Forest Kingdom is another tour de force from developer Eduardo Tarilonte, once again featuring a generous 7GB of sample content, memorable artwork and wonderful presentation. Following in the footsteps of the wide-ranging past and future atmospheres of his Epic World library, this time round there's a rather different emphasis in content, concentrating on the sounds of forests and jungles. There are rather fewer instruments, but those of Forest Kingdom have been sampled much more deeply, offering a selection of keyswitched articulations for much greater expressive possibilities, not only including various ornaments and tonguing techniques, but also real legato and portamento, where appropriate.
Of the wide selection of flutes, I particularly enjoyed the haunting double flute, with its drone tube alongside the melodic one and the 'singing through the flute' of the Fula. But the one I found myself reaching for most of all was the Bulgarian Piccolo Flute for its sweetness of tone and various release ornaments. Even the inevitable Bolivian panpipes offer rather more than expected, with some throaty spoken phrases, breathing and whispers.
The acoustic and electric Celtic harps fit into the overall feel beautifully, and there is a comprehensive Percussion section covering sounds ranging from deep 'War Drums' to tinkly wind-chimes, most offering round-robin variations and up to 14 velocity layers. The evolving Pads sound gorgeous, offering all kinds of ethereal voices and wispy atmospheres. The graphic interface offers full control over envelope and EQ, and lets you blend the various evolving layers to easily create a host of new sounds. The Fantasy Creatures section offers a selection of very creatively designed beasts and the Swishes offer a wide variety of slowly building breathy surges and metallic impacts.
However, perhaps I've left the best until last. There are only four Voices, but together these add a great deal to the package. The three collections of deep Shamanic Chants and Mantras provide great character, but for me the Ethereal Female Solo Voice with real legato is the star of the show, offering wonderfully expressive yet wordless contralto singing that sits beautifully over a fantasy or orchestral backing.
Overall, Forest Kingdom offers a veritable compendium of fantasy elements, and should be an essential purchase for any musician working with film, TV or game soundtracks. I was expecting at least some overlap with Epic World, but FK manages to cover lots of new ground, as well as complementing its predecessor beautifully. Martin Walker
£179 including VAT.