The literacy behind A Forest Of Stars
It is not very often that Metal comes off like a well organized play, but when considering UK. Psychedelic Black Metal act A Forest Of Stars, it delivers quite well. Not the typical style that most fans would expect, one knows they’ve found something special when the music is unorthodox (and still makes sense) and the lyrics are thoughtful and not gibberish or trivial, and plus when one goes to the band’s website and finds this entire artistic interactive playground... well let us just say it is quite a musical gem. I was lucky enough to review their third album to date ‘A Shadowplay For Yesterdays’- which was fantastic- and in turn got a chance to do a three pronged interview with Henry Brondson (vocals/ guitar), Mister Curse (vocals) and “The Gentleman” (keyboards/ piano/ percussion) who each provided a unique perspective on the band’s inner workings and where their inspirations come from.
Hello there. What’s new from the enigmatic UK and touring so far in promotion of the new album? Who are you touring with now, by the way?
Henry Hyde Bronsdon: It is currently drizzling very enigmatically in my particular spot of the UK. We are not touring at present, but there will be more shows in 2013.
Curse: Indeed, we are 'blessed' with the Great British Weather, and waiting for next year for further gigs. However, the frantic sound of scribbling can be heard from various quarters as tentative steps are taken towards writing some more music...
Your latest album ‘A Shadowplay For Yesterdays’ continues to use the art of playing with words and language and, when combined with the music, comes off as ‘Shakesperian Metal.’ This style seems more evident now than ever compared to past releases… why do you think that is?
HH Bronsdon: Curse will be able to speak about the lyrics and his unique delivery of them. I can say that during the production of this record we tried to capture the full breadth and range of Curse's vocal performances and to bring these very much to the fore with the intention of allowing the album's story to be told eloquently.
Curse: That is most certainly too kind – lyrically, I just write what comes to me; it's the old analogy of 'give a thousand monkeys a thousand type writers and sooner or later they will produce something vaguely readable...' More seriously, I do take great pride in trying to create interesting, genuine lyrical content. I have seen comparisons made between my lyrics and those of Martin Walkyier and Ian Anderson - I would be a liar if I didn't admit to their being a huge influence on me musically throughout my life. But I am far too humble to even consider that I could be anywhere near their respective levels. I have always been a very lyrical person, and it is quite the pleasure to be able to have an outlet for my meanderings.
There appears to have been a lineup change with a few new members in between albums. How has that worked out in the process of getting new people on board with performing your unorthodox style of music?
The Gentleman: It’s worked really rather well, to be perfectly honest. Both Gastrix and Lungbutter were already in the band as live musicians, and Bronsdon was a long term friend and collaborator, so they were all natural choices who could bring their various remarkable talents to the band and finally make us look vaguely professional. The gods know we aren’t capable of pulling it off without them!
What I liked most about ‘Shadowplay’- aside from its diversity (that is a given plus)- is the poetic nature of the music. When listening to it, the album really does come off as alive, like theater. It is a wonder you don’t do more music videos to illustrate this :-)
HH Bronsdon: Our friend and accomplice Ingram Blakelock worked for over a year on the Gatherer of the Pure video. These things can't be done (effectively at least) overnight! I am sure there will be more videos in the future.
So at the heart of this madness… what concept would you like listeners to take away from your new album?
Curse: That of despair, failure, dread and grief. The intention was to speak of a man who had stumbled down the cellar steps of life face first - and the resultant mess once he arrived at the bottom.
Any tracks that deserve special mention or you think would be a good recommendation as a ‘starter’ to get into the album overall?
HH Bronsdon: I think 'A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh' probably encompasses a little of each of the many flavours present throughout the record. But, ideally, the record should be listened to as a whole, from beginning to end.
A Forest Of Stars has always been ‘progressive.’ Compared to the previous release, what did you want to do with ‘Shadowplay’ to avoid rehashing old ideas?
The Gentleman: There were several things we had in mind, but first and foremost was the line up change that brought in a different style of writing, which helped immensely to move the band forward in different directions. That in itself allowed us to write naturally, but produce different dynamics without having to force or “try”. Then there were certain other disciplines we imposed – we wanted shorter songs (for the challenge as much as anything!) and a proper concept album, with a beginning, middle and end, not just a story over the top of a bunch of random songs. The music had to ebb and flow, to have re-occurring themes, to lilt and lift, and connect with what was being told. Whether or not we succeeded, well, that’s really not for us to say, but that was at least what we aimed for.
