DarkFI have followed this UK Black Country band for a long time since their demo days, I have admired and enjoyed their live performances for more times than I care to remember, but stone me…Dark Forest have pulled the genie out of the lamp with this release and I am rubbing my own hands with excitement.

The progression of their music has really gelled with this new line up and shows that if you work at your craft, the rewards are very fruitful. This is almost an epic metal release, made easier to describe as such by the really strong vocal delivery of Josh Winnard (previously of UK band Wytch Hazel). Winnard’s character enables the band to pull off tunes like ‘The Awakening’ and ‘Penda’s Fen’ like  water flowing off a ducks back. The rhythm section is tighter; there is also more depth to the album production flowing with sustain that generously represents these modern traditional metal tunes.

Delving further into the albums tale (Dark Forest’s lyrics are always of interest – they are no metal clichés here!) you come to ‘Secret Commonwealth’. This further personifies ties to the band as you feel part of the story, it’s conveyed in such a way that gives the listener a sense of belonging and provides more than enough opportunities to raise your fist and bang your head in agreement. The vocal melody, the busy guitar work, the ripping solo work, this kicks ass my friends. ‘Sacred Signs’ is another track where you relish the guitar presence where key melodies are trading off the vocal delivery, whilst maintaining a tempo that simply can’t stop your resulting good mood, your foot tapping, your head banging,  no matter how much of a miserable “person” you are at that point.

This is easily one of the most remarkable and genuinely exciting releases from a seasoned UK band. You can clearly hear the results of an in depth reorganisation and restructure as this sounds really fresh, a rejuvenation. I wouldn’t go far as saying it sounds like a new band, the Dark Forest character of old is still very much present, they have just worked their socks off and been handed a promotion to platinum card membership. Make no bones about it, ‘The Awakening’ is a pleasantly surprising release from a band that has made deserved progress over their career thus far, this album takes them to another level all together. It is so fitting that they should be supporting a band like Atlantean Kodex on their Autumn/Winter jaunt to these shores with Solstice as the music is indeed a touch epic, it’s a metal release to savour.

(9/10 Paul Maddison)