Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Many years ago, I nervously stumbled through the doorway of Station 4 (then known as The Lab) with an absolutely brutal –brutal– fake ID embedded in my sweaty palm. It was a hell of a gamble: an undersized 17-year-old trying to worm his way into a 18-plus show with an out-of-state license rivalling the one Hawk was sporting in Detroit Rock City in terms of sheer ridiculousness. But I was convinced that I could slide into that Lowertown dive by sheer will. And I did.
Due to the passage of time (as well as severe brain cell trauma), the headliner’s identity escapes recollection. But the opening act left an imprint. Show-stopping drumming, viciously precise rhythm riffing, and furious soloing formed a massive fist that nearly cleaned my skull from its stump. Post-set, I righted my equilibrium and sped over to the merch table, where I bought a hard copy of the CD that they repped so well only minutes previous – Determination – and a commemorative t-shirt. A thought buzzed…”These guys are going to be huge.” Those guys were God Forbid.
God Forbid seems to have been thinking the same thing, but have taken a questionable path towards making it reality. While the band’s work ethic is indisputable–few bands on the planet have toured as tirelessly as they–their creative decisions have left something to be desired. The followup to Determination, Gone Forever, streamlined their spastic thrashcore into an accessible stew of anthemry. By most counts, however, the album was a success, riding on the strength of wicked leads and expertly timed hooks. IV: The Constution of Treason headed further down the path of commericial viability, but the brittle, toothless nature of the record allowed it to fold like cardboard as it collapsed under a weight of tryhard pretentiousness and lofty expectations. While they’ve grounded themselves to a degree, Earthsblood continues their shift away from immediacy and panache, and lazily leans on ineffective hooks and easily-digested formulas to do the majority of the legwork. Aiming to satiate plebeian desires with palatable half-thrash, God Forbid has set the bar pretty low on Earthsblood. And they fail to clear it.
The glaring lack of heaviness that plagued IV still haunts the band. Abandoning the riffing and kinetics that they boasted when they burst onto the scene, God Forbid continue to bank their songs on centerpiece choruses. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing – if they were executed powerfully. But the band’s insistence on making glorified backup vocals the crux of their attack basically kills any shot at crafting their personal “Wasted Years,” or more comparatively, “Symphony of Destruction.” The illustrious roster of heavy metal’s iconic vocalists has been recounted numerous times, and it’s safe to say that none of the members of God Forbid will be joining those ranks.
The decision to go in an arena rock-ish direction has proven to be a poor one, and not just because of the lackluster vocals. Often, the band’s newfound simplicity comes across as plodding and hackneyed. “Walk Alone” takes on an 80’s-esque vibe, but it’s the same skank that Shadows Fall has been flirting with since The Art of Balance. “The New Clear” starts as an odd pseudo-ballad, then descends into a faceless mush of chugga-chugga thwomp before finding some light in the final minute. Even that flash of light, however, is dimmer than it should be – the interplay of the Coyle brothers is strangely anticlimactic and seems to fade into the background far too easily. Worse yet, “Empire of the Gun” and “Bat The Angels” are simply circle-pit fodder wrapped in a melodic thrash tortilla – lame-ass burritos that anyone with a Lamb of God album or a detuned Schecter sitting in the corner has already gorged themselves on.
The spitshined thrashpop throng is already crowded and growing ultra-stale, especially with Machine Head trying to strongarm their way into the picture again. There’s little room outside of that sandbox for this thing to grow. Nothing on Earthsblood is as important or transcendent as it attempts to be, and the flat and clinical presentation doesn’t help its case. It’s a sad truth, but God Forbid forgot their teeth again. But that’s okay – surely, there are still some teething young metalheads out there that will slobber all over this thing. It’s just unfortunate that after nearly a decade, God Forbid are still playing with the kids.