A Forest Of Stars has been around for quite some time now, as the legend dates back to the late Victorian Age when the Gentlemen’s Club was allegedly founded. This very unusual take on black metal has evolved since its first relevant appearances in the debut and later in Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring, up to the international recognition obtained in 2012 thanks to the great A Shadowplay For Yesterdays. Having released another solid full-length album, the band seems to have found its final form as a septet. In our year 2018, A Forest Of Stars takes us back 120 years to 1898, to a familiar yet unsettling midnight performance of their street theatre, representing an era apparently glorious, but at the same time decadent.
The contradictions of Victorian England are taken as examples of the human condition, as hinted by the title Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes, in which the word “grave” is used both as tomb and as critical. At the conceptual core of this record, the vocalist Mister Curse repeatedly insists on the futility of status and riches, since «Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box»; this is said to be an Italian proverb in the booklet, I would say interestingly attributed in an exoticizing manner, very well thought of in the context of Nineteenth Century Great Britain. The grave mounds represent the main focus of the album (and of existence), as the narrator laughs at mankind’s grave mistakes, in our restless rush to please decaying gods, reach futile power, accumulate useless wealth, ultimately «awaiting our chance to populate holes in the ground» (from “Precipice Pirouette”), leading our miserable lives before «the never ending, frost plumed night» (from “Tombward Bound”).
Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes is A Forest Of Stars at its most genuine form, black metal coming straight out of a Victorian Age nomadic dark circus, as the seven-piece acts as a troupe and each musician also plays a distinct character in the performance. Quoting the band, here William Blake’s proverb of Hell “Exuberance is beauty” is once again their principle, and this is clear in the music, vocals, and imagery. We have quite a full hour of music, in which disillusionment and irony interact with each other, while grave sounds and atmospheres are inextricably mixed with faster-paced passages and ghastly invitations to dance as in “Decomposing Deity Dance Hall”. You will find all the exuberance, psychedelia, and hallucinations you need, and probably more.
An astonishing feature of Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes sure is the extreme care dedicated to the visuals used for the booklet and photos, the subjects of which were actually crafted physically, and composed of miniature models. This whole process took about two years, and it can be fully appreciated in the collector’s edition, while unfortunately the regular digipak version makes it not as easy to experience. Such dedication to the visual presentation of music is actually quite rare to find.
A Forest Of Stars once again pulled off something of great interest, adding yet another dark piece to Prophecy Productions‘ seemingly endless catalogue. The British combo refined its very recognizable style even more, consolidating its place in the “unorthodox” black metal world with a fascinating and decadent release. And yet, who cares about these results, since there’s plenty of worms and mounds waiting for us in the end?