Album Review: Forrest – Soluna

Album Review: Forrest – Soluna

imageHailing from Neath, South Wales, Forrest are the latest in a long, illustrious line of bands to emerge from the region. But if you think that means you have a handle on what they sound like, be prepared to check your preconceptions at the door.

Instead, ‘Soluna’ recalls many of my favourite late ‘90s, early ’00s emo records. Indeed, if you ever enjoyed anything on the Deep Elm roster during its golden age, Elliott’s ‘False Cathedrals’ or Sense Field’s ‘Building’, then ‘Soluna’ could be one of the best records you could hear all year.

In fact, ‘False Cathedrals’ is an album I keep coming back to as a reference point. From the gorgeous, airy vocals and beautiful textures on opener ‘Ambition’ to the hauntingly sparse ‘Sol’ it evokes the same mood as Elliott’s masterpiece. Even lyrically, ‘Ambition’ recalls ‘Calm Americans’, with both opening lyrics citing ambition and dreams. Sometimes you just know that you’re going to get on with an album, and from that moment I was sold.

Close To Me by Forrest.

It perhaps should be noted that I place the Kentucky act in such high regard that such comparisons aren’t made lightly. That Forrest nail both the feeling and majesty of such a band is astonishing. But in ‘Soluna’ they’ve delivered something pretty special.

’Soluna’ isn’t merely a work of hero worship, however. Instead, there’s a drive and intensity that sets it apart and ensures it stands proudly alongside its forefather as an equal, rather than a cheap knock-off. It makes for a striking combination of sounds, ranging from the moody ‘Ambition’ and ‘Asylum’ to more strident efforts such as ‘Remember’ and ‘Close To Me’. That it comes together as a cohesive, albeit relentlessly intense album speaks volumes about Forrest’s grasp of pacing and song structuring.

This is best evidenced by the stunning one-two of ‘Sol’ and ‘Luna’. The first a gorgeous instrumental, the second, the closest the album has to a pop song. It’s slightly outrageous they even attempt it. That it hits all the right spots is tantamount to criminal behaviour.

Lyrically and thematically, there’s a lot of common ground with another of this year’s breakout bands, Berkshire’s finest, Hindsights. It makes ‘Soluna’ an intensely personal record, but one which, like Hindsights’ excellent debut effort, avoids clichés or melodrama.

For all their intensity, it’s to Forrest’s credit that ‘Soluna’ never feels overbearing too. It would’ve been easy for the album to feel like a trial; a relentless slog to get through each increasingly taut song. Instead, it works perfectly, with plenty of light added to the darkness and shade. Could they be Wales’ next big thing? Absolutely…

4.5/5

’Soluna’ by Forrest is released on July 16th on Close To Home Records.

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Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)