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Forest (1996)
 

Forest was another Blazebirth Hall band, similar to and yet quite different from Branikald. In fact, Kaldrad was one of the members of this project. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to hear the sort of raw Black Metal found on Forest's self-titled debut, released in 1996. However, despite sharing some of the same characteristics and inspiration as Branikald, this is not exactly what one would expect.

From the opening moments of "Тенью Над Землёй", one might think that Forest is not all that different from Branikald. It surely takes a liberal amount of influence from the work of early Darkthrone, in particular the style utilized on Transilvanian Hunger. Four of the five songs present here include their fare share of tremolo riffs and fast, but not really intense, drumming. However, the atmosphere created by the guitar melodies is quite different. It is somewhat more sorrowful, though not to any extreme. When compared to the other project of Kaldrad, it is safe to say that Forest is more dynamic, featuring a bit more variation in tempos. Most surprisingly has to be the slower sections, accompanied by clean vocals, that are really reminiscent of the Isengard releases. The clean singing is not very good, and it raises its ugly head more times than one might appreciate, throughout the recording. Also, the guitar playing is a little sloppy, most noticeably during the slower parts. The songwriting is rather poor, with some songs dragging on and seeming even longer than they really are. That is never a good sign. "Enburnst the Christian" is decent, including some mid-paced parts that sound a bit like early Graveland, especially due to the odd percussion. It is the only song to really make use of the type of cold melodies that Branikald was known for. The twenty-minute outro is... laughable, at best. It is twenty minutes of clean guitars and someone crooning, comically, in the distance.

For the most part, the production is well-suited to this kind of music. The sound is very lo-fi, but not unlistenable. The guitars possess a raw edge to them, which is exactly what the material needed. The vocals are mixed in such a way as to be audible but not terribly clear, so they still have an obscure feel. For anyone that has heard the Branikald releases from the same time period, the sound is very similar. In fact, this might be a slight bit better, lacking some of the inconsistencies that plagued those early albums. If only the songwriting and execution was up to par.

Forest is not really an essential recording, even for fans of this band. The first song is the best one, with the rest containing some passable ideas but being spoiled by incomplete songwriting or just poorly thought-out concepts. In the end, there's one or two solid tracks and the rest is either boring or utterly horrible. This is not recommended, unless you can just record or download a couple songs and steer clear of the rest. And, by all means, do not spend any insane amount of money tracking down an original. It is not worth it. 
 
(18 Sept. 2013)

Заревом Над Прахом (1997)
 

Recorded and released in 1997, Заревом Над Прахом is the sophomore effort from Forest. This offering shows a great deal of improvement over the debut, both in songwriting and execution, and shares many similarities with the Branikald material of the same period. It would seem as if Kaldrad had a much stronger influence over the direction of Forest, this time around.

Musically, this seems more consistent than Forest. The songwriting is more solid and the riffs are more interesting and memorable. Songs like "Звоном Молотов Зови" are characterized by freezing cold tremolo riffs that possess somewhat of a sombre feeling, aided by what sounds like a subtle clean choir in the background. More likely it is some kind of keyboard effect. Either way, it is used sparingly and helps accentuate the atmosphere. Stylistically, and just like Branikald, the music bears similarities to Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger. Tremolo melodies flow overtop a rumbling of distant drums, with hateful vocals rising from the depths. With that said, the vibe is rather different. While this shares the same cold minimalism, it lacks the truly evil feeling of that record. It certainly makes up for it with an atmosphere all its own, that of freezing winds blowing through the desolate forest; the trees bare and bereft of life and the nights growing ever longer. There is a hatred for everything human, and this material does well to remove you from the world of modern filth. The first two tracks are more strightforward and hateful, while the second half of the album features songs that are longer and more atmospheric. All signs of structure seem to disappear, reminiscent of "Decrepitude I" from Burzum's Filosofem. "Лютой Стуже" consists of only guitars for the first eight minutes, before drums and vocals join. Even then, the song remains mid-paced and quite unlike the preceding tracks. There is almost a folkish/medieval vibe, as the song continues, but still retaining the harsh vocals. The final couple minutes include a faster section with mournful tremolo riffs, adding even more of an epic feeling. The last track is more of an extended outro, featuring clean guitars and semi-rough singing. It is pretty repetitive, but not bad at all.

Somehow, the production is even worse than on the previous release. Not that it is more raw and necro, but it just sounds as if it was recorded onto a warped tape, similar to the second Branikald album. The volume goes up and down, which becomes annoying, very quickly. The basic mix is decent enough, with the drums adequately buried in comparison to the guitars, which have a colder tone than on the last recording. The vocals are somewhat distant, as well, which really helps the murky atmosphere of the music.

Заревом Над Прахом is vastly superior to Forest in every possible way, with the slight exception of the production. However, even this is something that the listener can get used to, after a few minutes. The songwriting is much stronger and there is a sense of cohesion, rather than random mixing of different influences that was found on the debut. This is highly recommended raw and atmospheric Black Metal from Russia, and should appeal to fans of Darkthrone, Burzum and Branikald, especially.
 
