Label: Woodcut Records
The problem with much black metal is that it is afraid to look beyond its early, self-imposed limits. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong in a fixation on second-wave sounds and Satan, to seek no further inspiration is to ignore a whole host of potential influence, both musically and lyrically. This is a problem that Forgotten Horror do not fall prey to. Taking thematic inspiration from Lilith – rather than more common Satanism – and with musical comparisons to the likes of later Rotting Christ, Absu, and Melechesh being apt, Aeon Of The Shadow Goddess is still clearly recognisable as black metal, but it offers something slightly different and more adventurous than the norm.
It’s clear from the start that Forgotten Horror are taking the subject material here very seriously. “The Adept” is an almost cinematic opener, making it clear right at the beginning that Aeon Of The Shadow Goddess is an album full of grandeur and dark majesty. The strong production places the guitars front and centre, and their melodies help carry the album forward. The rhythm section helps with this, and the album has a constant feeling of motion, of a narrative unfolding in front of you. Well-used keys and unusual (for black metal) instruments help add to the grand feeling of the album, and if these are too subtle for you then moments such as the operatic female vocals in tracks such as “Behold A Shadow Goddess” and “In Ravenous Darkness” should make the ambition of Forgotten Horror clear. What makes all of this even better, though, is that such flourishes rarely feel over-bearing, or take away from the impact of the metal on display. Too many bands that attempt to add symphonic or adventurous touches to their music do so at the cost of their metal, but Forgotten Horror do not make this mistake.
Indeed, what is perhaps most notable about this album is just how hard it hits. The riffs are strong, full of punch and power as well as melody, and many of the leads are technical and inventive, yet still resolutely metal, hitting hard and holding attention. The rasped vocals suit the music perfectly, and are just on the right side of legible. Whilst the adventurous types of Melechesh and later-day Rotting Christ may be the most obvious points of comparison, there’s a lot more going on here than a handful of references would suggest. “Lilithian” features some guitar work that brings to mind Immortal at their most sublime; “Babalon Emissaries” combines organ and exciting leads to create something undeniably majestic; and much of the album is clearly steeped in the lessons of classic metal as much as it is black metal, with tricks and turns that have been learnt from the likes of Maiden and Priest even if they do not sound like them. Like those bands, it is obvious that clear efforts have been made to write songs, full of movement and progression, rather than simply throwing together a bunch of riffs and leads. Taken across the whole of the album, it gives Aeon Of The Shadow Goddess the feel of an unfolding story, and of being a concept album without any of the baggage that term usually implies.
Even so, there’s no denying that this is a weighty album, and feels longer than its 45 minute duration. That’s not to imply that the album drags – far from it – but rather, that there are so many ideas here and so much packed in to each song that it can be quite exhausting, in the best possible way. As such, Aeon Of The Shadow Goddess is an album that punches well above its weight, and puts Forgotten Horror in a position where they deserve recognition comparable to that of their contemporaries. It is an album full of ideas and passion, unwilling to play by any rules other than its own, and is hugely successful. It may not appeal to those who obsess over the kvlt and the grim in some misguided attempt at purity, but it is their loss. Fans of quality extreme metal who do not care for self-imposed boundaries will find much to enjoy in Aeon Of The Shadow Goddess.