The shadow is calling once more and I have encountered this brand of Nordic Darkness before and having used up translation clichés I best get down to things. It’s been four years since last album ‘I döden’ and this is the 5th from the Swedish Forest clan. It appears that they have added an additional guitarist to their ranks since then but if you play the two albums back to back that is not the most obvious difference. For a start the production here is a lot crisper and richer, amazing what a change a few years can make in that respect. The other big thing is that the clean ‘Viking’ croons that lurked a bit in the background last time around are much more prolific and higher in the mix here. Sure there are still quite a lot of the more feral growls but it is as though someone has had some singing lessons and they really want us to notice. So with this in mind I have to say this has slightly changed the overall feel of the band and their music here. The vibe of pagan might is perhaps diluted and this strikes a bit closer to the realms of folk metal now. I have noted similarities to Borknagar a bit in the group’s music before and it is like that a bit, almost as though they have suddenly brought Vintersorg on board to croon for them. The other thing worth noting is that the album is a good quarter of an hour shorter than its predecessors but that’s never particularly a bad thing and it’s still got plenty of substance about it.
Those harmonious croons are there from the outset on ‘Det nordiska mörkret’ and I had to check I had put the Skogen I thought I was listening to on at first as there are a few bands around with that name. Bass tones are thick and the slow song has some growls tempering the clean parts and some melodious parts snaking out from within. The band are keeping things compact length wise until the last couple of numbers when they really allow things to sprawl and this is far from a feral, feudal stomper that listeners might have been anticipating. Having said that the trees are a lot thicker and we are angrily clamouring looking for a way through on ‘När solen bleknar bort.’ This is more in line with the Swedish blackness of old and feet are indeed stomping now. As the song says the sun is almost disappearing but hold on, dawn must be anticipated as those clean croons are hitting the heavens and a bright new day is anticipated. I have to admit I’m not entirely sold and would have preferred to be kept in the dark here for at least one song. Growls and twangy guitar on Nebula are a bit reminiscent of other forest dweller Arckanum but it’s quickly obvious that the band like flirting with the shades of clean and rasping vocals and we are going to have to get used to it. It’s not like they weren’t there before it’s just they are so much more obvious now. The acoustic fretwork sparkles too and the melody is strong. Omen is errr ominous and very trollish, it’s only short at under 2 minutes but a prelude to the ‘Frostland’ and the icy realms within. Power and force flirt with some lush acoustic tones but it’s all a bit restrained as well and I really would like a break from the crooning which are far too close to a band like Tyr for comfort.
Although the album has grown on me I found it a bit patchy and inconsistent at first, changing from native tongue to English all of a sudden probably doesn’t help things but that’s exactly what they do with ‘The Sun’s Blood’ and the clean parts really don’t have the harmonies of before and seem like a struggle here. I know it’s meant to sound malevolent but growling out “something is waiting beneath the trees” just sounds a bit hammy and the clean vocals are totally out of tune sounding like they have escaped from a bad classic doom song. Thankfully final number ‘The Funeral’ does have a spark about it and takes me back to the older albums with brooding piano, dark, grim atmosphere and unlike the rest of the somewhat uncomfortable listen really gel a lot better as far as I’m concerned. A tricky album in all, I prefer the older stuff but this might well attract a newer group of fans; only time will tell.
(6.5/10 Pete Woods)