Not many have ever heard about Forest Swords and this is the reason we needed to write this article. The solo project of Matthew Barnes has always had a really positive criticism from all the experts in the field, being both of his first works always nominated to be Album of the Year and “Best Hidden Gem”. More than a musician, he also his a graphic designer for publications such as “Dazed and Confused” and has sold some of his visual art almost always donating the profits. He has revealed he wants to start producing RnB and Hip-Hop works, however it is in the experimental area that his albums have being situated, and he is probably one of the best at it ever since 2010.
“Dagger Paths” is the name of the EP that in that same year just surprised the World. The Fact Magazine attributed it the “Best Album of the Year” and The Guardian called it “Best Hidden Gem”. A 6 track release that was later re-edited, did not receive any critic below 8/10 and is considered by some still his best work so far.
It was with “Engravings” though that his artistic name really was embodied not only in the experimental music scene as well as graphic designer since the album art cover was as well his work and was selected by several publications as one of the best album covers of the year. Musically Speaking the album was always inside the Top 30 Albums of the Year of all the famous publications.
Now he has released his second LP, “Compassion”, and the title could not describe better what one is about to hear. Not many feelings imply such a strong connotation as this one, which is so much needed in this World above many other values that are put in front of it. “The Highest Flood” is a journey where the choir voices create a warm feeling in such a cold place where one just hears dry wood drums and some weird distorted guitar that just take everything out of their way, as the metaphor from the title implies. “Sjurvival”, the shortest song in the album, was probably the one that had the most impact in my trip, for its soothing tone as if “everything is going to be alright in the end” in accordance to the whole weirdness we have surrounding us nowadays it is always good to find comfortable if even for a short period of time.
The Album Cover Art (image above) is then again from Barnes, who this time recurred to a photography of his authorship, leaving the graphic designer he is so known for a bit apart. In my opinion however, this is probably the Best Album cover he has ever done due to its power and all the hidden messages. A man struggling to not be crushed by a stone takes us to the “Sisyphus” imaginary as well as it can be a metaphor to the current situation of events, where we all feel a bit “crushed” by the future we have ahead filled with a heavy duty of uncertainty. The same feeling you have in relation to the aftermath of this fight, man against nature and his own “limitations”.
We know that experimental is not a popular genre, never was and should never be. Art has to be experimented first and then turned into something else. However it is in the experimental stage that one can grasp the true rawness of the art that is being proposed. In this case, even if you would spend two hours slowly cooking this album, he would always be raw. A statement of coherence not only in content as well as in quality that will not leave you indifferent from the first seconds of listening to it.