Summer: blah. Rampant blinding sunlight, not a dead tree to be found, and everywhere I go is plagued by incessant seasonal euphoria… I hate it, yo. Without autumn’s dying beauty or the melancholic jubilation of winter nights, I find little to sustain the part of me that feeds on natural darkness and am forced to hunt down anything that’ll let me at least hear that which I cannot presently see or feel. Enter Suicide Forest. With a name and album artwork like that, this Arizonan act was basically flipping off that pesky summer joy with one hand while frantically beckoning me home with the other. Would this lead me to the cold that I came to find, or was running headlong towards Suicide Forest about as advisable as it sounds? I’ll tell you, but only if we can talk inside, away from the sunlight and (shudders) butterflies.
If you haven’t guessed what kind of metal we’re dealing with yet,
leave allow me to clarify: Suicide Forest is a Cascadian DSBM offering, a collection of frozen soundscapes and rasping negativity — basically just what the doctor ordered1. For just under 50 minutes, one-man army ov anguish A. Kruger walks us through a dark, musical woodland, one haunted by the ghosts of Agalloch, Burzum, and Shining. Somewhat unsurprisingly, there’s a decidedly derivative feel to many of the passages on display here — particularly during “Sea of Trees,” which boasts a lead melody that frequently finds me waiting for John Haughm to implore as to the duration of his suffering. It’s not exactly an exercise in blatant riff theft, but Suicide Forest frequently opts to emulate rather than explore, ultimately covering relatively little ground that hasn’t already been trampled to death by Agalloch and Winterfylleth. The lighting is a little different, and the minor scale tremolo scenery is fine but almost too familiar: for better or worse, this is a forest you’ve been to before.
Any good adventure takes time, and the tracks on Suicide Forest aren’t in any hurry to get themselves over with. The briefest of these endeavors, obligatory interlude “Baptized in Pools of Despondency,” clocks in at a bearable 3:21, but it’s all uphill of eight minutes from there. “Baptized…” presents an opportunity for the listener to breathe after nearly a half hour of harrowing shrieks and Wolves in the Throne Room instrumental antics, but with 20 minutes still to come over the course of two remaining tracks, one could hardly be faulted for feeling a bit exhausted by the end. Further testing the patience of you fair-weather goons, Suicide Forest employ a similar compositional approach as Bloodbark, with songs largely consisting of one main riff with altering elements of percussion being thrown at it for eight or so minutes. Occasional applications of Agallochian lead work, such as the beginning of “Cold Dark Comfort,” lend some dynamic energy to the fray, though they are admittedly few and far between. These infrequent fretboard flares, coupled with the constant percussive variation and thoroughly enjoyable screams, help to keep things feeling lively and engaging, yet nonetheless, there will be more than a few utterances of “are we there yet?” along the way.
While I enjoy this style of sonic anti-summer and don’t personally mind the runtimes, I can’t profess a ringing endorsement for Suicide Forest. For one, I’m well aware that occasionally shifting the percussive focus doesn’t constitute dynamic songwriting, and I expect some listeners to be bored by this method. Furthermore, there’s absolutely nothing within the Forest that can’t be found elsewhere through minimal atmoblack perusal. Sure, I dig the sounds being utilized here, but I’ve also already heard everything by Agalloch and Winterfylleth long before this was a thing so I can’t claim to be particularly impressed. It’s nice, but it’s not great and it’s certainly nothing new. Oddly enough, the mix is actually refreshingly clear and effective; frankly, the production here is vastly superior to that of Suicide Forests idols, but frankerer, that’s not enough to make atmoblack great again.
To some extent, Suicide Forest was exactly what I was looking for: the sweet, sinister sounds of un-summer, no more, no less. It’s enough to make me forget about sunshine and smiles, but not enough to make me forget about Agalloch, Winterfylleth, Skyborne Reveries, or any ov the other 666,000,000 atmothafuckas that have come before Suicide Forest. It’s but one tree among countless others in a vast woodland of imitators, existent but unexceptional. By all means, throw it in a playlist ov similar stuff to complete your kvlt collection, but don’t expect to lose yourself in this Forest.