Dark Forest_Beyond the Veil.jpgaI wanted to get this review up much sooner but life happened, and though it’s several weeks tardy, Beyond the Veil, Dark Forest‘s fourth album, definitely deserves a spotlight shone upon it. All the more so considering we whiffed on reviewing their excellent 2014 release, The Awakening. These English chaps play folksy power metal with a butt-ton ton of traditional and NWoBHM influences, often sounding like a fusion of Iron Maiden, Falconer and Skyclad1. This proves to be a righteously winning combination and Beyond the Veil is a joyous, exuberant romp through the fields of pomp and power with enough of a metal boot print to keep things reasonably manly.

It’s fair to say there are a lot of galloping Maiden-isms dotting this particular dark forest. That isn’t a criticism though, as they blend them quite well with other influences. Big, bold opener “On the Edge of Twilight” puts all the tarot cards on the table, mixing copious portions of Maiden and Fates Warning with folksy power like Elvenking and Týr. The riffs and harmonies are classy, tasteful and engrossing and the solos are pristine and immaculate. Josh Winnard sticks to a classic power metal vocal style, but he has a warm, rich voice and uses his stratospheric high notes wisely and sparingly. The folk influence is omnipresent in the riffing and arrangements but never feels overdone as things sit comfortably between old school metal and modern power.

Songs like “Where the Arrow Falls,” “Autumn’s Crown” and “Blackthorn” all hit it out the LARP park with a slick blend of melody, technicality and energy, at times reminding me of the early (and excellent) Human Fortress albums. The latter track has some segments ripped right from The X Factor, but all the songs exude a jaunty, upbeat swagger and feature razor-sharp hooks. “Earthbound” is snappy and oh-so-Maiden-esque, and “The Undying Flame” is brimming with beautifully trilling riffs and lovely harmonies. Even the lengthy instrumental “Men-An-Tol” is a rousing yarn sure to stir the loins with its elegant and swanky fare (especially at 3:21). All this is aided by a lovely production which renders everything warm, organic and clear. This comes at the expense of grit and back hair, but that’s not what this band is about anyway.

The problem with Beyond the Veil is the excessive length. At an hour and 13 minutes, it’s far too long and by the time the Avantasia-overload of 14 minute closer, “The Lore of the Land” arrives, I have nothing left to give. This is exacerbated by songs that routinely run between 6-8 minutes when 4-5 minutes would do. “The Wild Hunt” suffers the most for its length despite some excellent moments, running close to 7 minutes yet feeling like it should be done around the 4 minute mark (known as Return of the King Syndrome by those in the industry). If this platter ended after the 9th track, it would be Album o’ the Month fodder for sure. As it stands, it’s a magical bridge too far.

Beyond the Veil is such an compelling listen because of the top-notch guitar-work of Christian Horton and Patrick Jenkins. Sure, they violate the Maiden-head at many a turn, but there’s no denying the talent they bring to their riffing and harmonizing. This album is awash with their polished noodling and they’re a joy to hear. Josh Winnard comes into his own more so than he did on The Awakening and adds another level of class and grandiosity to the proceedings as he swings between Dickinsonian bravado and Tony Kakko emo-izing. While I wish he had more of an edge to his delivery, you can’t fault his golden pipes ov steel.

This is so dangerously close to 4.0 levels, but the bloated song-lengths and overall runtime play havoc with the final product. That shouldn’t prevent anyone from seeking this out though, as it contains some of the best heavy/power metal you’ll hear in 2016. This is a band on the rise and one I expect to get a lot more press in the near future. Don’t have your metal cred destroyed like poor Dr. A.N. Grier. Get a seat on the Dark Forest wagon now so you don’t look like a front-runner later when these minstrels hit it big.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Websites: darkforest-uk.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/darkforestuk
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. In fact, that beautiful cover was done by none other than Duncan Storr, whose work graced the Skyclad album covers
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  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Such a great album. I love this thing.

    • Like you love Linkin Park?

      • Reese Burns

        Don’t say things you can’t take back…

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Love it like a love song, baby?

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Well, obviously not. Linkin Park is unfuckwithable.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          I just down-voted a comment for the first time in my life I am so sorry

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Ouch…

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Unfuckwithable because one is repulsed to fuck with it, right? RIGHT?

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Ok, you got me. I can’t seriously defend that statement. I blame them for ruining Transformers.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        C’mon, now, that’s uncalled for!

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          See what I have to put up with here??

  • Dethjesta

    Wow. When I sat down to read the lunch time (GMT) AMG review today, I was in a melancholic mood; life stresses getting the best of me. I kinda wanted some doom or other depressive metal to reflect my sombre mood.

    But instead, I’m delighted to say, I’ve been introduced to this little gem and my stresses seem further away. Thanks Druhm, this is exactly what I needed today (I’m glad this review got delayed). shame it outstays it’s welcome a little, but I’ll worry about that later (about the 45 min mark).

  • Huck N’ Roll

    I’m disappointed in the lack of knee-high calfskin boots in the band photo.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      At least there is a calfskin vest (which for some reason I think is borrowed) and THREE laced neck shirts!

      • A round of mutton and mead for everybody! Huzzah!

      • herrschobel

        lol—-yah it looks sooooo borrowed—

    • Innit Bartender

      Now the guy who took the photo: did he bring his own ladder or did he climb up a tree?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        He absolutely climbed up a tree. The only prop they brought for the shoot was the borrowed calfskin vest.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Cool cover. Cool song. Power metal. Good review from Steel Druhm. I’m there. Iam SO there!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I don’t know. The opening of the first track had my back hairs singing. And, hey! Looks like the cover art’s by the same dude or dudette that did the art for Scale the Summit’s The Migration.

  • AngryMetalBird

    A great album! I totally enjoy this, even more so in these days of mediocrity

  • Lord Lucan

    I like the artwork. Nothing quite enhances a nice walk in the countryside like sucking down a fat tab of LSD.

  • Excentric_13073

    Cool. Tolkein-Core!

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Really happy to see that you avoided the “hey, this sounds nothing like the last Dark Forest album” joke that’s made in pretty much every review and thread about these guys. Both the power metal and black metal versions of Dark Forest are great though, and I keep forgetting to check this album out, so this serves as a good reminder to do so. Great review!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I didn’t know there where two Dark Forests.

      • Grymm

        I didn’t either. Which means…

        *draws battle axe*

        BATTLE TO THE DEATH!!!

        • Eldritch Elitist

          Dark Forest (CAN) would end the fight before it even began. “Hey friends, sorry for causin’ such a disturbance with this here naming situation. No hard feelings, eh?”

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I was going to make a joke about how the Black Metal Dark Forest was located South Of Heaven and the Heavy Metal Dark Forest somewhere else but couldn’t come up for any witty location for the Heavy Metal Dark Forest…

          • [not a Dr]

            North of 50? Magnetic North?

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I was going to say “North From Here” but then I wasn’t sure many would get the reference.

  • What? “Dark Forest” and it’s not a black metal band. Fail!

    In all seriousness, I would add this to the article:

    https://darkforest-uk.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-veil

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Same record label as Darkest Era and Atlantean Kodex….can t be bad

    • Nope. Wrong label. Nvm.

  • Thraeg

    This came out of nowhere to be my easy ROTM for August. I’ve probably listened to it a dozen times since it came out, and just can’t get enough of it.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I saw the cover and thought “Skyclad”… Doubt cleared when I read the footnote taht says it was made by the same artist.

  • Adjudant

    Wow! ROTM for me

  • GardensTale

    Solid stuff, but the embedded track already tested my patience by the 5 minute mark. You’re right on the mark about the bloat in the songs. It doesn’t grab me enough to listen to over 70 minutes of this. Did the last one have the same problem?

    • Not to the same degree. The Awakening is much shorter but some songs are still a bit bloated.

  • Macleod

    One track at the end of Beyond the Veil has a melody almost absurdly similar to the final track on ‘the Final Frontier’, When the Wild Wind Blows. Harris would never sue, luckily. Watch it guys – or was it what they call homage? Otherwise, I think this is a great band.