Ancient Boreal Forest was actually one of the first acts I fully did a discog binge on when I first got into dungeon synth. At the time, I didn’t really care who or what I was listening to, I just needed more of that sweet medieval synth music. And going back on this album years later, it really shows how undiscerning I was with my binge listening at the time.
See Ancient Boreal Forest isn’t a bad act by any stretch of the imagination, but to stretch the imagination might be a tall task for the project. Spirits Within the Mighty Forest is, assuming based on the evidence, their attempt at creating a magnum opus of sorts. It is is their longest solo album to date (their 94 minute long split album not included by rule) at 66 minutes, and while there is definitely a noticeable effort to break out of the norms and put a structure on this thing, the length ends up doing way more harm than good.
It’s kind of remarkable that ABF has managed to be really a one note project for so long, under so many releases throughout the years. While their production has steadily got better (the debut was raw as hell, in a bad way), the song structure has relatively stayed the same, being another synth act along the lines of Lustre or Basabarian Hills. I think the difference between ABF and those more notable acts is an ironic one in my mind. Listening to this album it’s obvious that ABF has a great and vast story to tell, and frankly I want to hear it very badly! I hear the first too tracks talk about what lurks in the dark forest and I want to know all about such things. But it turns out that lurks in the mighty and dark forest is the same at every corner. While there are moments where they break from their normal form, most tracks follow the daunting slow drum pattern over a basic melody format that many other projects in this sub genre of dungeon synth do.
There’s nothing particularly bad about this record, but a good 70% of this manages to be so painfully average and repetitive that it makes the 66 minute run time look more like a chore than a way to enjoy oneself. Saying that the middle drags is a gross understatement, which is a shame because the ends of the album I feel show a sense of attempting structure and contain some of the more interesting synth arranges on the album.
I honestly think this is one of ABF’s best work, but it’s brought down by just too much fluff and pure unnecessary tracks that it’s very hard to give this a full listen and not feel at least a little bit lost in the woods.