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Forest Of Shadows : Among The Dormant Watchers


Forest Of Shadows return after a decade to deliver an intense emotional experience.



Forest Of Shadows have a long history since their formation in 1997. The band started playing folk influenced Doom metal with a couple of not too original but very well-made demos featuring violin that culminated in the highly regarded 'Where Dreams Turn To Dust' which many still consider to be the best thing they have released. The debut full-length that followed was a surprise from the very first minute with its trip hop electronic rhythm, almost Massive Attack-esque in nature. Many expected the mastermind Niclas Frohagen to expand further in the direction of the EP - but instead the band displayed a major change of sound adding programmed drums that played disco like beats which curiously worked quite well, giving them a unique sound and setting them apart from the rest in the scene. Four years later the sophomore came out but was not as convincing and felt as a low point - not because it is a bad album but because the style has gone way too astray into the happy energetic territory for a band whose strongest point was the sincere feeling of melancholy.

After this the band went silent for nearly a decade until 'Among The Dormant Watchers' was released. I was a bit sceptical at first, expecting more of the same. Instead it turn out to be a solid, mature album that has shed most of the experimentations of the past and focused on the core traits of the band - a rich, melody driven Atmospheric Doom, based on harmonies and song writing, alternating between serene passages and heavy distorted sections The electronica is significantly toned down and the album is more accessible than ever before, at times too uplifting and catchy for its own good. In a way 'Among The Dormant Watchers' is a continuation of the previous releases but more focused, without too much rocking energy, purely fixated on melancholy. More straightforward but more effective.

The album begins powerfully from the first seconds of the opening track - with desperate growls and gorgeous melody lines that quickly progress to clean fragile vocals and non-distorted crawling guitars, expressing pure beauty and sorrow in the best traditions of the genre. At times the guitar leads reach divine heights, soaring above all else, even through the distortion and growls, shining amidst all, beautiful, marvellous, bringing incomparable joy to the listener. The rhythm is usually simple and steady with occasional fast parts which some might find as a welcome change of pace though, personally, I dislike any fast parts in my Doom.

The guitar lines are better than everything Niclas has done previously - the album is full of remarkable soaring leads. He has not really changed the vocals since the first demos - still alternating them between clean darkwave-ish singing, that now reminds me of Tiamat, and growls depending on the rest of the music. The harsh vocals are the only thing giving it a blackish edge - they are closer to desperate screams than to growls. The clean passages are excellent, depicting a weak person defeated by pain, fragile and resigned to the suffering. Then heavy growled sections erupt, breaking the resignation, raging out into the darkness, the soaring leads ascend further and you fly on waves of sorrow. It makes you feel elevated and fully immersed, the music is breathtakingly beautiful. It's emotional and sincerely heartfelt, sounding honest as if he wants to showcase the full extent of his suffering, not hiding behind ugly noise.

The music can be calm and beautiful like a painting, completely captivating It gains intensity, while telling a sorrowful story of personal tragedy. With emotional voice, wonderfully written and slowly building arrangements it brings deep anguish. Always backed by beautiful leads it can be angry or in pain, it can be mellow or stifling. Not too complicated, not too technical but with superb song writing and atmosphere. You cannot deny the utterly mesmerizing and gripping effect of the guitar melodies that are building and building until they reach a climax.

Listened as a whole the album is very homogeneous, providing an emotional journey with highs and lows, alternating between different negative moods. Judging songs individually though reveals that it cannot keep the same level of excellence throughout. It opens with its two strongest tracks showcasing the emotional intensity Atmospheric Doom can reach. Afterwards we get the weakest song of the album - 'Lost Within' which is simply too happy with its catchy guitar rhythm that sounds a bit like late-era Katatonia. The clean vocals have lost their sadness and fragility, the heavy parts are made of short crunchy guitars turning to blast beats and the general mood is lost. It is not a bad song at all but it is almost cheerful and it feels flat and sterile - a good composition without any emotional effect.

'Dogs Of Chernobyl' is another track that does not live up to the rest. Even though it is a great piece and the heaviest one that shows a pure Doom side of the band, it does not feel as personal or as introspective as the best songs on the record do. Given its heaviness and its tragic inspiration it should have a more devastating effect on the listener, but it does not really touch me. And this clearly shows what makes songs standout - the ones that feel truly personal give you a lump in the throat while the rest simply cannot convey as much emotion and do not have the same power. The biggest weapon of Niclas Frohagen is his honesty and the heartfelt emotions he manages to convey so all the highlights share this trait.

Afterwards the album goes back on track with 'We, The Shameless' which brings some of the electronica and slight Trip-hop feeling from the past during the intro. 'Lullaby' offers a slight glimpse of hope before the final crushing blow of the closing track. Despite the lighter mood it is not shallow like 'Lost Within' and does not feel artificial. The title is very apt as it feels dreamlike, exactly like a lullaby trying to make the final moments bearable in the face of an impending doom when you know the end is near. The last song is another highlight with the final minutes being of particular interest where after a long, gradual build up it reaches momentum and manages to sustain it for an extended period of time.

As with most albums, 'Among The Dormant Watchers' is not without its flaws - the music can become overtly bittersweet at times due to excessively used keyboards. The production could be better as the heavy crescendo parts when it all culminates with lots going on can be a bit muddied. There is no real progression from the previous releases - he has just perfected his sound. Nevertheless, it permeates devastation, it provides catharsis that feels like an explosion. It is all about emotion and melody. And in this style, there is little else to ask for than superb atmosphere, nice build ups that keep the mood engaging and gripping, sad clean vocals and emotional growls, always backed up by superb guitar work and great compositions.


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Reviewer's rating: 8/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. Self Inflicted Torment
2. Drowned By Guilt
3. Lost Within
4. Dogs Of Chernobyl
5. We, The Shameless
6. Lullaby
7. Yours To Devour

Duration : Approx. 66 minutes

Visit the Forest Of Shadows bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-11-11 by Klamerin Malamov
Gorslava
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