Afforested are a progressive folk rock band from the English county of Kent. Inspired by ancient woodlands and stories of legendary heroes, their songs weave tales of medieval outlaws, forest creatures and life in the greenwoods. The band was formed in the summer of 2007 by the brothers Alex Betts (keyboards, drums, flute, recorder, whistle, percussion) and Jonathan Betts (six and twelve-string acoustic guitars, bass guitar, mandolin), who play all the instruments. In the autumn of 2009 they released their debut EP Wolf's Heads And Woodlanders (see review) both on CD and a free download. In July 2012, Afforested released their first full length album called Surviving Remnants Of The Medieval Greenwood. This entirely instrumental work was written, performed and produced by the band and recorded at Hyrstgeard Studios in 2011 and 2012. The album is exclusively available as a download from the Afforested website.
Playing and recording everything by oneself is a fine, but also a risky process. In the end the music has to sound like a tight group or band, and that's exactly what's lacking here. It all sounds too corny, almost like a demo; a full length instrumental album simply needs and deserves more since prog folk can be delightful to listen to. It's not in the compositions; they have all potential to rise, it's neither in the musical skills, because these musicians know how to play their instruments. What I missed in this production is compression in both mixing and mastering that didn't deliver the so-called 'audio-glue'. I missed the low frequencies as well. I'm afraid they're still somewhere on the mixing table.
The instruments don't sound retro, but rather as virtual studio technology. It all sounds as if it's produced by a little Casio. If those drums, keyboards and guitars are real instruments, I'll eat both my shoes! Things probably went terribly wrong during and after the recordings. Therefore I strongly recommend a remix if possible. This can and must bring the band to the next level since they have all the potentials. Maybe it's a good idea to hire a producer who's able to think out of the box. That'll push Afforested to the limit and let everything come together in exciting arrangements, recordings and the final production.
For those who like traditional conservative instrumental folk, order now. For fans of Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant, keep an eye on the next albums of Afforested. For people who think progressive music is about discovering new paths with a proper album production, check this one out first otherwise you might be disappointed.
*** Gert Bruins (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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