Friday, 5 February 2010

Forest Silence - Philosophy of Winter (2006) 82/100.

Parts of Central Europe are completely foreign to me in more ways than one, including its vast and varied metal underground scenes. Though I do spend a fair amount of time scouring for talent in Germany, as I find that to be one of the best places to uncover gems, I find myself unable to garner much of an opinion on areas like the Czech Republic, or Poland, two countries with strong connections to the metal movement. Although I have dealt with bands from Hungary before, specifically Marblebog, I don’t know all that much about what the region has to offer the die-hard fan of the genre. There is only one way to rectify this situation and that is to search long and hard for the best of the best and thus far, on my short journey, I have come across bands like Sear Bliss and Forest Silence, the band we’re dealing with here, who also happen to be a side-project of Winter’s, the keyboardist of Sear Bliss. I’ve actually known about Forest Silence for some time but, for some reason, I had always assumed they were bound to be from an area of the world where black metal has recently fluctuated and spread its divine wings like Canada, or some other nation in the west of Europe.

‘Philosophy of Winter’ is highly regarded amongst black metal fans, as far as I can tell, but I myself have never really stuck by it. I occasionally whip it out, dust it off and give it a spin, but I’m usually far too transfixed on other bands, despite the fact that this Hungarian act are clearly one to be treasured and recommended to those less familiar with the scene. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t recognise Forest Silence as being an innovative leader within today’s scene. There are some obvious influences here that attract my attention on several occasions throughout the duration of the record. Varg’s ambient work with Burzum has clearly been an inspiration to Winter’s creative output. A lot of the light keyboard work reminds me of Burzum’s ability to entwine harsh, dissonant black metal styling with airy keyboards that definitely enhance the atmospherical presence of the record in general. The keyboards are a constant source of inspiration throughout, though this is hardly surprising considering the fact that Winter is primarily a keyboardist for Sear Bliss.

Having not had too much time to familiarise myself with the numerous records of Sear Bliss, I cannot judge whether their music has had a profound influence of this side-project, though I assume there must be some influence as they’re Winter’s main band and he has had some help in achieving this piece of work by asking two of his fellow musicians to provide both session guitars and drums for the ‘Philosophy of Winter’. Looking back on Winter’s career, it is evident that he has had some experience with one-man bands, having been in one, or two previous to this. I would imagine his experience at handling projects solely by himself has served him well here as he’s able to wonderfully harness his creative abilities, particularly on bass and keyboards, and put them to the good use. With that in mind, it is easy to see the two main forces behind the music here and although I appreciate the quality that the slow to mid paced guitars bring to this delightful little package, I tend to recognise the bass and keyboards as stand out aspects. Thankfully, ‘Philosophy of Winter’ doesn’t stick too close to traditions by allowing the guitars to take precedence when the bass and keyboards are far more equipped at dealing with the frequent light textures that the record provides the listener.

The bass doesn’t feature too much early on, but gradually grows in superiority as the music progresses towards its ambient destination. The keyboards compliment this section well like a sweet smelling fragrance does to a beautiful woman. I suppose I should mention the production in context to these aspects, too, as it does a terrific job of maintaining a superb balance between the light and dark references the instrumentation draws out. The light aspects are obviously the most spectacular because they give the record a feeling of originality, whilst the dark, forceful guitars and vocals supply us with a nostalgic feeling. Two songs instantly pop to mind when thinking of how well Winter does at song writing and accommodating a position for both elements simultaneously; those two songs are ‘Spirits of the Wind’, which starts with a delightful bass driven lead and ‘Path of Destruction’, which consists of a light ambient background and a hard-hitting black metal foreground. Songs like this set up the record as being one of a thoughtful nature and very well performed. A great start to a hopefully stellar career.

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