the track, with the flute fading in and out leading into a solo fill which is quickly (and disappointingly) cut short – the end of the track, and the end of the English half of the album.
La Nature Oubliée:
Onto the French half of the album, “La Nuit-Forêt” opens with a slow paced atmospheric black metal riff, accompanied with typical drumming and the typical vocal style. Joined shortly by the melodic guitar characteristic of the album which continues throughout. Midway through the song comes a short melodic interlude accompanied very briefly with a piano; a theme I would personally have enjoyed to hear for a little longer, before it returns to the characteristic style of the rest of the album. Towards the end there is a very out of place transition, which I think would have been much better left out (or at least lead into better), to create an acoustic outro for the song. This track feels much less interesting and not as well written as the previous five in my opinion.
“Pulsions Bestiales” opens with a much faster pace than the other tracks, with aggressive tremolo picked guitar accompanied with blast beats and the characteristic tremolo picked melodies coming and going over the top. This is maintained throughout the first half of the song, then it slows significantly to a melody with some interesting drumming. It then picks up a very folky feeling with an upbeat melody and a chant of “Hey Hey” over the top for a short while. The track then heads back to the typical melodic black metal sound the band pull off very well and is ended with an abrupt scream. This I found much more enjoyable than the previous track.
“L’Éveil du Guerrier” is opened with a gloomy feeling incorporating fading in acoustic guitar and violins, which is much different than the previous intros from this album. The electric guitar and typical drumming take over swiftly and speed picks up with the tremolo melody kicking in pretty fast. Then progresses towards a slow paced melodic part partnered nicely with harsh vocals. The progression to a fast pace follows shortly after whilst the melody is still maintained. This continues for a verse and is then replaced with clean guitar and some very melodic accompaniment from another guitar. The distortion kicks in again swiftly and the melody continues, with the distortion fading out after a short while and one guitar continues to play a pretty sounding outro.
“Tempêtes de Neige” kicks off with a fast pace, some typical black metal guitar and vocal. Eventually this slows a little into some chuggy guitar alongside some much slower chord progression. The track picks up again quickly and the harsh vocals are maintained throughout. About half way through the track the almost spoken word vocals return with a slightly raspier tone, which is a characteristic I am very glad to hear continued in the album with it being absent for the past few tracks. The melodic guitar returns shortly after with the harsh vocals kicking in, followed with the chuggy guitar heard earlier in the track and some further melodies following. The song returns to some typical guitar, drum and vocal work accompanied with further tremolo guitar playing a melody over the top. The melody continues to play with a very Ex-Deo sounding shout and the pace immediately picks up to the typical fast paced melodic black metal feel this album carries so well.
The final track “Illumination” begins with a slow pace and some harsh vocals accompanied with melodies. The characteristic speaking word takes over shortly and the speed picks up a little, returning to harsh vocals. A flute joins the melodic guitar and song has a much more folky feel overall so far. This leads into a rather progressive rhythm taking place under the melody that continues on top. The melodic guitars accompany each other beautifully throughout the next part and one leads into some more chugging whilst the other maintains the melody. The second guitar rejoins the melodic guitar and then again heads into the heavier characteristic sound the album holds. The melody continues further and fades into some acoustic guitar (Another transition that in my opinion could have been done better) accompanied by some clean chants. The typical guitar and an interesting choice of drumming kicks in quickly, joined by a final harsh chant, returning the song to the characteristic sound of before, where the melody joins again. The acoustic guitar is brought back in not long after and creates a really nice atmosphere under the heavier guitar. A scream kicks off what I had anticipated to be a return to the characteristic of the earlier part of the track, but in fact is abruptly taken over by a flute which is shortly replaced with an acoustic guitar. The accompaniment of a second melodic acoustic creates a beautiful feeling within the song and the length of this track surely lends to the atmosphere created in it. However some of the transitions in this song come across as somewhat jarring and this, unfortunately means that parts (such as the flute) do not hold the full potential that they are capable of. Transitions aside, this works towards the outro of the song and therefore the end of an overall exceptional album.
As a whole, looking at the album art and logo I had expected just another blackened folk metal album, but this is certainly not an album to be overlooked at all. The characteristic feeling of a blackened folk metal album is there but the accompaniment of the melodies and folk instruments, even the subtle use of symphonic parts in some areas lend the whole album to feel slightly more epic overall, almost like it was released far before it’s time.
There are some areas of the album (primarily transitions) which I feel could be improved, but given the style of the album I think that the overall sound produced is structured in a way that the band may well have intended, to create feeling and diversity within the tracks. I don’t think the minor flaws in the album are enough to bring down how powerful it is overall and I definitely look forward to hearing what is to come from Spirit of the Forest in the future!