Dark Forest
Beyond The Veil
(Cruz Del Sur)

Their fourth full-length, these UK folk-inspired power metallers are back with a staggering seventy minute opus by which they consider to be their most mature performance to date. Thankfully the lineup is still the same here as was on the act’s previous recording, The Awakening (2014) which soon became a personal favorite record of mine around the time. I’d spun it several times and had songs stuck in my head for days. So considering the fact that said album scored a 95% over on Metal Archives and left an impression on most metal fans that year, can lightning strike twice? The band certainly seem to think so, and aim to prove that with this insanely melodic release.

Sounding literally like everything that folk-metal should be since it’s beginning with Skyclad, I can almost say that Dark Forest have picked up the Skyclad torch and ran with it, as literally as far as they could go. Though the promotional leaflet mostly mentions their frontman Josh Winnard (and he definitely gives a rather strong performance) none of this would be possible without the captivating and awe-inspiring medieval folk melodies displayed by Christian Horton and Patrick Jenkins. Just as with the band’s previous album The Awakening, nearly the entire disc seems to carry with it a very upbeat, almost transcendental sort of feeling. Skyclad might have been about being poor and the rut in society that we’ve made over the past couple of thousands of years, but here we find a more pagan approach to things as you would sometimes hear sprinkled throughout albums like The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea and Folkemon. Nothing on the disc feels forlorn or melancholy, as a very vibrant approach fills my ears throughout the whole of the listen. It can also be very thick and very drum-heavy, as Adam Sideaway really pounds the hell out of the kit on a couple of these – it definitely feels like power metal and will certainly allow for some banged heads and raised horns. It’s not a very fierce or frightening listen, but gives us a little bit more to chew on than what some might feel are very “negative” messages within the metal scene. To most of us, metal is all about darkness and death and fire, but even though the band’s name is Dark Forest it is very tough for me to get anything really “dark” here. That’s not a problem though, as I’m quite fond of the material enough to look beyond common heavy metal stereotypes.

I can say that these guys have definitely made a melodic mark with this one, which is definitely going to appeal to those who enjoy what I’d term as classic power metal in the folk-tinged sense of the word. As you noticed, I’ve referenced a lot of Skyclad here which certainly seems like it could be a strong influence, just as well as anything in the vein of Blind Guardian, Kamelot or Helloween. Following up such a mind-blowing album as The Awakening is not something I would have ever expected of these guys and obviously this record sounds a bit different, (it’s warmer and a bit louder) but it shows that there’s an awful lot of staying power here and that Dark Forest are not going anywhere. It’s a tremendous disc with plenty of raging solos, memorable chorus moments and everything that this genre should be. I think power metal fans are going to be a bit impressed by just how medieval the guys went this time around and hopefully there will be a few folks out there who grab the record on impulse, not knowing what to expect when they get it home. The band certainly needs a larger following, especially seeing as how much talent they’ve put on display here.

Beyond The Veil is the kind of album where it isn’t really necessary to pick favorite cuts, and aside from the tiny instrumentals “Lunantishee” and “Ellylldan” you’re walking home with ten extremely strong numbers of varied lengths (anywhere from five to seven minutes) which should all serve to delight you in some way or another. If not for the chorus in “Earthbound” then perhaps the leads in the album’s title cut. There’s even a longer instrumental called “Men-An-Tol” which shows the band in full-force. Adding to that is the album’s nearly fifteen minute closer, “The Lore Of The Land” which is an absolute tour-de-force that should satisfy nearly every power and folk metal fan on the planet. The guys really gave it their all on his one, which makes it very tough for me to call. I felt that giving it four and half stars seems meritable, but it may even be better than The Awakening with further listens. Both albums are immense in their own right, once again showing that we surely haven’t heard the last of Dark Forest. These Englishmen are simply too good at their art, nearly making lightning strike twice. As I’ve always been rather fond of the English metal scene, especially folk metal as I’ve declared, I feel that Dark Forest are really starting to embody everything that English metal has been about since the days of Iron Maiden and Saxon. They haven’t become a household name yet, but there’s a strong possibility that a hell of a lot of people are going to come to care about these guys a little bit more in the coming months. Power metal really does need a new sort of savior after the DragonForce train went off-track, so hopefully it will find one in the crafty material unleashed here. Let’s hope that this lengthy tale is enough to sway power metal fans looking for something real, authentic and rather quite extraordinary. If you loved the awakening, you’ll love Beyond The Veil. By Jove, I think they’ve done it again!

Purchase Beyond The Veil here.

4-half-stars

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