(19 Sept. 2013)

 
 

The third full-length album from Forest, Обрекая Надежду На Вечность, was released in 1998. This record contains nearly an hour of cold and dismal Russian Black Metal, with a very minimalist style that owes a lot to the northern sound of the early '90s.It is preceded and followed by very strong albums that may overshadow it, to some extent, yet it should not be ignored for it is also a very worthy recording.

There is a very raw quality to this music. Something immensely genuine and poignant. The style itself has been done by many bands, some with more success than others. However, Forest is one of the few that really gets it and understands the true essence of Black Metal. One is reminded of Filosofem, from Burzum, during the somewhat lengthy intro track that features various tremolo melodies bereft of drums or vocals. The desolate feeling is carried on throughout the songs that follow. The percussion rumbles along at a fast pace, while the cold riffs and hate-filled vocals create an atmosphere of gloom and misanthropy. This is best captured by some of the screams in "Горю...". It is easy to perceive the sense of isolation, physically and spiritually, with the modern world and what is often mistaken for life. Even the lyrics convey this sentiment of being at odds with the world, connecting more with the purity and lifelessness of the winter and death, itself. The vocals are very harsh and contrast the beauty of the guitar melodies, repetitive and trance-inducing as they are. The pace remains the same, throughout the album, yet the various melodies are distinct and memorable. It definitely owes a lot to Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger and, though not quite as dark, seems very much like what Fenriz and Nocturno Culto would have come up with if they'd continued with that style. The last two tracks are completely different, however, being more atmospheric in nature. After an instrumental that is not too far removed from what was heard on the second Branikald album, there is a lengthier piece that is composed of many dissonant chords and clean chanting in the background. In its own way, this also hearkens back to Filosofem.

The production is very good, especially compared to the Branikald releases from 1998. The sound is raw and under-produced, with a thin and sharp guitar tone. Yet, in a way, it still comes across as a little more forceful and clear than the aforementioned recordings. The vocals are mixed perfectly, never getting out of control and overpowering the rest. Similarly, the drums are balanced and certainly loud enough to keep a good pace, but are rather dull and not so clear or loud as to distract from the guitars.

Обрекая Надежду На Вечность has to be one of the most solid Black Metal albums to emerge that whole year. At a time when bands like Darkthrone and Gorgoroth were in hibernation or long past their prime, and the likes of Dark Funeral, Emperor and Marduk were receiving so much attention for records that were lame and unworthy, Forest was keeping the true flame of Black Metal burning throughout the dark times of the late '90s. This is very much recommended.
 
(29 Sept. 2013)

 
 

Released in 1999, Песнью В Жатве Горя is considered to be the last true Forest album. This picks up from where its predecessor left off, delivering more raw and minimalist Black Metal with somewhat of an ambient feel. Born during a time when the more popular bands in this field were those that embraced the foul and disgusting modern techniques, this is an album that remained true to the northern style that had developed some years earlier. This is pure and genuine Black Metal, bereft of any occult posturing or outside influences.

The music contained on this album is truly cold and grim, in ways that most bands simply fail to even comprehend. One need not spend years studying scripture and working as much Judeo-Christian mythology into the lyrics as possible to capture the true essence of Black Metal. No outlandish interviews proclaiming this band to be the only ones to really understand the music or any sort of other preposterous antics. The songwriting captures the desolation and solitude of the human spirit as it writhes in the captivity of this modern world, separated from anything that was once pure and meaningful. Even from the intro alone, which is seven minutes of cold guitar melodies, one can sense this. As the first proper song gets underway, there is an added feeling of melancholy conveyed by the brilliant tremolo riffs. Such simple arrangements, yet the feeling is powerful and moving. Drums rush forth at a steady pace, just to keep time and never really drawing much attention. The sombre and frigid guitars flow from one idea to the next, seamlessly. Unlike their first release, this is somewhat one-dimensional in that all of the songs consist of fast tremolo riffs, without any sort of experimentation. Yet, despite the similarity between all of the tracks, each one possesses its own feel. Aside from the style, some of the melodies of "Жаром Вен" will remind one of early Darkthrone, though somewhat gloomier. There is an epic quality to this material, something few others really accomplished with this sound. This is quite clear on "Лей, Кровавая Пенa", which is sorrowful and hateful at the same time, with a main theme that will seep into your mind and drown it in darkness. The music has a hypnotic effect, putting you in a state of consciousness that is more conducive to deep thought. 

The production is just what one would want from this kind of music. The guitar is raw and cold, enabling the riffs to have the desired effect. They are clear enough for one to really become immersed in the melodies, though still fuzzy and harsh. The drums know their place, neither buried nor at the forefront, audible enough to keep the pace and add a bit of urgency to the sound, but never being overbearing in the slightest. The vocals are distant and less forceful. This is how Black Metal should sound. There is somewhat of a necro quality to this, though it is never such that one cannot follow what is going on. Though raw and under-produced, there is still a certain level of clarity.

Песнью В Жатве Горя is a recommended piece of Russian Black Metal that should appeal to purists of the early-'90s sound. But moreso than just keeping the tradition alive, Forest took that approach and made something that possesses its own feeling. In the years before bands like Horna really found their footing, or the likes of Clandestine Blaze or Sargeist came along to keep the pure Black Metal feeling alive, bands such as Forest and Branikald were doing their part to prevent the fires from burning out.
 
(23 Sept. 2013)
















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