Let’s face it, when broadly speaking about ‘metal’, ‘avant-garde’ is a term far too easily thrown around. Either self-tagged by bands looking for a hook or lazily prescribed by writers to those with a few (slightly unpredictable) sonic tricks up their sleeve – it’s an exhausted description with a ‘boy who cried wolf’ complex. But when it comes to The Gentlemen’s Club Of A Forest Of Stars, you begin to believe there’s still genuine application for such a prestigious title to be used, especially when experiencing third record ‘A Shadowplay For Yesterdays’.
Is it because of their 19th Century image? Or perhaps it’s their unwillingness to shy away from writing a concept album in the 21st Century? No. There’s a lot more to it than that. A Forest Of Stars have once again created a masterpiece but it’s through different palette-dabbling than previous opus ‘Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring’. ‘A Shadowplay…’ unashamedly tips its hat to British progressive rock, but provides twists of traditional folk, eerie ambient atmospherics (‘Man’s Laughter’) and melancholic, dark rock to pave the way for some stunning new dynamics.
Yet amongst these fruitful and accessible indulgences, the North West act have come out with some of the heaviest, blackened verses they’ve ever produced. After the Hawkwind-esque (‘Sonic Attack’-like) recitals that reverberate in the pit of the stomach on introductory track ‘Directionless Resurrectionist’, the noise-driven guitar of second track ‘Prey Tell Of The Church Fate’ blasts into a rickety carriage ride of sharp tremolo riffs and seething vocals that hear frontman Curse at his most visceral. The different forces at work on this third album make for a truly eclectic record. ‘The Underside Of Eden’ has vocal harmonies like AFOS have never done before, while the acoustic intro of ‘Left Behind As Static’ even reveals charming Tull and Nick Drake influences worn on the sleeve subtly. ‘A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh’ and ‘Gatherer Of The Pure’ are two megalithic efforts that each hold powerful and uniquely-built crescendos.
‘Corvus Corona’ (Part 1 and 2) has a fuzzy atmosphere not unlike the quirky carnival ride of Arcturus’ ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ – a lush electronic piano wades underneath the melancholic strikes of guitar and previously uncharacteristic but beautiful vocal harmonies to finish the album.
The sheer volume of ideas, the musical ambition that binds them and the resulting multidimensional sound make ‘A Shadowplay…’ another masterpiece from this talented act. Avant-garde or not, something rather special is happening in The Gentlemen’s Club Of A Forest Of Stars… 10/10
Reviewed by Calum Robson.
A Shadowplay For Yesterdays is out now on Lupus Lounge