Originally written by Jason Jordan.
While I’m not knowledgeable enough to write a paper about the seemingly minute differences between battle, heathen, pagan, and Viking metal, I know what I like, and I like the re-release of Aurora Borealis from David Parks’ brainchild Dark Forest. Though I first became aware of Canada’s DF as a result of the buzz surrounding last year’s Heathen Crusade II festival, the 2007 edition of the band’s debut full-length is the one to get – instead of the 2006 incarnation limited to 500 copies – because the latest version features touched-up art, a real drum performance, and last but not least, their four-song Demo 2005 as bonus material, which catapults the length past the 68-minute mark.
In tune with the above-mentioned subgenres, most songs on Aurora Borealis are mini-epics that tap out after seven, eight, or nine minutes, except for the title track intro and five-minute, fraternal twins “Thurisaz” and “Two Ravens Soaring.” “Winds and Waves” – the longest of the lot by far – begins in a primeval BM manner similar to fellow nature-reliant North American act Wolves in the Throne Room, but quickly ditches the natural feel once synthesizers enter the mix. Though the guitars and instrumental sections hint at an affinity for Norway’s Enslaved, the raspy growls and gang chants speak of Moonsorrow and other, likeminded outfits that retain a rawer production than what they could probably afford. Dark Forest prove Amon Amarthian in the sense that the art of war makes up a hefty chunk of the lyrical content, if not almost monopolizes it besides the few that center on pagan folklore and nature, which the wintry soundclips further substantiate. Despite the brevity of “Thurisaz,” the crystalline keyboards and abrasive rhythms ensure that it’s just as worthwhile as lengthier compositions such as the sweeping “Under the Northern Fullmoon,” grandiose, mouth harp-laced “Eternal Forest,” rhythmical wonder and clean vocal-laden “Northstar.” The dark, apocalyptic “Journey to Ever-Eternal Skies” reinforces battle themes with a warfare soundclip prior to the launching of a series of driven riffs during which men shout and swords clang – the result being an atmosphere that no other Aurora Borealis peer constructs quite as well. Because this track is largely instrumental, albeit lead-strewn, it does prepare one for the calm, downtrodden closer “Two Ravens Soaring.”
At this point, Demo 2005 commences with the two-minute intro “Warwinds,” and predictably, earlier versions of “Under the Northern Fullmoon” and the noticeably shorter “Eternal Forest” are less polished than their ’07 counterparts, although they aren’t too dissimilar from their updated editions. Outro “Among Silent Pine” is the true conclusion to this 12-track album, and is along the lines of the depressive “Two Ravens Soaring.” In spite of its secondary importance, the demo is a welcome inclusion.
Of course there are drawbacks to the re-release of Aurora Borealis – an unintentional “shortchange” for fans who own the previous edition, a production that still has definite room for improvement, a lack of an unmistakable identity, etc. – but Dark Forest ultimately deserve more attention than they’ve received to date. AB is essentially an undisputed win and the first installment in what will hopefully become a long, prosperous career with several scintillating follow-ups.