Sweden is rife with doom, melancholy, and despair, mixed with beautiful melodies – and Forest of Shadows are no exception. A staple band during the boom of death-doom bands, they soared through the ranks with their blend of emotionally pulling lyrics, and are now on their third album, Among the Dormant Watchers. A decade after Six Waves of Woe is a long time for a band to wait to revive, which makes one wonder how the record will sound and whether the group have managed to retain their original sound, or taken a new direction entirely. As arguably one of the biggest surprises of 2018, the release of Among the Dormant Watchers brings a tingle of excitement in the ears of any death/doom fan.
Forest of Shadows have picked up a number of new influences and styles along the way during their break, the most noticeable of which are melody-driven folk passages and elements of post-rock to accompany their blend of atmospheric black metal and doom. The incorporation of post/progressive rock into their sound makes for a multifaceted and immersive listen. The clearest example of this is on their single “Drowned by Guilt”, which depicts Niclas Frohagen observing his own death by drowning (his inspiration for the song came from a dream of this), before zooming out to a third person perspective on death and the effect it has on those close to him. It’s a dark insight into the effects of death and one that people do not consider sometimes, which easily makes it a standout on the album. Slowing the pace significantly in comparison to opener “Self Inflicted Torment”, you feel the despair pouring out of the band in “Drowned by Guilt” and it works beautifully.
The addition of an acoustic guitar at multiple points brings a layer of complexity and variety with it, breathing new life into “Dogs of Chernobyl”. It focuses more on the melodic death side of their sound, while bringing progressive guitar passages into the mix, demonstrating what they’ve learned works with their sound during their break. The song breaks for a minute midway through, with a lulling acoustic guitar passage that breaks the repetition before Niclas’ growls chime back in and the funeral march returns. Slow, crushing riffs follow underneath the same melody that permeates throughout the track, yet engulfed by a different riff each time. It’s arguably both the strongest track to come from Among the Dormant Watchers, and one of Forest of Shadows’ best efforts yet.
Check out the bad-ass video for “Drowned by Guilt” right here.
After something as intense as “Dogs of Chernobyl”, “We, the Shameless” brings an unexpected calm. A simple electronic intro preludes a soft guitar followed by Niclas’ first instance of clean vocals on the record. The lyrics “Self-proclaimed masters of a dying world” and “We spill the blood as we see fit” strike a chord and makes you think about the world we live in today and how we treat it. Bringing further diversity to the record is “Lullaby” – a soft acoustic palette cleanser on an otherwise (mostly) heavy album. It offers a soothing atmosphere before the monolithic “Yours to Devour”, which is another contender for the standout track on the record. It’s a behemoth reminiscent of the classic death/doom blend Forest of Shadows came to be known for. The blissful fusion of slow, sombre riffs and keyboard passages with the following soft, clean vocal passages over the 14-minute long finisher tie off the album brilliantly.
What is amazing about Forest of Shadow’s latest record is how beneficial their break from releasing new material has been. In such a vast time scale, we can see their sound remaining true, yet malleable to external influences as seen with the inclusion of post-rock and even electronica. Their expansion to new horizons has felt like a continuation from their previous record, Six Waves of Woe, and they’ve just carried on where they left off but bigger and better. It’s safe to say that with Among the Dormant Watchers, Forest of Shadows have triumphantly returned. A devastatingly beautiful listen from start to finish, it comes full circle through loss, fear, and despair, and reinforces their place high in the ranks of atmospheric doom metal.
Among the Dormant Watchers Track Listing:
01. Self-Inflicted Torment
02. Drowned By Guilt
03. Lost Within
04. Dogs of Chernobyl
05. We, the Shameless
07. Yours to Devour
Run Time: 66:42
Release Date: December 7, 2018
Record Label: Inverse Records