I am something of a fairweather Forbidden fan. I view their first two releases – Forbidden Evil and Twisted Into Form as two of the finest metal albums ever released into the world and, well, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about 1994′s Distortion and 1997′s Green. In fact I totally forgot about them until I was doing my usual thorough review research on Wikipedia. Luckily I hadn’t forgotten about the band themselves, and I had been seriously looking forward to their new album, believing it would be among the strongest thrash-reunion-comeback-albums™ released to date.
Regardless of reputation or expectation, you’ll probably file the fairly generic opening intro in the toilet marked ‘Arch Enemy’, but when Forsaken At The Gates sweeps (literally) into your ears, you will be forgiven for a wee nugget of poo rapidly escaping from your ring piece. As comebacks go, this opener is up there with Rambo 4.
Overthrow stomps heavily along without drifting into turgid groove metal territory, though the harsh vocals which crop up here and elsewhere will have some purists wriggling uncomfortably in their stonewashed denims. The modern flair and sheen that colours the album is strongly reminiscent of Nevermore, a connection made more notable by the presence of Steve Smyth, but one which is fitting given that Forbidden were progenitors of the highly evolved, melodic post-thrash sound that Jeff Loomis and company later made their own.
Adapt or Die is one of the weakest songs on the album, but is notable for Russ Anderson‘s first massively extended high note in many a long year, something that, when used correctly (as on the genius Step By Step from ‘Twisted…’) has the power to give me a full erection at 20 paces, yet here it seems rather forced and out of place, almost like an (admittedly awesome) afterthought. Luckily for me, yet unluckily the structural integrity of my pants, the patented scream is deployed perfectly in the outro to Behind The Mask later on in the album.
Actually, I should say much, much later in the album. Forbidden have obviously been taking advice from Exodus, who now apparently think that an album has to be a massively long exercise in listener stamina in order to be worthwhile. Well, I’d rather a band put out an awesome, teste-shrivelling 40 minutes of the leanest, best songs they can possibly conjour rather than forcing every last note they came up with during the creative process (including 2 minutes of babbling voices on Chatter) onto the album in the hope that 40 minutes worth sticks. It is a trend that must get to fuck immediately.
That said, you’ll struggle to find any total stinkers on here. While some tracks perhaps slightly outstay their welcome (almost every track is 5 minutes plus and not all of them justify it) or take too long to come to the boil, there will be a riff (or 6), hook or solo to grab you roughly by the pubes and get your undivided attention. Quality is spread nicely across the album, and that you can skip to the last few tracks and find songs as good as Immortal Wounds and the title track is highly commendable.
Some morons have derided this album as a woeful, non-thrash pile of Machine Head that totally betrays Forbidden’s ‘rich thrash heritage’, but they seem to forget that they have always incorporated straightforward passages, progressive touches and downright commercial leanings in their prior work, and this album is no different. Yes, Hopenosis is massively sell-out and rather cheesy, and taken on its own would probably have me moaning like Victor Meldrew in a Vietnamese massage parlour, but these brief slip-ups can easily be attributed to the understandable ring rust (Which can be nasty. You have to be careful in those parlours) of a band returning from such a long hiatus.
While it is not an unqualified success, we are thankfully excused the always embarrassing sight of seasoned veterans attempting to outdo their youthful efforts on comeback albums, and Forbidden, like Testament did with The Formation Of Damnation, have produced an album that should appeal as much to the new generation of young metal upstarts as to the sweaty, moaning, fat, surly, greasy, balding, lecherous old child molester in the ancient Slayer t-shirt demographic… And they shouldn’t complain, this just means there’ll be more lithe young boys for them to touch at gigs.