I’m a huge fan of the artistic vision- that tenacious determination to craft something unique; the translation of artifice into Art. Metaphoric hats off then to A Forest of Stars who, with their latest album, Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring, will have you believing that black metal began in the late Victorian period in England and not, as most of us know, during the early to mid-1980s. Who’d have thought it?
A cursory glance at their- hugely impressive, it must be said- website, presents an intriguing and enigmatic fiction- the studied Victoriana, in its richest, most macabre vein, offering an alternative backdrop and history of extreme music. It’s a charming and alluring introduction into one of the most difficult, challenging and complex records you’re likely to encounter this year.
When I first heard Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring, I thought I’d stumbled over a cacophonous mess, an incoherent rambling of little merit and even smaller musical interest. And then I listened to it again. And again. And again. There is something haunting and compelling about this record. It niggled and gnawed at my subconscious for days- it became an itch that needed to be scratched.
This is also, paradoxically, an enormously frustrating record. At times it is brilliant- genuinely lateral in its thinking, wilfully perverse in some of the boundaries that it attempts to push but- and you knew there was a but coming didn’t you dear reader?- it doesn’t always cohere as well you’d hope for. “On Sorrow’s Impetus”, for example, you get a brilliant mix of extreme metal, post rock and classically infused musical undercurrent. However, for that peak, you do get the trough of an often impenetrable production mix which can irritate the hell out of you.
And whilst the seventeen minutes of “Delay’s Progression” suggests epic sweep and driven aestheticism, there are sometimes far too many ideas being thrown around. Although you can see what they are trying to do, and it is to be admired, it can sometimes sound like a small child running around an instrument store, indulged by benign, but not terribly thoughtful, parents.
Opportunistic Thieves of Spring does not give up its treasures easily- in fact, sometimes you have to dig deep into your vault of patience and indulgence to get at them but gradually, they do reveal themselves. It is, to use the Victorian phrase, a bit of a curate’s egg- good in parts. In fact, in some parts, it’s massively good: I only wish they could have sustained it for the entire album. It leaves me elated and frustrated, often in parallel.