Forest - _Like a Blaze Above the Ashes_
(ISO666, 2004)
by: Matthias Noll (8 out of 10)
Recorded in 1997 but released on CD in 2004, _Like a Blaze Above the Ashes_ is the second album by Forest. Featuring four songs and a comfortable length of slightly more than 44 minutes, this release represents two different styles. The first two tracks sound like the ultimately legitimate Slavonic version of _Transylvanian Hunger_. What this means is that infectious melodies and chord progressions in the style of Veles, Infernum or early Graveland meet the possessed drumming, hypnotising delivery and low-fi production values of the Darkthrone classic. Sound-wise the drumming almost disappears in the mix, and the fast strummed guitars with their thick but distinctively Eastern European tone together with the raspy vocal delivery are dominant in shaping the aural character of the two fast tracks. So far my description might sound as if the music performed by this Russian band on _LaBAtA_ is totally generic; that might be true for the individual ingredients, but not for the final result. The fusion of the Norse and Polish styles succeeds so seamlessly on this record that it leaves the impression that two parts which naturally belong together were finally joined.

The second half of _LaBAtA_ consists of material which is far easier to clearly associate with single stylistic and geographical regions on the black metal map. The last two tracks offer medium-paced, Pagan and/or Slavonic sounding black metal, which is not mind-blowing but nevertheless very well written and performed. On these tracks the slower nature of the songs allows every instrument some more space in the mix, and therefore the production appears to be far more balanced, especially as far as the drums are concerned. The last track features some clean vocals in an awfully bleating, semi-operatic style (think Behemoth's Nergal on some songs from _Grom_); these are painfully out of tune and tend to make me cringe, but as a whole _LaBAtA_ is an excellent album which everyone who is into the bands mentioned in this review should seriously seek to add to his collection.

(article published 31/8/2004)

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