Album Review: “Suicide Forest” By Deveria

Northwest of Mount Fuji, there is a sprawling forest known as Aokigahara, which has foliage so thick that it’s often referred to as the Sea of Trees. However, Aokigahara has recently become more widely known as a result of its morbid history. As one of the most popular suicide destinations in the world, estimates claim as many as 100 people per year have successfully killed themselves there.

Aside from the billboards urging visitors to “Think carefully about your children, your family,” and the undiscovered bodies, Aokigahara is largely desolate. One visitor described the silence as “chasms of emptiness.” She added, “I cannot emphasize enough the absence of sound. My breath sounded like a roar.”

On the other hand, Deveria’s newest release, Suicide Forest, is anything but empty. Over the course of quarantine, Charles Woodard’s “day job” as a cardiac nurse for St. Peter’s Hospital and Albany Associates in Cardiology grew more stressful each day. With Deveria, Woodard was able to channel that anxiety into a childhood ambition of his to record a full album. As such, every second of this hell-for-leather progressive thrash record is packed with head-banging riffs, ambitious sweep-picking, and breakdowns as epic as Aokigahara itself.

The album opens with roaring thunder and muted blast beats, teasing the listener before Deveria launches full force into the second and ironically titled track “Silent Cries.” Full of head-banging riffs and deliciously indulgent solos, this track lets everyone know that Deveria are back and they mean business.

Throughout the record, Woodard shifts between guttural death growls and nearly operatic soaring vocals ripped straight from 80s glam rock. It’s often hard to tell whether the band is paying tribute to Slayer or Bowie, and all we know is that it rips.

Where the first half of this record relishes in its own chaos and immediacy, tracks like “Reign of Fire” and “Miracles” find their urgency in the space between the lines. Woodard’s social commentary and vocal range paint a picture of a world that has gone horribly askew. In these moments, it is hard to not be reminded of the hardships we’ve endured this past year. Yet, Deveria never lets us sit with these thoughts, but rather rips them out of our hands by immediately following them with electrifying breakdowns and mind-melting solos.

In the last minute of “Miracles”, the instrumentation fades into the background as Woodard’s layered vocals take the spotlight. “And I will survive,” Woodard sings, “and I’m free.” While much of this album is a cathartic exercise in reminiscing about what we’ve lost, at its climax this music is about what can’t ever be taken from us.

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