Forhist – Forhist Review

Sometimes, we all gotta get back to basics. When you’re Vindsval from the influential band, Blut Aus Nord, that means returning to your atmospheric black metal roots. Blut Aus Nord has always been an interesting proposition, veering wildly between the avant-garde (The Work Which Transforms God, 777 trilogy) and the traditional (The Memoria Vetusta trilogy, Hallucinogen). While I admire the boundary-pushing stuff, I have a mighty soft spot for those Memoria Vestusta albums, which I think comfortably inhabit the apex of melodic black metal. Forhist is Vindsval’s solo project, and Forhist the debut under this moniker. The promo promised a return to the “traditional,” eschewing “avant-gardism.” Despite some patchiness in recent years (Deus Saluti Meæ was particularly bland), Vindsval remains a big name in metal, so when he pops up, and the blurb promises a throwback to his strengths, we should all take notice.

Forhist is Vindsval playing the most straightforward black metal of his career since 1995’s Ultima Thulée. The album combines swirling, other-worldly guitar-work, judicious use of synthesizers, and an atmoblack aesthetic (replete with sound effects pulled straight from nature). Initially, this works a charm. “I” opens with birdsong that rapidly launches into black metal that is both beautiful and atmospheric, guided by deft tremolo work that highlights what a master the leading man is. The early parts of the album are scattered with organic, melodic highs, bringing to mind the best bits of Dialogue with the Stars. Forhist, at its best, captures what makes Blut Aus Nord such a compelling band: the ability to make music that is both gorgeous and deeply atmospheric.

 

Unfortunately, the rest of Forhist struggles to match the early highs, and is a disappointingly tepid affair. This stems predominantly from a lack of originality; the album hews too closely to much of Blut Aus Nord’s output. Vindsval is not obliged to reinvent the wheel with his band, but there needs to be something to separate it from his other project. Forhist, sadly, fails in this regard. The dynamics, the aesthetic, the atmosphere… these have all been done before on the Memoria Vetusta albums, and done better. Perhaps it was the chemistry of the band, perhaps it was a burst of creativity, perhaps things felt fresher back then. But while Blut Aus Nord felt (and feels) unique, Forhist is worn and occasionally stale, treading tropes with little attempt at providing an unusual or original perspective.

The songwriting and a strange mix also let the album down. Vindsval’s guitar swirls and swoops and generally impresses, but the songs lack the riffs to keep you coming back. Whether passages that repeat themselves until, like an over-chewed stick of gum, they become flavorless (“II”), or chords that dance around but ultimately do not progress (“IV”), the material on Forhist doesn’t support the dazzling guitar work. The mix compounds matters by relegating the vocals so far back that I had to check my headphones were still working. Atmoblack often has vocals that sound like they were recorded in another room. Forhist‘s sounds like they were recorded in another zip-code. This is clearly an artistic choice, but it makes you wonder why Vindsval didn’t simply make an instrumental album instead. Regardless, the mix is distracting rather than organic, pulling the listener out of the experience rather than immersing them in it.

Ultimately, Forhist sounds like a B-side of a cool Blut Aus Nord album. Vindsval’s tornado guitar work never feels old, but the lack of originality, the patchy songwriting, and the distracting mix render this collection disappointing. Die-hard fans will certainly find something to enjoy here, but the rest of us would be advised to simply pop on one the Memoria Vetusta albums instead. Sometimes, going back to basics is a step in the wrong direction.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Website: blutausnord.bandcamp.com/album/forhist
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

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