Live Review : A Forest Of Stars + Necronautical + Burial @ Academy 3, Manchester on March 23rd 2019

A Forest of Stars shows are rare and special things so it is disappointing to find the Academy 3 pretty empty, especially as rumours of a sell-out had been swirling around the internet. Watching Burial take the stage to less people than A Forest of Stars have members means that either there has been a lot of fake news about the sales for this show or the Black Metal hordes are still in the student bar two floors below enjoying the considerably cheaper beer. 

Burial are from Manchester and play a blisteringly fast take on Blackened Metal. They have taken the atmosphere of Mayhem and spliced it with the speed of Cannibal Corpse meaning that each track whirls past at a pace like the band have a private bet of how fast they could get through this set and back to the cheap beer of the aforementioned student bar. Its not bad and its perfectly enjoyable fodder to bang your head, I just wished some of the songs would slow down to allow me to enjoy the intricacies and originality that I know is there.

Necronautical have real candles! On Candelabras! The Black Metal boy in me is elated but the health and safety officer side of my personality is already cataloguing all the potential risks. Necronautical play very much my type of black Metal: slow, creeping, atmospheric and evil as fuck. Their Emperor and Carach Angren influences may once or twice stray into plagiarism but they are really good at what they do. This is Black Metal when it is allowed to breath and it is as flamboyant and epic as Burial were taut and claustrophobic. Frontman Naut stays in character the whole time, growling his greetings to the crowd like commands from hell itself and glowering out in the abyss as he spits out his lyrics. Highly theatrical and actually really rather good, I immensely enjoy them and they act as welcome methadone to my Emperor addiction.

There are more people for A Forest of Stars but not many more and half of the audience decide to take up residence at the bar at the back of the room and frankly manage to put a huge damper on the whole evening. A Forest of Stars live are an ethereal and immersive experience that conjurer up nether-worlds of sound, sadly their complex waves of dark storytelling ends up competing, and in many places being drowned out, by the cacophony of meaningless conversations coming from the bar. Tonight should be magical as the setlist is a faultless mystical journey through the dark underbelly of Victorian society, full of mysticism and wonder. But every time we reach a quite introspective piece all we can hear is thirty or so loud voices raised in heightened conversation. The band themselves look visibly thrown by this but they are offered cold comfort from a Yorkshire voice in the front row that does pipe out “Well they’ve paid their entrance fee”.

I don’t want you to think that A Forest of Stars weren’t good, musically they were as fantastic as ever and a rare (well for me) outing of the entire of 'Pawn on the Universal Chessboard' is a real treat and they do try their best to make this, the special night that we had all hoped it would be. But, and I’m sorry to moan, I can’t stress enough how much of a distraction boozy chatty punters propping up the bar can be to the enjoyment of avant-garde Black Metal. They end with 'Drawing Down the Rain' and as our friends at the back have started to slope off, for the first time of the evening I truly start to find myself lost in A Forest of Stars wondrous swirling musical maelstrom and then its all over. A Forest of Stars were musically as unique and special as ever but please, please, if you are to stand at the bar, at the back please quieten the fuck down.

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki