A Forest of Stars

Opportunistic Thieves of Spring

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On their second album, the British-based A Forest of Stars dig deeper into their open goal of fusing black metal moves with a self-consciously rustic/pre-electric overlay, itself no surprise given similar moves across the planet by other acts using the modern style as a way to recapture a past. Beginning with a slowly rising wash of crumbling feedback shifting into full-speed metal (if not "speed metal"), it's fairly easy to sense the black metal formula at work right from the start of "Sorrow's Impetus" -- if nothing else, the sheer ease of how the now established approach easily transcends national boundaries is the genre's own calling card (even down to the contrast, on "Starfire's Memory," of clear female vocals with the rasped male vocals elsewhere). Similarly, the additional elements that appear -- the mournful violin, flute, and rumbling acoustic percussion that suggest a proto-goth acid folk album from 1973 occasionally refracted through Darkthrone's amplifiers, not to mention the odd touch of sitar and other instruments -- further underscore how the band almost has more in common with early And Also the Trees or Fotheringay than with, say, Emperor. This all noted, the appeal of Opportunistic Thieves of Spring lies best in how the band puts the pieces together rather than necessarily making new statements with them; if anything, their slow-burn arrangements are their secret weapon, along with sudden individual moments in them. The staggered guitar introduction to "Raven's Eye View," the steady, almost waltz-like sway of "Summertide's Approach" towards its midsection that then shifts to solo piano, the extended low organ break toward the end of "Delay's Progression" -- all are suddenly compelling details that perk up the album from "enjoyable enough" to something more.

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