Aokigahara, also known as the Sea of Trees, is a 35 square kilometer forest just to the northwest of Japan’s Mt. Fuji. It’s the second most popular place in the world to commit suicide after the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2003, the last year Japanese authorities released official numbers, 105 bodies were found in the forest. The actual number of suicides, however, is nearly impossible to determine, since the dense vegetation and abundant wildlife within the forest can make it difficult to locate and recover bodies.
For a depressive black metal band, any name that references Aokigahara probably seems a bit too on the nose. When that band is as good as Tucson-based Suicide Forest, however, it can be called anything the musician wants.
Suicide Forest is the brainchild of 23-year-old multi-instrumentalist Austin Kruger, who self-released a trio of demos between July 2016 and July 2017: Emptiness, Indifference, and Apathy. The first two were compiled under the name Descend Into Despair and re-released first on cassette in 2017 by Fólkvangr Records, and then on Digital/CD/LP earlier this year by Ascension Monuments Media. With each successive release, Kruger’s performances sound increasingly more confident, and the songwriting is increasingly more daring as a result.
Now, with the impending release of Suicide Forest’s self-titled full-length, Kruger is poised to be mentioned in the same company as the Scott Connors, Jef Whiteheads and Sin Nannas of the music world. Exalted company to be sure, but perhaps not the best points of comparison for the remarkable achievement that is Suicide Forest. Kruger may well have more in common with some of the great auteurs from the world of film like Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, or Francois Truffaut, making Suicide Forest the band’s Citizen Kane, À bout de souffle, or Les Quatre Cents Coups: a towering debut that both acknowledges the work that came before it and completely rewrites the rules of the game.
Suicide Forest was engineered by Frank Bair, and mixed and produced in Tucson by A. Kruger with additional production by Chris Wisco (Broken Hope, Jungle Rot, Origin, Novembers Doom), and mastered at The Boiler Room in Chicago by Collin Jordan (Bongripper, Cough, Eyehategod, Gigan). Between the three of them, they dialed the exact sound an album like this deserves: clean enough that the nuances of Kruger’s songwriting can be appreciated, but not so clean that it loses any of that all-important black metal atmosphere.
From the driving rhythms and ethereal keyboard accents of opener “Kingdom of Solitude,” through the despairingly beautiful piano interlude “Baptized in Pools of Despondency,” to the lengthy sample from Jim Jones’s last speech exhorting his followers to commit ‘revolutionary suicide’ at the end of closing track “Cold Dark Comfort,” Suicide Forest is nothing short of a watershed release for depressive black metal. Follow its trail deep into the woods, and join with the dead already residing there…
-Clayton Michaels, Senior Editor, Indy Metal Vault
released October 26, 2018
“Suicide Forest” was recorded during the Winter/Spring of 2018 by A. Kruger and Frank Bair. Mixed and produced by A. Kruger with additional production by Chris Wisco. “Baptized in Pools of Despondency” recorded with assistance from R.B. “Lord Beta” Honeycutt. Mastered by Collin Jordan.
All music and lyrics by A. Kruger. All instruments performed live by A. Kruger.
Cover art painted by Lariyah Hayes. Logo by Adrian Daley.
Special thanks: Zak Giguere, Abigail Codru, Adrian Daley, Leanne Miller, Blake Judd, Erica Blaney, Nic Huber, Mark Addington at Folkvngr Records, and Crow Prints.
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