Ethereal Forest - _Ethereal Forest_
by: Yulon Zhu (3 out of 5)
With members of Pantheon I and Heathen Deity, two-man ensemble Ethereal Forest doesn't dive into their self-titled demo _Ethereal Forest_ without any knowledge of how to play darkness-crusted forest tunes. Most folk metal seems to rely on the use of classical, regional instruments like ocarinas and fiddles. Now, while there are some wavering orchestral chunks, with even the first track being entirely instrumental, this six track demo is a more standard black metal offering of guitars, drums and screams with that stampeding folk tinge to set it apart from the inverted cross holding, bullet-belt wearing rest. Basically, there is no chanting, no flute solos and no war cries to interfere with Ethereal Forest's pagan themed rawness.

On "The Road to War" you get a real taste of what Ethereal Forest has freshly slaughtered for you. The music balances both ends of a table covered in black and folk metal. It sounds smooth with some expected fuzz, demonstrating the band running back and forth between the warped realms of both genres. "Of Valour and Glory" has the best guitar part and is possibly the best track here. The folk influence is clear in the more understandable lyrics with phrases like "Crush our enemies with all our might!" while the guitars whip up a catchy beat. The next three songs are instrumentals, although the title track has something eerie in the background that almost sounded like it could be very, very faint clear vocals or perhaps the spirits of fallen warriors trying to possess you or something along those lines. Just because this demo is almost entirely instrumental, doesn't mean it doesn't offer up some compelling music. Ending epode "Autumn Equinox" for example features blissful acoustic guitars that guides this caravan ride nicely out of the haunted woods into a nice, peaceful clearing, where there may or may not be hungry bears, bobcats or boogiemen stalking you.

The only thing that might make some re-think being into this music is the production. Well, let me say this: it's obviously much easier to record an album in another studio with better, more expensive equipment, than it is to improve your songwriting skills; which the guys in Ethereal Forest do not need to do. Plus, you can still hear all of the notes and the songs come through quite clearly, which is more that I can say for most low-end production black metal bands! If you can forgive the recording quality, then _Ethereal Forest_ offers amazing, atmospheric, wood-scented black metal that is not to be missed.


(article published 26/12/2008)

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