Abhorrent Forest's debut EP "The End of Life"! This EP was surprisingly released on January 9th via their Bandcamp page (in one of their first major public acts), and is also available for streaming on YouTube. Abhorrent Forest is the new solo project from ex-Despised Eyes/Death Rise guitarist Will Tholberg, who goes by the stagename Old Man Wyrn (or just "Wyrn") for this project, as also seen in the dormant black metal project Dullahan. "The End of Life" was independently recorded last year, and the album can be bought on Bandcamp using their "name your price" model, but it can also be downloaded free there if you so desire. Still, consider buying it to support Abhorrent Forest's work, especially as a new solo project in a town not heavily stacked with this genre! Running for a half hour across five songs, let's begin our review with the first track!
"The End of Life" opens with "Witness to History", which is actually the EP's shortest song despite running for just over 4 minutes. A heavy and crushing instrumental that takes influence from old school black metal, the song has a little too much cymbals during lengthy bridges, but the guitar work is solid and suits the genre, and the main riff has a catchy quality! The song and it's title are screaming for vocals though, and hopefully Wyrn looks at that for the future, but so far so good for black metal fans! "Winter Wrath" follows next, which kicks off more reserved than it's predecessor, but it does have faster stretches and will appeal to those hoping for grim and bleak metal. This song doesn't feel as polished and tight as "Witness to History" did, and it has a tendency to meander at time, but the drums are tight, and the brutality is full scale at it's peak. Solid track for fans, but I prefer the opener.
Third is "Meandering River of Fire", which is a steadier paced number that almost sounds like a black/doom metal hybrid at times, and while the song itself doesn't meander like "Winter Wrath" could, it's essence does fit the title, and it just screams even more for someone to add vocals. The song never gets too fast, but I like the guitar work especially late, and the bass suits things well also. This track gives some good visuals to suit the provided material, and it's a definite highlight of the EP so far! The penultimate track is "Hollow" (no relation to the old local metal band), which also keeps things at a medium pace, and it has a good sound that feels as dark and cold as you'd expect black metal to! That said, the song always feels like it's slowly building up towards a huge ending, but it doesn't have a true blow-off at the end that truly deviates from what came before, especially thanks to it's extremely abrupt ending. Overall though, it's an effective track with hard hitting guitar, though again here, cymbals can be overdone.
Abhorrent Forest's debut EP closes with the 11 minute long "The Void in Life", and no, the length isn't a typo! Probably the most unique aspect of this song is the usage of spoken word vocals, and while they sound sampled, I can't 100% make them or their source(s?) out, as they're buried in the music. They do help break things up a bit though, and add an eerier vibe to the song, especially earlier on when they're quieter. The song itself is more of the same black metal intensity as before, just longer and more stretched out, but it never gets too repetitive, which is a good sign! There's enough variance and tempo changes to go around, and the drum programming fits well, so this is a solid closure to this release, and believe it or not, never feels overlong!
So, what are my final thoughts on 'The End of Life"? Overall, this is a promising debut effort from Abhorrent Forest, and while it won't be all listeners' cup of tea, it is a satisfying collection of instrumental black metal that genre fans should easily take to! Old Man Wyrn came into this knowing what to play and how to approach it, and he mostly succeeded, with crushing guitar work, solid tempo changes, and nicely programmed drums uniting into some grim but entertaining instrumentals! "Meandering River of Fire" is arguably my favourite track, but there are things to look at addressing on future releases. The EP could have toned down cymbals on some tracks, "Winter Wrath" felt a little sloppy at times, and I couldn't make heads or tails of the spoken word on the closer, but on their own, those are minor. The lack of sung or screamed vocals didn't help for the imagery of some songs, either, and while they'd be an asset if used correctly, but they're not a complete necessity throughout.
Abhorrent Forest are a promising black metal project, and while we haven't heard publically from them or Wyrn since the release of this EP, hopefully they keep at it and bring more black metal to the Soo area! Buy or stream "The End of Life" at the above links! I hope you guys liked this month's "Where Are The New Albums?" post, but what's coming next month for our CD reviews? Given it's sudden online release (more on that soon), the new split vinyl EP from local doom metal trio AlgomA and Finland's Hooded Menace is very likely for February, so stay tuned for more on that soon, and keep watch for more news this week! Thanks everyone!