“What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” – This perfectly describes the Steam-punk sound achieved on the psychedelic black metal flavored Shadowplay for Yesterdays. Throw on your best pair of goggles and step back into 1891, cut through the Opium and Absinthe haze, occult ceremonies and séances, and claim your membership to the English Victorian brotherhood, to the grandiose and the illustrious, to The Gentleman’s Club of A Forest of Stars. The first person you’ll meet is the garrulous Mister Curse, a man of excess, beware as he attacks your senses with his trademark crying, spitting, wailing, barking, manic, ranting! Beside breaking the rules by letting a madman run the asylum [I mean Gentleman’s Club of course], this unorthodox club also includes [gasp] a woman, Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts (ex My Dying Bride) tasked with female vocals, violin and flute and so along with The Resurrectionist on drums and percussion, The Gentleman on keys, Mr Titus Lungbutter on bass and Henry Hyde Bronsdon and Sir Gastrix Grimshaw on guitar you’re all set to go adventuring with UK-based A Forest of Stars.
A Forest of Stars breathes new life into what’s been showing signs of becoming a stagnant genre and all it took was throwing in time signatures that shift and change like a kaleidoscope, adding whimsical, surreal, bordering on hallucinogenic instrumental solos and not being afraid of occasionally losing the trem and blast beat face of black metal. Mid-paced offerings like “Prey Tell of the Church Fate”, “A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh” and “The Underside of Eden” showcase all these aspects. But just when you start to get complacent, you’re hit with tracks like “Directionless Resurrectionist”, “Blight of God’s Acre” and “Gatherer of the Pure” and it’s in these tracks that Mister Curse kicks things up a notch, bringing to the party his own special brand of lunacy, over-the-top almost carny vocals. Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts is a crucial aspect to the success of this album, she perfectly complements Mister Curse vocally and through her flawless violin playing that never strays into that overdone, cheesy range (check out “Corvus Corona, Pt II”) and she adds an understated, simple beauty to his lunacy. Her crowning vocalist moment on the album is the funeral paced, mesmerizing “Dead Love” – if it doesn’t leave you standing perilously close to the edge of that precipice, you’ve got a heart of stone!
Vocally, lyrically and instrumentally this album fits together and has a great flow and I have nothing to throw at it in as far as complaints go. As their third album, Shadowplay for Yesterdays showcases a band that’s not afraid to think outside the very rigid confines of the black metal box, and I’m pleased to see that they’ve grown progressively more adventurous with each release. I’ll definitely be returning to this album often and await their next release.
Tracks to check: “Gatherer of the Pure”, “Left Behind as Static” and “Dead Love”.