Forest Stream

The Crown of Winter

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Trying to sell a black metal purist on the merits of symphonic black metal is a lot like trying to convince a jazz purist or a bop snob to listen to Pat Metheny and Al Di Meola. Metheny and Di Meola are masterful guitarists -- their success is well-deserved -- but to jazz purists and bop snobs, the very fact that their music contains rock elements is a deal-breaker. And similarly, the very fact that symphonic black metal is so decidedly melodic is a deal-breaker for all the black metal purists who will point to the unrelenting viciousness of Gorgoroth as a prime example of what black metal is "supposed" to sound like. Black metal purists aren't going to be sold on a symphonic black metal album like Crown of Winter no matter how much one raves about Forest Stream's musicality and sense of craftsmanship. But for those who do like their black metal with a lot of melody and nuance, this 2009 release is a generally enjoyable listen -- not a perfect listen, but a generally enjoyable one. Crown of Winter is best described as symphonic black metal with elements of melodic death metal, doom metal, and gothic metal, and Forest Stream aren't just slightly melodic -- they're extremely melodic. In fact, parts of the 59-minute CD are downright lush. Crown of Winter has its heavy moments and makes extensive use of extreme vocals (mostly black metal rasp vocals, although there are some death metal-influenced Cookie Monster growls as well), but overall, this album goes out of its way to be musical. Unfortunately, the clean vocals are Crown of Winter's most obvious weakness; they aren't nearly as effective or well done as the extreme vocals, which is problematic when you're going for the type of extreme vocals/clean vocals contrast that this Russian band favors. But even though Crown of Winter is mildly uneven, it still has more pluses than minuses and is a noteworthy footnote in the symphonic black metal scene of 2009.

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