Where do you get all your crazy, brilliant ideas anyway for the language of the lyrics/ album titles? Seems like the band members either travel a lot for aesthetic value or become engrossed in literature.
Curse: I have to be honest and say that a lot of my lyrical content is a ‘play on words’ relating to my own experiences throughout life's twists and turns. The last record does contain some less personal flights of fancy, but even they have some basis in reality most of the time. This band is a great means for me to get my demons out on parade, rather than have them continuously creating a racket in my skull...
One thing that ‘Shadowplay’ does is include less epic tracks- only one track clocks past ten minutes. Is there any particular reason for this?
HH Bronsdon: There was a conscious decision to trim away any excess from each song – to distil it down to only its essential elements and not to let any section outstay its welcome. Conversely, although the individual 'songs' are shorter, there are thematic elements which repeatedly crop in a leitmotif -inspired manner throughout the record. In other words, one could argue that we have in fact attempted to create one large singular monstrosity of a piece, lasting for over an hour! Whether it's divided into 20-minute or five-second chunks is perhaps not the most important issue.
Curse: I couldn't agree more!
Due to being so progressive and complex, the music- on all your albums- is not for ‘the average Metalhead.’ This is not a typical Black, Doom, Death, Symphonic album and I’m sure lots of people have complained ‘it’s too random’ or ‘it’s not Black Metal enough...’ What advice would give first time listeners as a way to prepare for a way of ‘non linear’ listening so they get the most out of it?
HH Bronsdon: If you like it, great. If not, no problem.
The Gentleman: I’m really not sure there is anything to advise upon- save to ask that you keep an open mind. Of course, we are absolutely aware that our music isn’t going to interest everybody, and honestly, we have no desire to try and change people’s minds, as that is pure folly. In the end, Bronsdon’s succinct summary is far more appropriate than my ramblings, so I’ll go with that for an answer.
Curse: I would say simply that we are what we are. With all due respect, take us or leave us. I would like to think that we do offer something a bit different. Albeit in something of a magpie fashion...
A Forest Of Stars seems like a very interactive band. The creativity of your music is reflected in your website and even member names like ‘Mister Curse’ or ‘Sir Gastrix Grimshaw.’ I’m sure our readers would love to know what inspired such creativity.
The Gentleman: Honestly and truthfully, I have no idea. We just think things up and implement them. There’s no planning for weeks on end or endless brain storming, or trying to second guess what people will like or what will work the best – we just do what we think would be fun and let it go. I think we are clearly very lucky to have what some people consider to be a group of rather creative individuals, each with their own imagination that runs off on whatever whim is currently holding sway. And one person’s enthusiasm feeds another, and so the loop goes... For everything you see and hear that works, there were a hundred ideas that were laughed out of the parlour, of course.
Curse: I would have to simply say that any and all of it just happened to seem like a good idea at the time – there hasn't been a particular method to the madness except to keep creating the music that we want to create, on our own terms.
Where do you find to the time do everything… it seems like a lot! Touring, writing new albums, finding inspiration for new albums, and then of course keeping up with the interactive website and personal lives…
HH Bronsdon: It can be time- and energy-consuming. But it's good fun. Actually, we haven't toured a great deal so far. We would certainly like to change this habit and begin to play even more shows over the course of each year.
The Gentleman: Indeed, we would not be doing this if it wasn’t fun. The Club is always active and buzzing with ideas and adventures. So much so, we occasionally forget the fact that we’re meant to be playing music as opposed to aristocratically lounging about. But, somehow, we’ll manage to struggle on through all the fine wine, fine food and fine opiates.
Curse: Every once in a while the rest of the band picks me up, dusts me off, slaps me about a bit and sticks a pen in my hand. The rest of the time I can be found propping up various bars and doing my bit to keep the prescription pharmaceutical industry in folding paper and fresh additions to their side-effects lists.
That’s about all I have for now. Thank you again, and your label, for sharing your music with BRUTALISM and giving a whole new side of psychedelic extreme Black Metal for listeners to enjoy.
HH Bronsdon: Thanks!
The Gentleman: Many thanks!
Curse: Thank you for taking the time to question us!