Label: Blackened Death Records
Some things are worth waiting for. After a collection of demos, splits, and EP releases, the full-length from neofolk/death metal act Carnivorous Forest is finally here, and it does not disappoint. Frozen Rivers is a powerful, atmospheric record, varied in scope and tone, yet with a consistent character that ties everything together. Listeners who have enjoyed previous Carnivorous Forest releases will not be disappointed. Sole member Amarok is in fine form throughout, and of all the different releases he has put out over the past few years in many guises on Blackened Death Records, this is undoubtedly one of the best.
The glory and cruelty of nature is one of the key themes to Frozen Rivers, as evidenced early on with opener ‘White Wolves’. The song ebbs and flows gracefully, full of nocturnal power, with its cold melodies complimenting the lyrics perfectly. Another side of Carnivorous Forest soon comes to the fore though, with the more up-tempo, incredibly catchy ‘Wendigo Psychosis’ and its haunting, fantasy tale of butchery. The song previously appeared on early Blackened Death Records compilation Hammer Smashed Faith, and sounds just as good now as it did then – the chorus is as good as guaranteed to stay in your head for days.
One thing that the early tracks do make clear though is that Frozen Rivers is an album where the neofolk sound is dominant, with the vast majority of tracks being acoustic, with minimal (if any) percussion. This is no bad inherently thing though, and helps ensure that the mood of Frozen Rivers is largely consistent throughout even as the lyrics veer from the fantastical (such as on ‘Cannibal Copse’ and the A Song Of Fire And Ice inspired ‘Womb Of Shadows’) to the natural (‘The Breath Of The Arctic’, ‘Ice’) and morose (‘The Snow That Covers My Grave’) or even the more political (with ‘Les Serpents De Dieu’ being based upon themes of Quebecois unity, as opposed to the more independence-minded lyrics that are typically found in metal acts who sing about the subject).
It would be easy for an album with such varied topics to drift apart, with the many different ideas conflicting rather than working together. Yet here, they help add variety, with the music itself doing much of the work in maintaining a consistent atmosphere. That atmosphere is one that is easy to fall in to, losing yourself for hours at a time in the warmth of the acoustic guitars and their slightly hypnotic nature. The contrasting use of clean vocals and growls – often layered on top of one another – is also a plus point, lending the album a more feral, vicious feel at key points.
Some songs are more successful than others, though. ‘Cannibal Copse’ is a minute or two longer than feels ideal, and ‘The Breath Of The Arctic’ never quite captivates in that frostbitten way it is aiming for. But these are the exception, as the vast majority of songs on here are excellent. ‘Womb Of Shadows’ is an obvious highlight, as it bristles with a quasi-religious fervor that is worthy of its subject matter; when combined with an absurdly catchy chorus and melodic interludes, it becomes one of the best songs Amarok has written for any of his multiple bands, and its eight minute duration races by. Likewise, ‘The Snow That Covers My Grave’ is a powerful, emotional ode to a distant homeland, placing Amarok’s strong vocals to the forefront.
Only two tracks veer away from the neofolk sound on Frozen Rivers. ‘Crown Of Nihilism’ owes a heavy debt to gothic post-punk, which is no bad thing, and it’s not until the final track ‘Amarok’ that the death metal side of Carnivorous Forest rears its head. A restrained neofolk introduction gives way to pummeling drums and furious riffs that are rendered all the more powerful for how they compare with what has gone before. Yet as vicious as it is, there’s still a heavy sense of melody throughout, and the vocals are feral and impassioned in an almost religious way. It’s a strong ending to an excellent album, and one that is sure to linger in the mind long after the album has finished playing.
Frozen Rivers is due for release on 7 March 2017. It can be pre-ordered digitally and on CD via Bandcamp.