[Forest of Shadows, Six Waves of Woe, 2008]
by Ştefan Bolea
translation from Romanian by Camelia-Aura Barbu [MTTLC student]
click pentru versiunea română
“growing hell” (Forest of Shadows)
“our spark of hope is black” (James Thomson)
Forest of Shadows, the one man band of the Swede Niclas Frohagen, comes after a four years break with a convincing album, less aggressive than the previous works, but stronger and more harmonious. From an instrumental point of view, Forest of Shadows has progressed (reaching a mannerist maturity, which pays attention to details); for example, if before (in Under the Dying Sun or Where Dreams Turn to Dust) the dialogue between extremes was radical, with sudden changes of rhythm, which assured the benefic compulsion of the listener – now the final product is more coherent, softer, less classicized. In other words, if Where Dreams Turn to Dust (2001) can be characterized as meditation music for grave-diggers (with a supreme epic work of art, Wish, which combines perfectly the message with the instrumentation), Six Waves of Woe is similar to a motivational audio-book for catatonics, or, to continue the previous comparison, to a mortuary album, for the benefit of those who have ended their lives and want to have a more relaxing trip. I must mention that the message (except for the song Moments in Solitude), the album presents certain low points – there are mediocre versions (which put the text in the pop zone: “Please tell me why I can´t be there/ To welcome another beautiful day/ To taste the sweet honey of life”). However, Forest of Shadows keep their signature (exploring monotony + obsessive simplicity), creating music for people who lay on their couches, tormented by their own depressions. This diagnostic can be misleading: slowness is not a time for torpor and spiritual laziness, paradoxically monomania having an ascending character, causing an inner trip.
In the first song, Submission, the accent is on the atmosphere, not on the text. As a general observation for the entire album, the lyrics are fragmented, intoned with half a voice, as if the determination to enunciate them clearly and “defiance” is missing. The message of the first single (“There, in the radiance of deceit/ Facing final submission) emphasizes the disappointment of a subject, on whom the infernal loop tightens, whom can’t defend himself against the conquering forces; like a convict, who senses in a macabre lento the articulation of the executioner’s axe. Selfdestructive has a complex architecture; the soloist uses three intonations: an intimist one (like a siren who throws her fishing-net), one of romantic subtlety, and, finally, an aggressive, catastrophist, authentic one. I am under the impression that we don’t truly listen to it until we hear the third voice. In Detached there are changes of rhythm that are brilliant; although the song has an almost classical cohesion, the harmony makes you gradually go from one frequency to another. The fourth song, Moments in Solitude, a true work of art or a psychopathological manifest, is, for me, the obvious, evident success of the album. From existential observations (This withering grey existence/ A paradise for a sleepwalking kind” – the discovery of self-consciousness opposed to generalized unconsciousness), to rhythmic jests that remind of the first EPs, to the quasi-delirious expansiveness of the chorus (“To where I rule my own life/ A kingdom for myself/ A place without fear/ And with no need of your gods/ That´s where I find eternal peace/ Somewhere among nowhere”), Moments in Solitude is the trademark of the band’s musical evolution. The fifth wave, Pernicious, presents itself as a compressed and insidious song, based on the technique of the dialogue between the extremes: we have depression and hysteria (hysteria is more entertaining!) or on another level, despair and hope (which has a funeral spark). Deprived, the last single, the longest, focuses on the agony of the anima trapped in the spider web (“Sleepwalking she entered the delusion/ Sleepwalking she entered his golden cage”), but is a modest achievement. Six Waves of Woe is an album whose strength is in concepts (submissive, self-destructive, detached, harmful, deprived), and whose knot is Moments of Silence, a complete, archetypal song, which throws you in the night of ice of those from Forest of Shadows.
a previous Romanian version of this text has appeared in Sisif