Mystic Forest - Green Hell...
Chanteloup Creations
Black Metal
12 songs (36:22)
Release year: 1999
Mystic Forest
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
Even taking into account the shallower and more obviously chart-bothering representatives of the black metal scene, with their hiring of symphony orchestras and cinematic posturing, the most dedicated and cunning exponent of romantic/classical music in the genre is arguably Stefan Kozak, a.k.a. the tweely named, (largely) one-man band, Mystic Forest. It’s an obscure project with a cult following (including much-missed ex-Metal Reviews writer, Daniel), whose music I have returned to after being impressed of late by Pensees Nocturnes, another solo act that follows in its footsteps by integrating lengthy piano interludes and reworkings of Chopin.

This 1999 debut, however, followed not the depressive path that would attract Vaerohn a decade later, or even the mellower, accordion-inflected one most recent release, Romances, but instead wields a red raw guitar tone, comparable at times only to Nattens Madrigal. At its best, the fusion of this hatred to the clattering piano drama that regularly forces itself into the foreground is sensational. It’s hideous appearance masks a soul filled with melody, with re-envisionings of classical tunes being grafted in that are at times dramatic and intensely emotional, for example Mystic Spirit. Legend of the Glade is another masterclass; with flamboyant piano arpeggios riding roughshod over lacerated black metal riffs and hissing, distorted vocals, giving way to soaring but fuzzy lead melodies.

This is certainly not without its downsides. The structure and flow of the album is odd and intensely erratic, making it difficult to digest as a complete entity. The central theme of Nature is rammed home less than subtly by the abundant running water samples that fill the frequent and lengthy quiet periods between songs. These passages typically feature plaintive guitar solos alternating with sometimes off-puttingly flashy piano playing, severely rupturing the album’s process. The piano, in particular, is occasionally not as impressive as it seems to think it is, and lacks a little subtlety and feeling, as on filler tracks like Welcome Into the Darkness.

The cumulative effect, then, is of a genuinely distinctive vision that suffers under the weight of some of its pretensions. On later records, Kozak mellows out a little, culminating in 2004’s sophisticated Romances, but this one has a malevolent energy that it’s difficult to shake. Despite its embrace of “grown-up” classical music, this is ultimately an album of youthful enthusiasm and impatient vision. The sound of Green Hell needs work, and has since been developed into something different, but it remains recommended for anyone discovering the delights of esoteric and romantically-inclined black metal bands such as Pensees Nocturnes or Peste Noire. A flawed but fascinating black metal curiosity.

Killing Songs :
Mystic Spirit, Legend of the Glade
Charles quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Mystic Forest that we have reviewed:
Mystic Forest - Romances reviewed by Daniel and quoted 94 / 100
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