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[Album Review] Beware the Sword You Cannot See by A Forest of Stars - Metal


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I quit writing album reviews on a regular basis right around the time I came to Dragonmount (mafia much? :unsure:), and I'm not going to invest the hours a review normally takes me into this, nor will I cater it to the same audience as the reviews I've copied over in the past. But I did want to share one of my favorite albums of 2015 with you all.

I listen to black metal, which might be synonymous with "loud noises" to the average person, and perhaps little more than some vague, closet-emo amalgamation of face paint, blast beats, and tremolo picking to a lot of metal fans. It carries a long-lasting stereotype--one that's really not remotely representative of the genre today. Black metal has actually been, I would venture to say, one of the most experimental and pioneering frontiers in music of late. Over the past 10 years, it's shed pretty much all of its formulaic stereotypes and become an outlet for a ton of really visionary artists.

A lot of it does remain, however, highly aesthetic-driven, and that's not everyone's cup of tea. I think Beware the Sword You Cannot See might be a bit more... accessible? to the average listener who has at least some taste for metal. The vocals are clean as often as not, the instrumentation is highly varied, and the melodies are pretty memorable.

The first track, "Drawing Down the Rain", (which I can't directly link due to language), busts out a gorgeous, sweeping violin to the backdrop of a sort of celestial oscillating guitar that captures, I think, the grand vision presented in the cover art, long before it delves into much that you might call metal. The song gets weird, switching abruptly to black metal and breaking unconventionally for splatters of spoken word. The progression is constant, and that might be the album's strongest point over all. There's almost no repetition from start to finish--always a sense that the album is going somewhere. There's not a dull moment to speak of.

One of the album's major highlights is the lyrics, and that's not something you can often say about a sound rooted in black metal. "Virtus Sola Invicta" is my favorite track in this regard. It's a bizarre, twisted rant that rests well beyond the edge of nonsense--a splattering of words that cut deep without ever giving way to clear meaning. You can embrace the mental state that the singer is trying to present, and his delivery is fantastic. For all that's going on instrumentally in this song, it's really a word-driven track, and I've found myself reciting the lines while working around the house as if it was some catchy pop tune.


Some of my favorite messiahs are dead. You may perhaps be nervous that the endings are wearing thin. So much grist for so many mills. So little point in taking offense.

I've rolled with all the punches and not even come up drunk. Danced around the guiding lights, got perhaps a little lost in the dazzle of lamps. Riding the head wind through Shangri-la. Ha! Aghast in Agharta. A shambolic frolic in Shamballah. Careless questions clogging the five-pointed sink-holes you dance around. Listless heathen. Whirled down drains world-weary. The accused are great in number, though if you'd be kind enough to line them up, I could find it in me to fire the shots. Temples holed by misplaced homily. Nails lined up to support heads lording over spikes of infamy.

Your alter-ego can dig the pit. Then once it's lined with silent bones, we can stir the ghosts around. Perhaps take their powder as salve. Though it'll perish your thoughts, I'll tell ya.

Curiosity pushed you in, face first on top of all the others. So let's roll the old worm ball down another cerebral hill, bone over wire, racing the funeral pyre.

All wild eyed, world weary. Twisted trees tearing the heart out of Eden. Final resting places soiled as if on queue by those dragging their mean feet, enduring the wait before you. Lightning breaks against the cortex, rolled into the hole to taste the old face down. A twelve foot round-trip to your discredit. Careless questions clogging the five-pointed sink-holes you dance around, listless heathen. Whirled down drains world-weary. Down drains world-weary.

But the highlight of this album is "Pawn on the Universal Chessboard"--a six part, 21 minute opus that, in an odd round-about way, sort of reminds me of Pink Floyd's "The Wall".

I've posted them all below in spoiler. If you're going to listen to anything by this band, I recommend going through these, and keeping in mind that on the album proper they're presented as one seamless experience. The whole series feels like it's acted out on a stage, with theatrical spoken words and a constant, increasingly desperate progression from eerie calm to complete meltdown culminating on "Lowly Worm". I can't think of a better word for it than 'epic'. (And I got a huge kick out of quoting some of its lyrics to Eldrick in Gods and Demons :rolleyes:)

Well, if you want to experience an album Shad considers a solid 10/10 than isn't so obscure that you'd have to listen to two dozen other albums to appreciate it, here you go. (Or maybe I'm kidding myself and it's just as inaccessible as everything else I listen to.)

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