Forest of Shadows
Six Waves Of Woe
posted on 3/2009 By:
Usually, when a reviewer or a fan talks about becoming lost in an album, they’re referring to a positive existential experience. About being able to filter out external stimuli and really become immerse in music. I can remember getting lost in albums like Morningrise or Crimson. But, there is a less fulfilling side to this coin, dear reader, and I believe it has landed face up with Forest of Shadows' Six Waves of Woe.
By sticking ardently to a formula of using undistorted guitars and electronics to gradually build to a climax of down-tuned power chords and guttural growls for nearly every track, Niclas Frohagen, the man behind the band, has produced the kind of album where the listener is never quite sure what song he’s listening to. When it’s created intentionally, that sense of displacement can be a rewarding and fundamentally important part of a listening to an album. Here, where it’s the byproduct of formulaic songwriting, it’s mostly frustrating. It also runs counter to, what I would presume are, the aims of this album, which is guide the listener through some kind of catharsis. The problem is that, with the three opening tracks (“Submission,” “Selfdestructive” and “Detached”) composed of so much of the same basic material and free of almost any kind of distinguishing characteristics, the listener will more likely feel at some point that they have been dropped at a rest stop with no map to their destination. There are moments when I am not quite sure if I’m listening to the melancholic build up of "Selfdestructive" or the mournful entrée of "Detached" before being crushed by the monolithic conclusion of "Submission"…or was that "Deprived"?
Interestingly, after these three opening tracks Mr. Frohagen experiments for a pair of songs in a manner that eventually proves pretty superficial. “Moments in Solitude” and “Pernicious” initially struck me as detour from the tired formula of the first three tracks due to their more rocking and up tempo intros. It wasn’t until my second listen of Six Waves of Woe that I realized that these songs were built from the same formula of the first three, just reversed. Damn.
I think the problem here is similar to one faced by many second tier acts, which are so burdened by their reverence for their influences that they actually consider embellishment sacrilegious. Mr. Frohagen has a knack for constructing the basic skeleton of a song and he certainly pays an almost morbid reverence to the likes of Katatonia an Anathema through his work. But, and I almost feel embarrassed to write this, there’s really not enough sizzle to go with the steak on “Six Waves of Woe.” As a songwriter, he has learned to crawl and walk, now he needs to dance just a little.
I always feel like maybe I’ve missed the point when I criticize a doom project for being bloodless. How much candor should critics expect from the kind of artists who would devote themselves to this this kind of music? Maybe none. But what about soul, or least something of the self? If this album is truly a representation of Niclas Frohagen, then I have to class him as a bore.
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