Album Title: Forhist
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Date of Release: 26 February 2021
Another day in 2021, another self-titled album to bring you. This time, it is the turn of Forhist to find itself front and centre of my gaze. I generally find that there are two reasons for an album being self-titled; it is either a debut, or it’s an album of which the band are particularly proud. In the case of Forhist, it is the former, although that’s not to say that the musicians are not very proud of their endeavours. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure. Why?
Shrouded in mystery, pretty much the only thing we are told about Forhist is that it is a new creation by the enigmatic Vindsval, he of Blut Aus Nord fame. We also know that the music on this record is heavily inspired by the kind of black metal that emanated from Norway in the 90s. However, we know nothing about whether he worked alone on this album; it’s a safe bet, but we don’t know. And neither can we ask him, because he’s not available for interviews according to the underlined missive in the press release. Even the songs don’t have names – the eight tracks are simply referred to as ‘I’-‘VIII’.
It might be frustrating for the reviewer, but this deliberate mystery works well otherwise. It adds a layer of intrigue to the project that’s entirely in keeping with the music that Vindsval has created. For indeed, listening to ‘Forhist’ is like taking a step back in time, to a period where black metal was beginning to diverge. It was either becoming more and more theatrical, over-the-top or experimental, or was sticking rigidly to its guns, relying on somewhat impenetrable, raw barrages of sound, created by fast-picked, cold riffs, relentless drumming, oodles of murky atmosphere and the shrieks of a tormented vocalist. Forhist most definitely sits in the camp of the latter. And I rather like it.
Yes it’s raw, yes it’s cold, but the music feels really organic; it lives, it breathes, and it actually feels honest and authentic. This album has no grandiose designs or ulterior motives. It comes across as merely the chosen vehicle for Vindsval to scratch an itch, and plough a furrow that interests him in the here and now, and not clouded by his work with Blut Aus Nord.
For all of it’s claustrophobic, unforgiving visage, what soon comes through is a surprising use of melody, which brings with it a certain unexpected warmth. I’m not talking Maiden-esque hooks, but the riffs do display a subtle layer of understated melody, the kind that starts to become more evident as time goes on. Or, in my case, when I switch to headphones to listen. It provides a certain charm that perhaps I wasn’t expecting to hear at the outset.
Speaking of charm, the organic nature of the music that I previously mentioned, is enhanced by the sounds of nature that appear at the beginning and the end of some songs, as well as sparingly-used acoustic sections. Take ‘I’ for a good example, that doesn’t fully kick in for a good 30 seconds, as it opens with the delicate sounds of birds singing in the trees. When it does, it hits the listener with a barrage of scything riffs, intense drumming, and nasty, incomprehensible vocals. Then there’s ‘VII’, which ends soothingly, via the sounds of waves lapping upon the shore. Mind you, the album cover, complete with the image of a curled-up fox should have been an early indicator as to the record’s direction of travel.
Elsewhere, ‘IV’ breaks off mid-song, to engage in a quiet, minimalist acoustic section, overlaying the sounds of heavy rain. ‘II’ starts off at lightning speed, all aggression and caustic attack before being reined in to deliver a more mid-paced tempo, allowing some lead guitar embellishments, choral vocals, and classic synth sounds to dominate at points. Complete with the rather cliched sound of thunder at the close, this has to be my personal favourite composition on ‘Forhist’.
On the subject of the vocals, what is also interesting to me, is the way that they are almost inaudible at times. The gruff shrieks are buried so far into the mix, that you almost have to listen out for them; they’re very much used as another instrument, or layer within the music to help create the murky, unsettling atmosphere that is present for much of the record.
Your appreciation for Forhist will very much depend on your views of raw, organic 90s-inspired black metal. If it isn’t your thing, then ‘Forhist’ will not be for you either. However, if you’re looking for a dose of extreme metal nostalgia from the cold, dark forests of Norway, then you could do an awful lot worse that check out Vindsval’s latest creation. On the whole, I prefer Blut Aus Nord, but I also recognise and enjoy the charms of Forhist, for there are plenty if you listen hard enough.
The Score of Much Metal: 82%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: