A Forest of Stars @ The Black Heart, Camden, London

October 18th 2015
Review by Ann Sulaiman
Videos & Photos by Jo Blackened

A Forest of Stars Flyer
It was a busy night in London town, as not only was Live Evil Festival about, there were also the likes of Opeth and Sisters of Mercy for Leeds based ‘A Forest of Stars’ to contend with. Though some issues might arise for their support bands, none of this worked to take away a thoroughly fun – and even awe-inspiring show for the many that filled the venue.

Arguably one of the city’s hidden gems, London-based progressive death metallers Praesepe earned this title (from yours truly) for their strong sound as well as how they handled the night’s obstacles.

1. Praesepe (2)

The gig was chosen for a setlist of entirely new material, which saw a romantic, melodic touch enter through first piece ‘The Shining’. However, while everything seemed to be going well on-stage by the second song, it was by this point that frontman Premy had to pause the set due to a lost bass string. It did look grim for the band when a replacement couldn’t be found at the last minute.

1. Praesepe (3)

However, Praesepe’s decision to take the risk in continuing their slot without a bass proved to wise. Even if he performed only vocal duties, Premy’s amazingly long hair was a sight to see as he headbanged and growled with guitarists Andrezj and Ross trilling along intense riffs beside him.

The promising start they had from the beginning carried on into a much meatier sound only gave credit to the band’s lack of a bass for their set being hardly noticeable.

SETLIST:

1. Praesepe Setlist

Though a strong contrast to A Forest Of Stars in dressed down appearance and hard blasted style, Harakiri For The Sky were one of the most highly anticipated bands of the hour; the floor was so tightly packed, that this reporter was pushed to the sidelines!

2. Haakiri

Nonetheless, what came was one of the most unrelenting sets of the year. Lumbering frontman JJ stood offstage, back turned to the crowd, as he gave shriek after shriek without signs of slowing down under his band’s fast, energetic guitar lines. ‘Homecoming: Denied’ and ‘Jhator’ pummelled in bleak melodies, while the likes of ’69 Dead Birds…’ and ‘Drown…’ moved everyone in the venue enough to headband as one.

At the same time, it was still jarring to feel as immersed in the music as the rest of the crowd. In addition to JJ’s choice to avoid facing his fans much of the time, that he was clearly in the moment for each song as he engaged with his bandmates and bobbed along made it seem as if there was a show going on which one didn’t really feel invited.

SETLIST:

Burning From Both Ends
Jhator
Lungs Filled with Water
Homecoming: Denied
Drown In My Nihilism
69 Dead Birds For Utøya

At last it was time for the Northern sestet A Forest of Stars to play. Though The Black Heart is a considerably small venue better suited for more orthodox metal shows, the six from Leeds weren’t entirely out of place in this setting (though their projected videos were more difficult to see from the back).

Though of a more chaotic persuasion than their poetic goth peers My Dying Bride, A Forest Of Stars’ psychedelia fits in with the pomp of Victorian melodrama and romance. In a live atmosphere, it’s naturally expected for such music to translate into something theatrical, and fittingly it did.

3. A Forest of Stars (2)

This was shown through opening song ‘Proboscis Master…’ when lead singer Mister Curse grimaced and profaned his way through whining violins and hard synth and guitar riffs, setting the scene for more of the band’s kaleidoscopic sound to come. It didn’t hurt that the video for this was of Death riding through an apocalyptic landscape.

‘Summertide’s Approach’ saw a downpour of anguish and sonic notes on the stage, though it was ‘Gatherer…’ which best highlighted the band’s aesthetic and musical style to all in the room. The ability to play jaunty, old rhythms (Victorian carnival, anyone?) with modern, extreme music is a part of what makes A Forest of Stars wonderfully unique, though not their sole defining feature.

It was thus fitting that the band finished their set with not a whimper but a bang (so to speak), as final song ‘Drawing Down the Rain’ fell in turbulent blast beats and guitars. After Mister Curses’ anguished cries and Katheryne’s sonic refrains, it felt in awe to hear the latter’s violin play sorrowfully at the end. An outstanding show, that gave you the sense of having seen something special.

SETLIST:

3. Forest of Stars Setlist

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