Thursday, September 19, 2013

Forest - Заревом Над Прахом (1997)

Recorded and released in 1997, Заревом Над Прахом is the sophomore effort from Forest. This offering shows a great deal of improvement over the debut, both in songwriting and execution, and shares many similarities with the Branikald material of the same period. It would seem as if Kaldrad had a much stronger influence over the direction of Forest, this time around.

Musically, this seems more consistent than Forest. The songwriting is more solid and the riffs are more interesting and memorable. Songs like "Звоном Молотов Зови" are characterized by freezing cold tremolo riffs that possess somewhat of a sombre feeling, aided by what sounds like a subtle clean choir in the background. More likely it is some kind of keyboard effect. Either way, it is used sparingly and helps accentuate the atmosphere. Stylistically, and just like Branikald, the music bears similarities to Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger. Tremolo melodies flow overtop a rumbling of distant drums, with hateful vocals rising from the depths. With that said, the vibe is rather different. While this shares the same cold minimalism, it lacks the truly evil feeling of that record. It certainly makes up for it with an atmosphere all its own, that of freezing winds blowing through the desolate forest; the trees bare and bereft of life and the nights growing ever longer. There is a hatred for everything human, and this material does well to remove you from the world of modern filth. The first two tracks are more strightforward and hateful, while the second half of the album features songs that are longer and more atmospheric. All signs of structure seem to disappear, reminiscent of "Decrepitude I" from Burzum's Filosofem. "Лютой Стуже" consists of only guitars for the first eight minutes, before drums and vocals join. Even then, the song remains mid-paced and quite unlike the preceding tracks. There is almost a folkish/medieval vibe, as the song continues, but still retaining the harsh vocals. The final couple minutes include a faster section with mournful tremolo riffs, adding even more of an epic feeling. The last track is more of an extended outro, featuring clean guitars and semi-rough singing. It is pretty repetitive, but not bad at all.

Somehow, the production is even worse than on the previous release. Not that it is more raw and necro, but it just sounds as if it was recorded onto a warped tape, similar to the second Branikald album. The volume goes up and down, which becomes annoying, very quickly. The basic mix is decent enough, with the drums adequately buried in comparison to the guitars, which have a colder tone than on the last recording. The vocals are somewhat distant, as well, which really helps the murky atmosphere of the music.

Заревом Над Прахом is vastly superior to Forest in every possible way, with the slight exception of the production. However, even this is something that the listener can get used to, after a few minutes. The songwriting is much stronger and there is a sense of cohesion, rather than random mixing of different influences that was found on the debut. This is highly recommended raw and atmospheric Black Metal from Russia, and should appeal to fans of Darkthrone, Burzum and Branikald, especially.