As if it wasn’t well established by then, the poetry reading that shows up in “Mired” — track three of the total eight that make up Forest Stream’s sophomore outing, The Crown of Winter (Candlelight) — more or less confirms that, yes, you’re listening to Euro doom. But wait, there’s a twist! Forest Stream aren’t British or Scandinavian, they’re Russian! And if there’s one group of people on this planet who know about feeling cold and sad, it’s the Russians. So off we go.
The usual Euro doom elements show up — the distraught melodic vocals peppered with deathly growls, the extensive synth work, the pervading sense of misery, etc. — but Forest Stream temper this, as on “Bless You to Die” with a discernable Emperor influence, adding black metal grandiosity to their already complex approach. After “Intro,” the nearly 12-minute-long title track and the aforementioned “Mired,” it’s a welcome and somewhat unexpected change of pace. Another twist! It’s hardly M. Night Shyamalan, but hey, in a subgenre where aping Paradise Lost records from 18 years ago is the encouraged norm, any evolution is cool by me.
Forest Stream could easily open for Swallow the Sun with Katatonia headlining and I’d go see the tour. People would be cutting their wrists in the aisles and it would be a marvelous exercise in audio depression. The Crown of Winter achieves what must have been its desired aim — to both rock and bum out — and on a snowy day here in the valley, I’ve a hard time thinking of a more appropriate accompaniment to the scene outside the window, whereby the sun, struggling to shine through the cloud cover, has at last failed and relinquished the day to the ensuing precipitation. So it goes.
Whether they break down the border of genericism is a question up for debate, but at least Forest Stream, whose last record, Tears of Mortal Solitude, was released in 2003, are trying to bring something contextually unique to the sound. The six-pack do so varyingly song to song, but that’s part of what makes The Crown of Winter an interesting exploration, and when they press “go” on a heavy part, as on “The Autumn Dancers,” they can be downright lethal.
“The Seventh Symphony of Satan” blends more Emperor-style black metal with synth-doom finery, and the My Dying Bride-style drama of pre-outro closer “Beautiful Nature” makes use of an extended melodic break to offset some of its heavier moments. “My Awakening Dreamland” ends The Crown of Winter with 1:39 of more majestic synth-ery that I’m not sure was entirely necessarily but doesn’t offend nonetheless.
Those who’d take on Forest Stream for a listen or two should be aware that their worlds most likely aren’t about to be changed forever. At just the right moment, though, under just the right atmospheric conditions and in the appropriate seasonally-affected state of mind, The Crown of Winter does plenty to earn its name.
Tags: Candlelight, Euro doom, Forest Stream, Russia