If a band releases its debut and then you do not see or hear from them for almost seven years, you usually deem them lost. Well, not if you are playing a mostly Doom influenced style, because then even the creative process seems to be slow. Back in 2002, FOREST STREAM’s debut “Tears Of Mortal Solitude” was an instant classic in the genre, fusing Doom Metal with influences from Death, Black and Gothic into an atmospheric masterpiece, reminding me of a mixture between MY DYING BRIDE, KATATONIA and OPETH, big names in the scene, but definitely deserved given the quality. Now the trio has grown into a sextet and jumped ship from Earache sub-label Elitist to Candlelight Records and “The Crown Of Winter” is the result.
Now can they duplicate the magic, though, that had garnered them such a fervent following in the underground? And the answer is yes, they could. The six songs (plus intro and outro) take you away onto a journey through the wilderness, cold, harsh and bleak yet you are in a beautiful, warm and comfortable place. And you can attribute certain elements with any of these adjectives, the cold harshness of the growls, the bleakness of the gloomy atmosphere, the beauty of the long, sweeping instrumental passages, the warmth of the melodies and the comfort of the sheer epic nature of the album, all rolled into one great album and I maintain that 2009 IS the year of Doom, because it is truly uncanny how many high class Doom releases this year has seen (there may be as many as seven Doom-related releases in my Top 20 of the year!).
While the heavier outbursts, such as “Bless You To Die”, which is the fastest/heaviest song of FOREST STREAM to date, bring in some variety and dynamics, the Russians’ strength still lies within the elegiac Doom epics and atmospheres that hold this emotive strength that only Doom bands manage to capture, and thankfully we get plenty of those in these long songs (the shortest one clocks in at 7 minutes and 38 seconds), with the deep growls sometimes giving place to spoken word and some cleanly sung passages. Sometimes the atmosphere reminds me a little of KATATONIA, just heavier and with more growls, revealing beauty under the heavy guitars, which is greatly aided by the excellent clear production.
If you like Doom Metal (and don’t have problems with some heavier and faster sections), then FOREST STREAM’s second is a must for you and even if you normally like the heavier end of the spectrum the mentioned faster and heavier passages (which are at times fairly Black Metal influenced) might just be enough to attract even you to the Russians’ sound. I just hope it won’t take them more than six years again to conjure up magical spell number 3!
(Online December 3, 2009)