Future of Forestry thrives on EPs. Ever since the release of their debut full-length, Twilight, Eric Owyoung and friends have opted for shorter bursts of production with both a Christmas EP and the Travel EP trilogy, relying on self-standing, shorter products for more frequent new music from the band. As the band commenced with a Christmas-themed tour last year, it was the material from their first EP that especially resonated with fans, leading FOF to release a sequel, naturally titled Advent Christmas EP, Volume 2.
As with every EP, the short length is the project's biggest downfall, but as with Future of Forestry's style, not one song is like the other on Volume 2, bringing a sense of cohesiveness to the table. Beginning with an epic rendition of "Joy to the World," the band goes out of their way to turn the classic favorite on its head. With an intro consisting of electronic clicks and synths and moving toward a mix of guitars, string sections and thumping floor toms, the musical atmosphere is more than a winning combination, setting the mood for the project; and with the inclusion of selected lines from the hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King" ("Praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit, three in One/Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!"), FOF takes a unique spin on the old standby and modifies the original song for the better. "Do You Hear What I Hear" starts off unassumingly with minimal usage of keyboards, but grows to a grand song with ringing bells and charged guitars. The forcefulness of the song's composition combined with the gravity of the lyrics ends up being a fantastic pairing.
Volume 2 boasts one original track in the bunch, which is something the first installment lacked. "The Earth Stood Still" is far and away one of the best original Christmas songs to come along in years, and few listens are required to come to this conclusion. Describing the story of the nativity as one that altered history with its influence, the power of Christ's coming is evident in Owyoung's vocals ("Shepherds stirred under starry skies, tasting grace that would change their lives/the angels trembled and the demons did too, for they knew very well what pure grace would do"), and voices of a choir close out the song in impressive fashion. The entirely-acoustic "Angels We Have Heard On High" contrasts greatly with the rest of the tracklisting with its simple nature, but with held-back percussion and guest vocals from Paper Rings' Olga Yagolnikov, the favorite is covered in a fairly traditional manner. After a purely piano-driven instrumental segue, the Latin hymn "Pie Jesu" is an uncommon but distinctive choice for the closing track, ending the EP on a somewhat solemn note, but bringing more character to the project with its organ treatment.
Whether or not Volume 2 is better than its predecessor appears to be an irrelevant question, as both installments of Christmas music are excellent both together and apart. Put the two EPs together, and one now owns a Christmas "album" of sorts from the ethereal rockers. It's clear that both volumes came from two different recording sessions, as the musical direction has clearly been shifted between releases (as evidenced by the Travel series' musicianship), but they still feel close enough in their approaches to be sister projects that can be heard together. While the first project had more in the vein of traditional Christmas lore, Volume 2 continues the story with a more modern take on the classics.
With plenty of influence from across the board and enough unexpected turns to keep one's interest throughout, Advent Christmas EP, Volume 2 is yet another winning project from Owyoung and his rotating set of musicians. Given the body of work the band has already amassed in their run, Future of Forestry has identified yet another niche in yuletide melodies and have taken advantage of this fact. Those who seek a thrilling take on Christmas music should not hesitate to pick both volumes up for a soothing, artful, and ultimately grand Christmas journey this winter.- Review date: 10/31/10, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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