Old Forest mix star elements into their woodsy black metal on stirring new album ‘Dagian’

Old Forest coverI live in a weird country. We have a bizarre, strange history that different people perceive in different ways. Facts don’t matter, by the way. Anyway, I’m on a tangent. I feel somewhat jealous for countries that have healthy, interesting mythology that its people can immerse themselves and not feel oddly guilty, and I often wish I had more of that here in the States.

There are many bands that pay honor to the stories of their land, and one of those is Old Forest, the long-running black metal band from England who have been making captivating music since 1998 and who have returned with their great third full-length effort “Dagian.” The band takes its name from Tolkien (always a plus in our book) and pay homage from many of the tales of their land that have moved them to create such moving music. This new effort, their second record since reforming nine years ago (“None More Black” came out in 2014), finds the band expanding their sound even further, this time deeper into the cosmos. Their adventurous, rustic approach to black metal remains, but the psyche-laden synth work is richer than ever before and makes this an ideal record for skygazing at night.

As noted, Old Forest kicked off almost two decades ago, and their debut “Into the Old Forest” arrived a year later, initially cementing their name into black metal’s annals. They continued on a few years before before disbanding, but eventually restarted in 2007. Once they resurfaced, their output has been more prolific, with a couple of EPs, some demo recordings, and then the second full-length. The three members–vocalist/synth player Kobold (also of the great Into the Woods…), guitarist/bassist Beleth, drummer Lord Grond–meld to make a mesmerizing collection that gets more engaging with each listen as this world keeps unfolding.

“Morwen” is the 10:24 opener, beginning in the center of lucidity, with birds chirping, a woodsy ambiance afoot, and guitars slowly making their way before the inevitable burst. When that occurs, moody melodies sink in their teeth, while synth waves create a psyche vortex, howled vocals give a primitive feel, and you’re locked into what seems like a very involved story mode. The playing is strong and compelling, while cleans wails arrive to wash out some of the salt, and the melody chugs and churns over cosmic wonders, with the declaration, “I was never here!” bringing the track to an abrupt halt. “Non” starts with the call, “All is woken,” as the 11:55 cut heads toward a more rock-like tempo, and keys and flutes waft in and make your head all numb. The track hits rougher waters, as harsh growls are unleashed, the bass punches back, and clean singing is injected in order to enrich what’s already a pretty involved recipe. The atmosphere here feels like a gush of energy, while the song keeps burning, the band keeps the spirits high, and the track comes to a rousing conclusion.

“Tweoneleoht” has a slow introduction, swimming amid guitars roused from their sleep, and a chunky pace that’s one of the sections of this record that can cause some bruising. Atmosphere again becomes a major factor, as the band takes its time over this 10:27 piece and lets it develop naturally. The storm clouds open a little later, letting the ground take a drenching while the melodies cascade, sweeping and stretching over the duration of the journey. Flutes return while chant-like singing leads the song into a bed of noise, and the final moments open back up fully before fading away. The 15:34 closer “Neaht” is a solely ambient piece, one that makes it feel like a fog rising over the forest after a cold, rainy morning. The sounds waft like the moisture is taking its hold, with the sounds haunting and the approach shifting a bit 10 minutes into the piece. Then, the elements glimmer while spacey drone drops, and a sheen is applied to the back end of the track as it dissolves into air and works its way to the stars.

Old Forest strike every chord within me, as I love this style of black metal and always am hungry to be immersed in this type of music. Their reformation was a gift that keeps rewarding us, and “Dagian” keeps their spirit and creative drive humming. If ever I can find a forest in my neck of the woods in which to get lost, I’d love it to be with this record as I try to make up my own mythology.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/oldforestofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://avantgardemusic.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.avantgardemusic.com/