Label: Blackened Death Records
On first listen, Endless Forests Black really didn’t click for me. I’m not sure why – I was already familiar with Carnivorous Forest‘s mix of neofolk and death metal, and whilst it was my first time listening to them, the raw black metal style of Beyond The Dark Forest is something I’m definitely a fan of. So, that first underwhelming listen was a disappointment. Thankfully though, it was only on the first listen that I couldn’t appreciate Endless Forests Black, as subsequent listens have revealed an engaging, challenging split between two solo acts different in sound, but united in pagan spirit.
Carnivorous Forest take the first side. Opener “A Gathering Of Wolves” is an unusual track, beginning with a spoken word section buried deep in the mix, before moving in to acoustic, haunting neofolk that has a rhythm that feels slightly off, with some notes being held longer than feels intuitive. It’s a difficult listen initially, but makes sense with repeated plays, and I’m a big fan of the atmospheric solo towards the end. “Tekkeitsertok” is even more chilling, being almost (dark) ambient in its minimalistic execution and atmosphere, with “A Half-Living Creature Of Wood, Stone, And Flesh” keeping up this dark ambient approach. Sparse, ominous, and incredibly atmospheric, it is in marked contrast to previous Carnivorous Forest releases such as Genital Mutilation In The Name Of God, and this vast difference helps account for my initial reaction – I simply didn’t expect something like this.
The more death metal “Coyote” – previously released as a single – is much more accessible, with a clear verse/chorus/verse structure and riffs to latch on to, but it is still far away from anything that could gain mainstream appeal. Likewise, the final Carnivorous Forest track, “Spirit Jaws Of The Waheela”, has a strong death metal flavour, but it’s relatively sparse drums hardly make it a typical metal track, though it is very hypnotic and addictive. Penultimate track “Tusk Of The Narwhal”is probably my favourite though. An instrumental track, its interwoven guitar lines and melodies create an icy, austere atmosphere, full of noble majesty and elemental power – a clear case of “less is more”, which very much sums up Carnivorous Forest. It may take a spin or two in order to fully grasp it, but there is real power and talent here.
The same is true of Beyond The Dark Forest’s side of Endless Forests Black. Opening their side is Endless Winter, an introductory track full of howling winds and bells – hardly original, but as effective as ever – it soon launches in to “Flesh Of The Gods”. When compared with the neofolk and minimalist metal of Carnivorous Forest, the raw, vicious black metal of the track seems almost absurdly intense and fast, being a sharp shock to the system. It’s followed by “I Spit In The Face Of Their Lord”, which opens with a long atmospheric introduction before moving in to raw, hypnotic black metal territories. The Burzum influence is undeniable, especially as the track possesses just the right atmosphere to suck you in and hold your attention for its considerable duration. “Filth” follows, which is a much more concise blast of rage, with pounding drums and almost painfully distorted screams. – it is far from an easy listen, but then, it was never meant to be. The track only calms down once it collapses upon itself for the last minute, but even then it is still possessed of an ominous, dangerous spirit. Closer “The Wanderer” is more accessible, but barely – we’re hardly talking commercial black metal here. Mid-paced rhythms and repetitive riffs demonstrate the bloody-minded purpose behind the music, giving it an almost martial feel. It’s all in stark contrast to Carnivorous Forest, but that contrast serves both bands well, even if it might initially catch the listener off-balance and take some time to be understood.
Endless Forests Black may not be the most accessible split you’re likely to hear, and it’s quite likely there will be listeners who only care for one side of it but not the other, given that both bands have such diverse sounds. But there is a lot to like here, even if it might not be obvious at first. Stick with it, and Endless Forests Black has a lot to offer.
Endless Forests Black is available to stream and download via Bandcamp. A physical version is set for release at the end of May 2016.