A Forest Of Stars surely isn’t a band that can be blamed to be stagnating, although they always use the same orchestration for every record. The interesting thing concerning their records is, that they always manage to create completely different stuff out of the same basic elements and their special interpretation of black metal in general. The oppressive void their previous record created is gone, but what took its place?
The third record of the british band has, somewhat similiar to their previous records, to be named as an “overlong” one as it features 68 minutes of playing time – quite impressive, especially in these times. The overall playing time of the songs is, at least compared to their previous release called Opportunistic Thieves of Spring, way shorter, which is comforting the record. While their last record should set the oppressive void of the universe to music, this one features a bizarre theatre/circus scenery.
You may remind the fact, that the band calls themselve a “victorian gentleman’s club” (with one female member though) which is the reason why A Shadowplay for Yesterdays features some antiquated (or antiquat sounding) melodies as well. The intro called Directionless Resurrectionist is surprisingly dark, featuring spoken vocals which are accentuated by synthesizer sounds. This combination evokes the picture of an old story teller, who is quite mad standing in front of a circus trying to get the attention of the crowd. It gets clearer and clearer towards the end, which even features some guitar sounds until the first real song starts.
There won’t be a song-by-song description for this record, as I never feature them, although it would suit a complex band like A Forest Of Stars. It’s always hard to describe the general elements of the music, as it’s so multi-layered and full of different structures. Prey Tell of the Curch Fate starts quite mysterious with really slow drums and oppressive synthesizer sounds, which soon are accompanied by the typical growl and tremolo picked guitars. This could remind you of their previous record, but they soon feature some subtle and happy elements which won’t really fit into the dark atmosphere, which is enhanced through blast beats. Of course there are several changes in tempo and mood as well, which make it hard to describe everything.
There are several moments which allow the listener to breathe through, but none of them ends in boring acoustic guitar sounds one could know from various other records. They make a perfect use of several, even simple, elements as really simple cello melodies, which wouldn’t delight anyone without this context, but it’s brilliant as they are perfectly implemented. A Shadowplay for Yesterdays is probably the most theatralic record I ever heard and the picture of the old story teller is evoked in really every song through either the style of the vocals or the style of melodies. This record is quite catchy in every song, which makes it easier to listen to and you won’t feel alone and deserted like with their latest record Opportunistic Thieves of Spring.
This does not mean, that the band lost its qualities or that they abandonded their psychedelic playing style, only the long-drawn passages without any changes or action are mostly gone. As a quid pro quo that means, that the tracks are a bit predictable and therefore becoming boring as well at times, but you can’t really change that. Especially songs like A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh are highlights of the record, as it offers really every element the band features in their songs and is a paragon for this record. There are some post-rocking passages, catchy and well done black metal influences and even folky passages that could remind you of Negura Bunget or similiar bands.
The sound is incredibly clear but still full of power so that every instrument can be heard without problems. Only the drums are a thorn in my flesh at times, as they tend to sound dull/sticky. The composition in general was mentioned before, but it’s really important to emphasize that the songs aren’t akin or such and all of them feature a good arc of suspense, although the overall structures might be a bit predictable at times. Especially the variation in the interluding songs and the various duets between the female and male vocals are exciting.
The problem with complex bands/records is, that every review had to be really long to describe everything that’s going on, but nobody would read that so… A Shadowplay for Yesterdays is one of those records that would need a really long review, as the short versions have to focus on the bizarre theatralic sound. That is quite sad as the record is offering so much beyond these obvious elements that want to be discovered, so I really have to recommend a listening session to you. You liked the previous record? This one will suite you as well. The previous record was to stiff for you? You will like this one, as it’s catchier but still keeping the bands special style.
Date of release: July, 20th 2012