Black metal’s fascination with grim forests is well known and bands like Drudkh and Raventale have perfected the art of creating atmospheric black metal that resonates the whispers in the woods. Perhaps it’s the nihilistic outlook of the genre in general which causes it to be a perfect fit as a theme for old, desolate forests. Old Forest from the UK keep no secrets about their love for the woods, with the band name inspired by a primordial forest from Tolkien’s middle earth. ‘Dagian’ is the band’s third full length (their second after they regrouped in 2007) that consists of four atmospheric black metal tracks that would serve as the ideal music for trekking through the wilderness on a cold winter day.
Sounds of nature inaugurate the record on the opening track, ‘Morwen’ which has a slow, almost doom metal like pace. The meandering guitars slowly build up in intensity and is greatly aided by the synths and bass that give the music a melodic touch. The synth lines impart a deep sense of melancholy to the music and create an atmosphere that sounds beautifully grim. The snarls are delivered in a controlled manner, so as to not disrupt the serene atmosphere sported by the track. Riff work ranges from droning guitars during the doom-y sections to the tremolo chugging of the few up-beat parts.
The clean vocals employed on this record are more akin to chants and they manage to invoke a sense of grandiosity in the music, as heard on the track ‘Non’. The synth – guitar harmony manages to capture the beauty of the woods, though the actual sounds of nature are heard only a couple of times on the record. With a minimalistic approach of just the basic instruments, Old Forest manage to imbibe the nature’s touch into the music. The track lengths never become an issue, as the listener often tends to get lost in the melody rich atmosphere, losing track of time. The slow burning approach to black metal is handled well and through the course of the three tracks, the music is kept fresh. ‘Tweoneleoht’ signals the end of the black metal section of the record and the clean chants closes the proceedings on a epic note.
There is however, one other track on this record and ‘Neaht’, the longest among the four, is quite different from it’s predecessors. This is an ambient track that makes use of a heavy atmosphere and natural soundscapes. While there is nothing wrong about the track itself, there is nothing too special about it either. The 15 minute length of the track has little to offer and is something that is likely to be skipped during repeat listens.
Old Forest manage to capture the essence of the grim woods in the tracks of ‘Dagian’ in an almost perfect fashion. It is easy to get lost in the beautiful atmosphere and the melancholic undertones of this record. The beautiful side of black metal is portrayed flawlessly on ‘Dagian’.