By Jonathan Smith
The clink of kettle on plate and the stirring of tea opens “Earth and Matter,” the shortest but perhaps the most powerful track on UK-based A Forest of Stars’ The Corpse of Rebirth. A somber and emotional cascade of strings closes it. In-between is eight minutes of truly strange and wonderful psychedelic and blackened metal. Rebirth is not an easy album to grasp — it mutates its shape frequently. Hand-holds are few and far between, so it’s best to just let things go where they may and appreciate the fact that you may not know where you’re going until after several repeat listens. One Mister Curse provides a good share of the vocals on this self-described “steam-powered” journey, and his tortured howls and ravings take some getting used to but ultimately suit the Victorian Gothic atmosphere that permeates the album. Middle track “Male” presents “queen of the ghosts” Katheryne’s jazzy vocal contributions before they’re crushed under a wall of atmospheric metal. “The Gentleman” brings not only drums but a whole slew of percussive-styles to the table, and Mr. T.S. Kettleburner’s guitar and bass give the whole ensemble a proper crunch or soft lingering notes as they’re needed. The Corpse of Rebirth is not always an accessible record, but like many of the deeper novels from the historical period that have clearly influenced the band, the time devoted to it is well spent.