One thing I love about the internet is that it allows you to find musical acts that you would otherwise never hear about. Trawling through Bandcamp can be a risky venture, but it occasionally yields a few gems. Case in point; Austria’s Black Forest.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Finland’s Wintersun when talking about Black Forest; the musical and lyrical elements are very similar, the artwork, and even right down to the colour palette, it all invokes the famed Finnish fivesome, and there’s even a line in one song that goes “winter sun will rise”. However, Black Forest are not from Finland; the six-piece instead hail from Vienna, Austria, and Dream is their debut album.
What I really enjoy about this release is how gorgeous and balanced the orchestral arrangements are. It would be easy for a band to simply add some symphonic stabs as doubles of the guitars or a single one-note orchestral line and call it a day. It would be equally easy to go far over the top with those elements. Black Forest simplify the orchestral elements when other instruments are getting the spotlight, but aren’t afraid to let them shine in their own time as well.
The opening tracks “Prelude“, “Intro“, “Darkened” and “Dawn” seem to be intending to be listened to as one continuous piece, and it holds up well. “Prelude” offers some very lovely harp and symphonic passages before diving into the icy and expansive melodies that dot this album from then on. “Moonlight” in particular is an excellent track. Meanwhile. the final song, “Memories” is entirely instrumental, consisting of strings and acoustic guitars for a lovely close to what is a very good debut from these Austrians.
If last year’s Wintersun album left you disappointed as it did me, Dream should provide a more than worthy replacement. They have a knack for melody and a good sense of restraint with regards to the orchestral arrangements. Put this one in your ears and you won’t regret it.