Review : Stone Circle – ‘A Forest Dark’

Since 2014’s self-titled album (yes, I came late to this party too…I hear that’s fashionable!) I’ve been closely following the work of Brighton’s very own Stone Circle. Death and Progressive music have always been fairly well suited bed-fellows as long as it is backed up with talented instrumentalists, interesting and fluid changes and of course a well written piece…I’m delighted to let you know that on their latest EP, although only comprised of four tracks, these elements have been combined into a release you will be enjoying for many a repeated listen.
‘A Forest Dark’ is comprised of four musical adaptations of the works of the Brother Grimm but this is no Disney interpretation and follows the original and oft gruesome tales as they were meant to be told. The music itself weaves these tales with a blend of guttural death metal passages mixed with floating progressive scenes, folk and more modern and tech metal approaches which perfectly shows off the full arsenal of tools Stone Circle have up their collective sleeves.
The EP opens with the dark and brooding ‘Bones’ which swings in with a groove laden riff before moving rapidly between slow doom-laden disjointed passages, break-neck speed metal and a hauntingly beautiful third-act. Vocals are delivered with a growl, a roar and where required a harmonious melody, the band seamlessly know how to adapt to deliver each segment of the story they weave and its this attention to every detail which is present throughout the rest of the EP.

‘Without Hands’ swiftly follows and sent chills down me in a way I have rarely felt since my first listen to Opeth’s late 90’s masterpiece ‘Still Life’. The longest of the four tracks this, for me, shows the bands song-writing at its absolute pinnacle. The band channel the threat, sadness and twists of the Grimms tale ‘A Girl Without Hands’ in a mesmerising way. The music is spacious yet claustrophobic in equal measure and hints at many of the bands inspirations which give them their unique sound in a genre which has been saturated by many sub-par acts.
The shorter instrumental ‘Riddled’ gives a welcome respite between the EP’s darkest moments with a haunting and hypnotic play off between acoustic guitar rhythm picking and a twisting melody before the EP’s first single ‘Possession’. This reworking of Grimms better known ‘Rumplestiltskin’ starts slowly before battering you with its multitude of intense and groove laden riffs.
Stone Circle have been away for a while but man has it been worth the wait. I couldn’t recommend this more to both the hardened lover of progressive death metal and those with an open mind and ear wishing to check out the modern take of the scene. The songs are lovingly crafted, beautifully played and have a fantastic production value which owes itself somewhat to Jonny Renshaw of Devil Sold His Soul and his studio talent.
Go here: https://stonecirclemetal.bandcamp.com/album/a-forest-dark and buy this now…you’d be a fool not to!

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