The stunning and brilliant Jonathan Hultén was busy during the dark times of COVID. Industrious off in the Swedish forests, Hultén has crafted a number of breathtakingly dark folk songs that will whisk you away into the depth of the Scandinavian woods, but not too far outside of Stockholm. Releasing as both a CD and DVD, The Forest Sessions, is the product of his pandemic labor and is signature Hultén and a must for all his faithful.
You may be familiar with Hultén who was a guitarist and pivotal member of Tribulation from 2005-2020. Jonathan's input and performance with Tribulation was unmistakable and mesmerizing. I'm very fond of Tribulation and I am more than grateful for the ability to have seen Hultén perform live with the band.
Jonathan has moved on from Tribulation, embracing a slightly softer and gentler acoustic-heavy sound that focuses on the outdoors and wilderness. If you're expecting something heavy in the vein of Tribulation, you might be disappointed at the onset, however, there's still ample reason to check out his solo material as it's just a carefully composed and introspective. Even though the music mostly unplugged, there is still a high level of darkness and complexity in the compositions. Joni Mitchell, this is not. In fact, I'm not really a fan of acoustic music myself, however, The Forest Sessions has really struck me.
The absolute standouts here are "The Mountain" and "Holy Woods." Take a listen to "The Mountain" and just enjoy the melody and the voice. Hultén has range. He has inflection. He has depth. The cadence is amazing and all of these characteristics really hit you right in the chest.
Hultén, who's striking look is reminiscent of Russian-French Erte and 1920's art deco (take a look at him in the "Holy Woods" video below), transforms himself with an a slight nod to Paul Stanley and David Bowie. Hultén's makeup, accessories and attire is just as unique and original as his compositions and the videos he creates provide a rather illustrious endeavor with expert camera work that truly makes the visual experience immersive for those on the viewing side of the screen.
The entire release is a CD+DVD and LP. You'll get 10 songs and while most of these you've heard before in various releases (Chants from Another Place and The Dark Night of the Soul), The Woods' versions are different, more experimental iterations and arrangements. The videos, filmed by Damon Zurawski and produced by Emil Klinta, are so well done with careful attention to light and greenery and what makes this even more impressive is that all of the videos were shot within a 24 hour period!
Even if you're apprehensive about a record that isn't clearly "metal," there's no doubt that Hultén provides a set of songs that are going to be appeal to many even if most of the guitars are unplugged.