Fornost Arnor – Death Of A Rose

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Review by Jason Guest

In prog metal, the chances of a band carving out a place of their own in the ever-broadening canon of musos intent on drawing together both the dark and the light in thought-provoking and distinctive ways is becoming increasingly difficult. A scene awash in musical epicureans that are as technically adept as they are creative, to craft a work that marks a band out as one worthy of more than just a mention is no mean feat, particularly when the bar – as well as audience expectation – is being perpetually raised. And so, since 2006, Fornost Arnor have been sculpting their own sound with an EP that year and, following a brief hiatus, 2009’s Escaping The Abyss, and with Death Of A Rose attempt to further scale the summits of musical development and experimentation.

Able to emulate the haunting and ominous power of the darker sides of metal without the burden of rapidly-strummed riffs and throat-tearing blasphemy, Fornost Arnor utilise their combined musical skills to craft canvasses of a rich sonic diversity that are as moving as they are striking. In terms of musicianship, Fornost Arnor successfully balance the needs of the individual for musical expression with that of combined musical accomplishment. Last’s drumming is technical, precise and powerful; Sam Austen’s bass sound is deep and robust, his melodic approach complementing the riffs and colouring the acoustic passages with lines that firmly bridge the gap between the guitars and the drums; and Greg Chiver’s and Will Hall’s guitar work is astounding. From acoustic passages to technical riffing to demonic death metal, the tracks move through many peaks and valleys, encountering all kinds of sonic terrain found between the extremes of dark sensitivity and lavish introspection. As such, there’s the odd occasion where the songs can feel laboured – though not necessarily weak – with some parts being repeated with a little less creative exploration than the parts allow. The riffs are so strong that drummer James Last could take it upon himself to play something a little different to that which he played the first time the passage was performed so as to avoid the copy-and-paste feel that they incur. But these are minor flaws that are far outweighed by the band’s and the album’s many strengths.

The songs bear an aural compulsion that draws the listener in so that the minutiae can be savoured and digested as part of the greater whole. With such quality in the writing and the musicianship, Death of a Rose deserves to raise the band out of the footnotes of prog metal’s history and get the band the kind of attention they deserve. Whether or not mainman Greg Chivers chooses to replace recently departed lead guitarist Will Hall, one thing is certain, Fornost Arnor will move from strength to strength.

7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Rogue
  2. Nameless Fear
  3. Path Marked Unknown
  4. Lady Heresy
  5. Aspire For The Darkest Hour
  6. The Death Of A Rose I
  7. The Death Of A Rose II
  8. Farewell