Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Forgotten Tomb - ...and Don't Deliver Us from Evil (2012)



Though they’ve been steadily gaining steam in the Italian scene since the turn of the century, …and Don’t Deliver Us from Evil is my first exposure to this odd musical conglomeration. I gather that once upon a time Forgotten Tomb were rooted in the more basic aesthetics of black metal, but that tendency seems to have shifted, along with the years, into a weighty mish-mash of melodic black, death, and doom, having as much in common with the hefty, sweeping sorrow of Insomnium as the icy winds of Dissection, when all is said and done. There are also numerous sections that feel spiritually linked to NWOBHM, lending fitting comparisons to the newer work from groups like Satyricon or Darkthrone. So, though the album maintains a consistently overcast tone for its near 53 minute running time, there is a lot of variety in the methods of delivery innate to each track, which does a lot to keep one’s attention, an important caveat when considering the track lengths are universally quite long (6 to 9 minutes).

These myriad styles are integrated nicely throughout, playing on their unique strengths at different times, but basting whichever is most prominent with drippings from the others. For example, even when the band are brooding out in doom mode, one can hear the blackened tendencies shining through in the riffing style, and so forth. This lends a stylistic cohesion to the pieces, even though they tend to shift focus many times throughout. Many will see this as an inability to pick a style and stick with it, but I feel as though they pulled off this complex aesthetic marriage quite well, even if some selections were more successful than others. A big part of this is also the production, which hoists the main-sail bass lines up through the misty riffing to act as a bulbous, nocturnal beacon the other instruments can build off of. It’s one of the better bass tones I’ve heard this year, actually, and bears particular mention for how satisfying a sound like this can be. In fact, every tone here feels great, from the frosty sheen of the dual-guitar layers to the punchy, crisp drumming. The venomous vocals of Ferdinando Marchisio, though not displaying anything one could consider new to the style, work well in whatever musical context he accompanies. His full-bodied, spiteful rasp lends a satisfying reptilian anger to the blackened rocking. The riffing itself, while not always grabbing me by the balls, must be lauded for carrying these various styles simultaneously without so much as a stumble, and sometimes carry an addictive black n’ roll quality, like in the excellent Let’s Torture Each Other. Another favorite is the gloomy Adrift, with its vibrant, melancholy melodies and defeated clean choruses, imparting a bittersweet aura of stormy sadness that I find quite delectable.

I like what Forgotten Tomb have going here, if slightly more in overall stylistic tendency than actual compositional delivery.  Though there is a wide selection of strong material here, only the rare moment had me truly excited, or cried out for immediate repetition. Nevertheless, its unflinching solidity should ingratiate …and Don’t Deliver Us from Evil to a good variety of metalheads, and I’d recommend anybody interested in its constituent genres to give them a listen. Be your poison black, doom, or even rainy, majestic melodeath, there’s a little something here for everybody. It doesn’t attempt to redefine these distinct flavors, but rarely are experiments concerning infusion of all three successful, or even prevalent, so I’m sure they’ll find a fan base for this. And though I can’t say Forgotten Tomb have fully enraptured me with their latest offering, I’m just enamored enough to be genuinely curious to see what they can do from here, and perhaps explore their back catalogue, if I can someday find the time. Beyond any perceived faults here, though, it should be telling that I’m still rather curious about this record, and feel like there is a bit more to be gleaned from its sorrowful depths, and so it won’t leave my rotation just yet, a huge compliment given the huge number of quality releases currently demanding my attention. Indeed, if you do pick it up, give it a few listens to sink its hooks in, as an album this dense only reveals its true self after a couple exposures.

To reiterate, I’d like to see a follow up to this, perhaps going even further with the melodic death and/or raw rocking sections, which I felt were the more interesting elements by a mile. When Forgotten Tomb focus in on sad, blazing melodies, they transcend and outshine the rest of their material, and though this may betray the blackened roots they cling to, this is the part of Forgotten Tomb I loved. But that’s the strength here, I suppose, an ability to cater to different palettes, and a more focused experience might destroy that balance. So, what can we expect from here? I don’t know, and even though this experience has come a bit shy of perfection for me, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued.

7.5 / 10 - Embracing Impurity