Dark Forest – The Awakening
Dark Forest – The Awakening (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
This band has been a minor obsession of mine since Dawn Of Infinity came out a couple of years ago and slowly crept its way into my head. For those unacquainted, Dark Forest is an English five piece specializing in classy, traditional heavy/power metal that relies equally on vocals and prominent guitar leads. The focus upon patriotism and English history and mythology struck a chord with me, and that album has been a constant companion since its release. In 2013, the band announced the replacement of vocalist Will Lowry-Scott, who was possibly my favorite element of the band, with newcomer Josh Winnard. Although the band’s style and mission don’t seem to have changed a bit, there’s enough peripheral alterations to make The Awakening a considerably different experience than its last work.
Normally, I’m really not a fan of spoken sections and sound samples, but the quote of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy is quite a powerful preamble for the album. The title track’s rollicking chorus doesn’t hurt either. In true Dark Forest fashion, things are a little bit messy, usually in a rather energetic and endearing way, but there are some considerable changes to the sound. I’m no audiophile, and so I can’t speak about the mix in an informed fashion, but the guitars here just aren’t as pronounced or as…exciting as they were on Dawn Of Infinity. Leads seem to be a bit fewer, and those more subdued.
That doesn’t stop songs like the opener, the hooky “Rise Like Lions”, and the adventurous “Penda’s Fen” from being instant hits, however. The spirit that Dark Forest began portraying on its debut is still well and alive here, and no amount of whining about changes is going to upset that – which is good, because I’m going to whine a little bit about Winnard’s vocals. The guy can carry a melody well enough, and even shine at times, but I miss the sheer confidence and greater distinctiveness of Lowry-Scott’s tone. Winnard is occasionally thin and wavery, but does reasonably well with the band’s compositions, and some may even prefer him.
This all may sound overly critical, but I had very high expectations for this album, and I don’t feel guilty about being just a little let down. However, I don’t want to diminish what is an entertaining and fulfilling listen. Dark Forest’s songwriting is about as solid as heavy metal gets, and is so much more engaging to me than a great deal of what is coming out of the “traditional” (read: still stuck in the 80’s) heavy/power scene nowadays. Dark Forest receives comparisons to U.K. greats Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on occassion, but I don’t think the resemblance is even that strong. This is much more modern mid-paced heavy metal endowed with a few traces of power metal, and I would ballpark this as something closer to say, a more melodic version of early/mid Twisted Tower Dire.
I absolutely recommend The Awakening to new and existing fans alike. For all I know, this will be preferable to Dawn Of Infinity for many. As for myself, I’ll need some more time with it, as my thoughts and ratings for the latter album were written shortly after hearing it, and I’ve warmed to it since then. Who’s to say the same won’t happen here? Regardless, I acknowledge the successful and rewarding path that the band has found itself on, and so my little obsession continues.
3.5 // 5