Forest Aflame both enters and exits not with a bang, but with a message. The words of Noam Chomsky, the single most prominent leftist scholar of today, bookend what is a relatively traditional black metal record. In these excerpts, Chomsky speaks primarily on the danger of escalating climate change, but secondarily of the role of corporate money in that escalation. It’s refreshing to see anarchic and progressive thought so boldly presented at the outset of a record in a time when there is so much naive rejection of even marginally political music online.
But make no mistake, there is a swirling vortex of black metal yet to come. First proper track, ‘Life Eternal’, takes about 30 seconds to get going, but that wait does little to dull the icy, scything tremolo riffs that inevitably come. The guitars, clearly the focal point among the instruments, are soaked in grainy gain and loaded with treble to spare. They dance through a variety of riffs that span the spectrum between melody and dissonance, rarely letting up in their furious assault across either traditional blast beats or punkier fare. Likely the most divisive aspect with be the vocals, as Espi Kvlt’s startling range of tortured moans and groans and wails are both unusual and quick to steal the spotlight.
There’s certainly an old school flavor to the entire package, the vocals calling to mind two iconic Mayhem vocalists in Dead and Attila at various points while the music sweeps the gauntlet between Mayhem’s original trailblazing sound and multiple eras of Darkthrone. The modern subject matter, however, firmly grounds Forest Aflame in the here and now, and in light of the often fanciful or reactionary tendencies of contemporary black metal that is something we are desperately in need of.
Forest Aflame is out now and can be purchased digitally here or as a tape and t shirt bundle here – $3 from each tape and $5 from each tape & shirt bundle sold will be donated to an Australian bushfire emergency fund (organisation TBD).
You can read our interview with Seas Of Winter here.
Words: Brett Tharp