Black Forest – Dream
Released 3rd March 2018
Reviewed 6th March 2018 by Korpi
To my bewilderment, I keep finding myself reviewing various power metal-esk bands of the “symphonic melodic death metal” variety, AKA those who walk a similar path as Jari Mäenpää. To that effect, enter Black Forest. Formed in 2016 this Austrian band, despite the neo-noir/retro-wave logo, could easily be written-off as a Wintersun clone; a description that is not totally inaccurate. However, lets give them the benefit of the doubt and review their 2018 debut album Dream.
According to the Black Forest’s website, we can expect the album to deliver “epic orchestration, melodic leads, heavy rhythms and harsh vocals” and “will take you on a journey of the band's vision of modern metal music that will satisfy your thirst for metal.” Perfect, they have given us a list to evaluate them on.
From the prelude, through the intro, and well into the outro we are met with a variety of real and synthetic instruments. Flute-like keyboards flutter around the soundscape, accompanied by harps, chimes, violins, and so on. The arrangements of which are reminiscent of the fantasy sound from various 1980’s bands and power metal groups in the vein of Blind Guardian and Rhapsody of Fire. “Epic orchestration”, check.
Beyond the ever present orchestration we do find the classic melodic guitars and bass. Executed very well, they perfectly fit within the style of similar bands and the overarching sound the band is attempting to capture. Compared to similar bands, they are much less memorable; but it is fairly clear this album is not about individual guitar solos or melodies, but rather its about the composition as a whole. “Melodic leads” and “heavy rhythms”, check.
Finally we reach the vocal style. Perhaps the part most reminiscent of Wintersun, it seems a good time to ask is this band essentially a Wintersun clone? I’d actually argue that they’re not. Clearly they take heavy inspiration from bands like Wintersun, but there’s some key differences that result in a very different overall tone. The muted drums, upbeat orchestrations, and very conservative use of vocals completely discard the sense of crushing death in Wintersun’s debut album; resulting in a very uplifting sound overall. While in limited commodity, the “harsh vocals” promised are there, check.
So everything they promised is there, did it satisfy my “thirst for metal”? Just what is this “band's vision of modern metal music”?From the earliest moments of this album it is clear that a synthetic sound would be dominate, resulting in an overall very sterile sound. This sterility is only made more apparent when we are first greeted by the harsh vocals that create a stark contrast. It is more reminiscent of Wintersun’s newer Forest Seasons’ sound rather than their debut which was raw and dark. Black Forest is not breaking any molds but they are are filling a void in a very popular style of music that I think other bands have failed to properly fill in recent years. The band’s essence is very modern, almost progressive, stemming from a technological world rather than the street kid depicted in Foreigner's Jukebox Hero. It’s almost not metal at all, but rather a refined merging of neo-classical metal and epic symphonic melodic death metal into something positive and uplifting. The first four tracks are more like the acts of one song rather than separate songs; something Wintersun has done with their last two albums. But at only 35minutes long, and realistically only having 4 tracks and not 7, this is actually more of an EP than an album. So while there is a clear definition of what the band is trying to do, I do not feel it satisfied my taste for “metal” in the traditional sense of what the genre is at its core. Its heart lacks any darkness and is full of warm fuzzies. However I am very happy with the final result and highly recommend it for people who like a more modern metal sound.
Overall I came into this album very skeptical due to recent disappointments by both Wintersun and Xannthochroid, the leaders of this particular style of metal; but I want to clarify that this is a very excellent release by what is definitely a band to watch. Black Forest has entered the genre with a very rich, skilled, complete, and very refined sound. While their album is very short, they did not pad it with inferior material but rather choose to make an excellent release with a comprehensive sense of direction. If the band is able to replicate this sound in a longer and less sterile sounding form, they could easily become hugely popular with the modern metal audience. Definitely worth a listen or purchase!
PS: The band has fixed a problem they had with their payment processing system, now international fans can order a physical copy from their web shop.