Forest Silence - _Philosophy of Winter_
(Candlelight / Appease Me, 2006)
by: Alexandra Erickson (7 out of 10)
From the baleful, ambient and tremendously hypnotic opening notes -- you know almost exactly what you are getting into with Forest Silence's _Philosophy of Winter_. It's a cold record, from start to finish, with an aptly fitting album title. Featuring Winter (of Sear Bliss fame), with guest appearances from other members of Sear Bliss, any listener with a sense of familiarity to the band can gather an idea of what the artistic muscles being exercised are capable of. Forest Silence display an ability to create absolutely melancholic, bleak atmospheres that still retain an outstanding sense of majesty. Coupled with nearly unrelenting black metal cacophonies, the juxtaposition of gentle with grating is a demonstration of ambient black metal in its prime.

Opening with "At the Dawn of Chaos", reverberating guitar wailing sets the mood on a gradual note but is ripped open by blasting black metal drums and the ice-hard rasp of Winter's vocals. Falling into an easily-digestible, bouncing tempo that carries throughout the track, don't be fooled. This isn't mediocrity done better than none. It carries into high refrains and nearly epic melodies, diving into dark ambient chasms then rescued by a ripping metallic cadence. "Bringer of Storm" follows, with a much more rigid musical backbone. Similar to later Immortal (think: _Sons of Northern Darkness_ almost), in its groove-tinged, mesmerizing tempo. There is a deep, despondent atmosphere that is carried through this track from start to finish. Chugging guitars and gurgling vocals polarized with high ethereal tones make for an uneasy feel.

Following suit with the groovy-chuggy tone, "Path of Destruction" starts out on an all-too-similar note as the previous track, but just before the 40-second mark, the double-bass sets in and takes a sharp left turn into nearly melodo-death territory. The rhythm and velocity at which the song moves are enough to make even the most absent-minded listener start finger drumming. The guitars are kept adequately melodic to maintain the atmosphere, the coldness, the bleakness, alive. Rounding out in an exceptionally somber (again -- atmospheric) vein, the cohesiveness of the album is proven quite well. The title track, "Philosophy of Winter," is opened with a deep, murky, dark ambient tone that marches and drones for what feels like a remarkable amount of time. Dissected only mildly by heavily distorted guitars and unyielding, gravely vocals, the drone and sludge carry on for a vast portion of the track. This isn't to say that it's a weak track -- it closes out with powerfully euphonic strains. Closing the album out, "Spirits of the Wind" embarks on a bass-laden note, ripping back into the chugging, patient pace set in earlier tracks. Again, opened mid-track with melodies and tremolo-picking, the album is tied on a relatively simple note.

Don't take any of this to mean the album is mundane at any point. _Philosophy of Winter_ is unique without trying to be. It reminds me of I, but with atmosphere in abundance. And without sounding like an over-zealous fan, only members of Sear Bliss have touched this album... atmospheric black metal overload.


(article published 23/1/2009)

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