8.5/10 http://the-plague.net/opus1209.htm#forest ======================== Wow, it is amazing what you forget when you turn 40… Looking back, I actually reviewed Forest Stream’s debut album, Tears of Mortal Solitude, back in 2003. My one complaint back then was apparently the weak vocals, and I’m pleased to say things have improved in that area without losing ground elsewhere. Trying to pin down one specific style that Forest Stream plays is impossible, as they carefully blend together death, doom, black, goth and folk metal, with plenty of symphonic keyboards and a combination of clean and gravelly vocals. The results could easily be a mess, especially with half the songs clocking in at over nine minutes long, but they pull it off quite superbly. The title track is a journey in and of itself, following slow, brooding riffs with clean passages and textural keyboards, only to set off into stormy weather once again. “Bless You to Die” and “The Seventh Symphony of…” show the band is capable of harder and faster material as well, with a hint of early Emperor creeping into the vocals and riffing. “Beautfiul Nature” is an unexpected left-turn, featuring some half-spoken stream of consciousness lyrics and dreamy melodies. Forest Stream are good at infusing their metal with drama and melody without sounding silly or wimpy. It is serious music that is dark yet beautiful and sweeps the listener away into its own richly emotional world. The Crown of Winter not only matches their impressive debut but fully surpasses it in every way.