(Cruz Del Sur Music)
Release Date: 28th February 2014
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Time for you and I to pack our satchels again and head off to the climates of England, whereupon we'll bear witness to a Heavy Metal band in the form of Dark Forest.
They proudly showcase their love of Iron Maiden (especially on the track 'Sacred Signs' and towards the latter part of 'Turning Of The Tides') and shouldn't be "confuzzled" with a Canadian multi-instrumentalist who brings aboard live session players to aid him as and when the time is appropriate. It's a real minefield out there when choosing a band name!
Guitarist and founding member Christian Horton has brought aboard the good ship Dark Forest the vocal talents of Josh Winnard and another guitarist called Pat Jenkins. These additions to the line-up have bolstered their armoury as they unleash album number three.
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This isn't the only relevant observation to share with you regarding 'The Awakening'. The recording process has tapped in to a powerful frequency that allegedly assists with repairing broken DNA, and is supposed to enhance transformation and even the concept of miracles! With that sort of ingenuity in their arsenal, everyone who comes into contact with 'The Awakening' is going to feel mighty impressive. I think I'll tread carefully from hence forth.
Once you overcome the Iron Maiden-esque sections from this Black Country quintet, the positive thrusts of energy and melody of this old school Heavy Metal style are inoffensive and bounce along quite nicely. To my ears there aren't any standout moments, more a collection of solid and consistent tracks.
It took me a while to get used to Winnard's voice which sits in amongst the musical backdrop like a fragile and lost lamb. For this sort of music my hearing would feel more comfortable with a grittier and more prominent vocal performance, but then again why not try something different? At times he comes across like a version of Michael Kiske or someone in that ball park.
The album closer is called 'Sons Of England' and reaches the eight minute mark, incorporating some familiar twin-guitar melody lines but overall doesn't hold back on rampant instrumentation until about six minutes and thirty seconds into it. There is a beautiful finger-plucked guitar accompanied by some rural English sound effects like a church and some birds. Moments like this provide the listening experience with something new, but on the whole, 'The Awakening' is fairly straight forward.
The opening song arrives with a narrative in the shape of a few lines of poetry. The title track borrows some words from a poem called 'The Mask Of Anarchy' written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, before galloping along with some pleasant guitar melodies and finishing off with a whimper by fading out after seven minutes and twenty five seconds.
There's no disputing the musicianship, commitment or energy; but overall do you want to come away from listening to an album saying to yourself that it was "pleasant" and "nice"? If I want to listen to Iron Maiden then I reach for a CD by the band, I don't go searching for a band that have their own identity but wear their influence so obviously on their sleeves. In an age where the music-buying customer has so much choice, I wonder who would be likely to buy this album.
They're not reinventing the wheel, they're merely presenting their version of a Heavy Metal that was once upon a time a cutting edge and formidable force. Nowadays it is listened to through nostalgic ears and respected for what it was. Is it a case of letting sleeping ghosts rest, or do we have to wake them up like this?
It is a good album, and would have been hailed as something monstrous if released in the early 80s, but as I sit here, it's 2014 and my ears are stimulated by so many other sounds and styles that this is almost redundant. They get some humble pints for a top quality execution and casting a spell with their use of a powerful frequency.
Turning Of The Tides
Rise Like Lions
The Last Season
Sons Of England