By Jonathan Smith
Russia’s Forest Stream have released their second full-length album after their almost fifteen years of existence, and the end result is a collection of songs that really work in all their multiple elements and many potential influences. The Crown of Winter plays out, at any given moment, like a fluid mixture of everything from gothic/black metal and dark wave elements to the ambient sounds of Vangelis and Enya to the instrumental scores of Japan’s Nobuo Uematsu. Vocals range from the stereotypical ethereal female presence to the clichéd mixture of clean and growled approaches from Somn The Darkest. Nonetheless, for the most part, such as during the final few minutes of the title track, the vocals work quite well in this context. Though Tyrant Moloch supposedly brings some bass to the band, it is unfortunately lost underneath the blast-beats and shrieking guitars. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the album as a whole, though it does mean a certain lack of gut-pounding power that would only add to things. Though the song titles might bring to mind a potential fantasy epic, things are actually more toned down and melancholy than that. The album is not terribly aggressive-sounding despite some occasional posturing otherwise, but this is part of its grand synthesizer-soaked charm. Despite its being profoundly cheesy on some levels, The Crown of Winter brings together some of the more haunting and enjoyable elements of metal music into one excellent package, and it’s a fantastic example of the variety of listening experiences that the genre can offer.