Album Review: Terminal Forest By Swan Valley Heights

It’s already been four years since Swan Valley Heights released their second offering, The Heavy Seed, an album that I loved from the first notes all the way to the last. In just one week from this writing, this German-based group will be releasing Terminal Forest, an exquisite record that easily fits into their discography. 

About Terminal Forest 

Terminal Forest is composed of 6 deliciously tasty tracks that run that gamut from psychedelic to stoner to grunge to alternative rock and back again. One of the things that had initially drawn me to Swan Valley Heights was the way they blend their influences into a signature sound; one of those was a mild Michael Stipe (R.E.M) vocal influence. There were aspects of The Heavy Seed that I referred to as “R.E.M if they went stoner psych,” which was on both the musical and vocal fronts. Terminal Forest finds them still utilizing a bit of that sound, but they have really found themselves on this record, sounding more like Swan Valley Heights than any other group that they may have taken influence from. 

The Songs 

The first track on Terminal Forest is named “Microbe Galaxy”; it is also the best track presented here. The vocal performance is spectacular; there’s no other way to explain it. David Kreisl, who also handles guitar duties, has a familiar voice while still feeling new. He can use it to the advantage of the track, never overpowering the music and always adding just the right sounds. His guitar playing is on par with his vocal performance, applying beautiful melody before launching into fuzz-filled riffs that are as much grunge as they are stoner based. 

“The Hunger” feels relatively brief after the 11 and a ½ minute musical excursion of “Microbe Galaxy.” This one brings the listener in with an extremely memorable bass and drum part, with the bass guitar having just the slightest amount of fuzz. Things remain low-key once David comes in with his guitar, but the fuzz riff that follows raises the power levels briefly before settling back into that catchy intro riff. Despite thinking that “Microbe Galaxy” is the best track, this song has the best vocal performances on the entire record; I love what David contributed in that regard. 

“Space Bush III” will have listeners thinking that they’re in store for a psychedelic song, but this one is more stoner rock/grunge than any of the other tracks around it. Utilizing killer riffs, superb guitar tones, top-tier playing, and an instrumental format, this tune is the heaviest song on the tracklist. 

Now we’ve come to the title track, “Terminal Forest,” a song that perfectly exhibits all of the things that Swan Valley Heights does so well. There’s a wonderful bass groove in the beginning, with the drums laying back a bit and the guitar moving effortlessly over the top of each. When David begins his vocal part, things become interesting, though, as he can create a feel that is the perfect companion piece to the psychedelic music being played. The cool thing about this song is that while it is primarily a psychedelic masterpiece, it also has some mighty riffs for occasional flavoring; as I said, it is an exhibition of all the things that make Swan Valley Heights so amazing. 

“Looking For A Bird” is the second to last song and is one of the two instrumentals. Like the other songs on Terminal Forest, we see Swan Valley Heights doing precisely what we want them to do, delivering a diverse array of guitar parts that are as interesting as they are catchy. 

Lastly, we have “Star Fever,” a song that lasts just over 12 minutes. One of the best aspects of this band is that they can have these extended run times but never feel as if the songs are overindulgent or boring, which can often be an issue when getting up over the 10 mark. As with the other long take on this album, Swan Valley Heights brings us on a journey that reaches excellent heights before it cascades into pools of psychedelic wonder. 

Final Thoughts 

Terminal Forest shows the band’s evolution into one of the premier psychedelic stoner bands on the planet. In doing so, Swan Valley Heights asks a simple question … 

“Are you in need of a diorama of heavy psychedelia for atmospheric journeys ready to be steamrolled any time by heavy outbursts of fuzz?”

Your answer to that should be a resounding yes, as Terminal Forest effortlessly delivers precisely what’s promised within that question. They do this by having an instinctive sense of where the song needs to go, furthered by great songwriting, excellent arranging, and perfect use of dynamics. It will be released on March 31st through Sweden’s Fuzzorama Records, so head to their Bandcamp and get your pre-order! Enjoy!

Support Swan Valley Heights by checking out their Bandcamp via Fuzzorama Records or finding them on social media (Instagram, Facebook).

This review was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now-defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.

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