Of the countless reasons behind people’s choice to wander into the confines of heavy metal, our elemental need to be different and disassociate from the mainstream has to be considered the most perplexing because even here the innate herd (horde?) mentality that governs our species eventually kicks in, which ultimately leads to umpteen bands trying to out-ghost Ghost, be an even Deaferheaven, or open even deeper doors into the megacosm that hold horrific space vampires at bay. In short, like our hairier cousins that gather on hillsides to groom, delouse and gossip with one another, humans simply enjoy lumping together and feeling popular, even if it’s a sect within a faction inside a division.
So, yes, Forsaken tromps from the gate with two fairly taboo—at least by 2017’s standards—slants: Theological themes delivered by way of epic doom, the sub-genre’s most power-aligned cousin. If the thought of giving attention to details such as this sends your skivvies into a twist, don’t let the door hit you where the underlord split you; there’s clearly an infinite amount of other approved acts vying for embrace. For the rest of us, we are treated to the first full-length work from the Forsaken lads in eight long years. By name, Pentateuch focuses a spotlight on the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, which essentially covers matters of serpents, the birth of sin, scrolls, floods, brutal desert wanderings and an array of other topics well-suited for doomy business.
Now is as good a time as any to confess that the initial excitement experienced upon seeing this promo hit the inbox early was quickly challenged upon realizing that it was ripped at 128 kbps. Beggars and choosers and whatnot, but the low bit rate clearly did a disservice to the album’s fairly unconventional mix that places a potent emphasis on drums and bass. The overall production is purposefully raw and “live sounding,” which has its benefits and disadvantages, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the complication for the sticklers in the house. The youtube clip for “Primal Wound” illustrates the strong emphasis on the rhythm section, but it also finds the band walloping with a heaviness and energy that should get those already familiar with Forsaken excited about the general direction of the songwriting.
The aggression behind “Primal Wound” is palpable, and beyond the clear intention to focus on Simeon Gatt and Albert Bell’s penchant for clobbering behind the kit and bass, respectively, the song also reveals the truth that Leo Stivala’s voice has lost zero of its power over the years, and Sean Vukovic’s lead-work continues to smolder like raw fire. “Sabaoth (The Law Giver)” is equally as vigorous, as it’s built on a very satisfying strut, contagious chorus, and a scorching lead around 4:30 that’ll burn the eyebrows right off your forehead.
The remaining fare is several shades darker, considerably more gradual, and ten times heavier than anything the band has produced to date. Shades of Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass color “Serpent Bride” and “The Dove and the Raven,” but what sets Forsaken apart is their insistence on slowly bludgeoning with the weight of a megaton hammer, an experience that’s best demonstrated throughout the exceedingly pulverizing “Decalogue” and the epic 15-minute closer, “Apocryphal Winds” (the riff around 10:45 is particularly nasty.) If it weren’t for Stivala’s penchant for a catchy, lifting chorus and Vukovic’s persistent heated leads, Pentateuch would be a clear contender for one of 2017’s darkest, most impenetrable records. Hell, even with its moments of light, this is still one of the year’s oiliest, heaviest wallopers.
Bands in this particular sub-genre often seem quite adept at finding creative ways to delay records, and 2017, like most years, has been been fairly slow with epic doom releases. Sweden’s Below barely managed to ping radars with their sophomore release, but some big names that include Sorcerer, Procession, Solstice and Evangelist all have works on the immediate horizon. My guess is that Pentateuch will out-heavy them all, and anyone who’s spent the last eight years patiently waiting on Forsaken’s next move will find plenty to embrace with this considerably hefty return.
“Doom has come upon you, upon you who dwell in the land…”