I first encountered A Dead Forest Index in London last November, while they were supporting Chelsea Wolfe on her ‘Abyss’ tour. Having never heard of them before I was intrigued to hear what a band auspiciously named ‘A Dead Forest Index’ had to offer (half expecting a Dillinger style shout fest). My fears were allayed when, without any acknowledgment to the crowd, brothers Adam and Sam Sherry took the stage. They arranged themselves facing each other….simply a drum kit, a guitar and two voices.
Over the next 40 mins the duo ran through their set with an incredible exhibition of songcraft. Organic songs that ebbed and flowed seamlessly...through intimate vocal chants to drone like arabesque soundscapes, whilst being solidly underpinned by the most amazing vocal harmonies and catchy hooks. There was a strong sense of quiet confidence and theatre to their show that left me (and pretty much the whole crowd) transfixed…….simply put, they had another fan.
Upon returning from the gig I was disappointed to find very little in the way of recorded music from ADFI. This led me to pretty much forget about them, that was until I saw a teaser for their latest album come up on the Sargent House (their label) news feed.
‘In All That Drifts From Summit Down’ is a beautiful and evocative album that ‘unveils’ itself to you more and more with every listen. At first glance it comes across as an indie ‘art’ album, with dreamlike vocals and jangly guitars….yet brooding underneath is an amazing sense of space and grandeur. Just like the sprawling New Zealand landscape the brothers attribute much of their influence to.
In recent interviews, guitarist Adam cites the ‘spark’ for the album being a painting called ‘Spirit Of The Summit’ by Frederick Leighton; which has been described as... ‘symbolising the purity of the human spirit, refined of everything gross and material, reaching out beyond itself for eternity’. The image also imbues an innate sense of longing and isolation: a single female figure, looking unsure and wistfully toward the sky, perched atop a mountain. This imagery couldn’t be more apt when listening to ‘In all that drifts…’.
Songs such as ‘Summit Down’ exhibit this sense of coldness and passing of time beautifully...especially with the haunting repetition of the words ‘I hold all this time…’, that eventually descend into a distorted abyss, amidst a wash of tumbling drums and reverb drenched harmonies.
You can tell that the influences for the lyrics in this album are far reaching into art, poetry as well as hinting at a deeper, more intimate and personal backdrop for ADFI. This is no more evident than in the closing track ‘Homage Old’... with the impassioned singing of ‘Your eyes in my eyes, your eyes unending’.......this track is the kind you can just lie back and get washed away with, a beautiful closer.
Aside from the washy wistfulness element of this album, there are some actually very well written ‘pop’ songs. The incredibly powerful (and catchy) ‘Myth Retraced’ being a standout. Driving understated verses crescendo into a powerful ‘sing a long’ chorus that will leave your hairs standing on end. As well as the stately ‘No Paths’, there is no lack of well written and addictive ‘songs’ to get your teeth stuck in to. You can definitely tell that touring with the likes of Chelsea Wolfe and collaborating with Savages’ Gemma Thomson has rubbed off. The more soundscape-esque songs, such as the brilliantly traumatic ‘Swims Out’, help break up the album to create a greater sense of occasion and ‘journey’ to the experience.
‘In all that drifts from summit down’ is the kind of album you’ll want to throw on and get lost to, start to finish...it almost seems blasphemous or rude listening to any part individually or out of context. It is in its essence a whole, a painting to be enjoyed as the sum of it’s parts…to stand back and admire.
It’s been a long time since i’ve listened to anything as evocative and powerful as this album, probably since Chelsea Wolfe’s ‘Abyss’ was released last year.
Buy it, support these guys and most of all give their music some time to willingly burrow its way into your subconscious.