Antestor - The Forsaken
It only happens once in a great while. That one album. The one that gets you excited about music all over again. After all the ho-hum releases. All the overblown hype. All the disappointments. The bands that just faded off into the sunset as they aged. We've all been there. We've shelled out the $15 to $20 for that "monumental" release, only to be let down again. Used CD bins are full of them. Mail order companies pawn them off to some other unsuspecting soul. It's downright depressing really. My CD collection is littered with albums like that. Some I was lucky to make a few bucks on, or trade for one step up. But others will be collecting dust long after I'm gone. But alas, thank the good Lord that some bands out there know what it takes. They have that special something that pushes them beyond where other bands get lazy and stop. Instead of being content to just put out another record, they put out that extra effort that insists that their new offering will top anything they've done before. And with a rare few bands, that is one tall order...seeing as how some of their past albums are considered classics.
Well, my friends...the time has come again. That album that gets you excited about music once again is upon us in late 2004. The album that looks at its band's previous classics and raises the bar. The album that looks at other albums in its genre....for only a split second....as it races past them further up the mountain of greatness. The album that forces you to remember 2004 as the year of Antestor.
For those fortunate souls that are blessed with owning Antestor's EP, Det Tapte Liv, that was only a small taste of the massiveness to come. This new album, The Forsaken, will captivate you and crush any doubts that Antestor might travel down the path of the "has-been's". This is THE best album of 2004 and probably the favorite album that I own. I've been privileged to own a promo copy of this for quite some time and I have listened to it many more times than any other disc in my collection. It never gets old. It never sounds worse than the time before. It gets better and better. I am NEVER not in the mood to listen to it. And this is not hype...this is fact.
As with Det Tapte Liv, Antestor again recruits the amazing talents of drummer Jan Alex Blomberg, aka Hellhammer (Mayhem, Immortal, Kovenant, Arcturus, etc..) This band is incredibly tight, and Hellhammer does nothing but improve upon that. And while this band is full of great musicians, they are not just an impressive musical act. They seem to have a knack for capturing emotion that other bands only dream about. Every song is filled with passion and feeling that is so often void in the genre of black metal. And while Antestor is rooted in black metal, the band's reaches go far beyond that genre, as you'll read in this review. Another thing that impresses me is the spellbinding atmosphere they create with their music. It literally makes you forget where you are and effortlessly guides you to a haunting and chaotic world that is at the same time, intense yet surreal.
The album begins with the song that was also the opener on the EP, "Rites of Death". The only difference here is the intro to the song which is about 30 seconds of the most beautiful female operatic vocals you will ever hear. It's tempting to hit the back button over and over just to hear it again. Whatever tranquility you may have been lulled into is shattered to pieces with the rest of the song. "Rites of Death" soars with aggression and lets up for only short moments to let you catch your breath. Whether is the furious blasting, the horrific shrieking, or the blistering chaos, this song delivers on all fronts.
"Old Times Cruelty" follows that whirlwind of sound with a song that was also found on disc 2 of the Come Armageddon compilation on Endtime Productions. This song probably resembles the old Antestor sound more than any other song on the album. The mesmerizing guitars ala Return of the Black Death era Antestor coupled with a mixture of terrifying black vocals and haunting clean vocals. They also integrate some short choir type vocals ala Cradle of Filth amongst the chants of "Old times cruelty...".
Track number three is the track "Via Dolorosa". The opening keyboard/distorted guitar intro is accompanied by some growled vocals. The song also resembles some of the pace of Antestor's ROTBD era songs. It slows to a sombering speed about mid-song amidst wailing guitars and growled vocals before slowly building to a huge crescendo. The song roars at this point with swirling death and black vocals only to come to a screeching interruption with only black vocals over keyboards. The aggression then rears is ugly head again to finish out the song in extreme fashion.
The fourth song "Raade" slows things down drastically with a calming and serene instrumental. Delicate piano that lulls you into a trance as soft female vocals join in halfway thru. What sounds like a flute also comes in near the end of the song. If you enjoyed the mellower tracks on Det Tapte Liv, then this will satisfy your taste for Antestor's "softer" side.
Track five, "The Crown I Carry" immediately rips you back into the brutality. Blasting, shrieking, and buzzsaw guitars rule the day here. The keyboard fills on this song and throughout the album are just perfect, adding great emotion and atmosphere. There is even a stimulating yet sorrowful guitar solo mid-song that provides a brief rest before the assault that follows.
"Betrayed" enters next, opening with some great clean vocals. The majority of the tune should appeal greatly to fans of Old Man's Child. With a constant atmospheric feel along with the extreme black metal base. There is even an almost, dare I say...innocent keyboard interlude and somber guitar solo that leads us back into the blasting and mega-haunting vocals.
Track seven is one of my two favorite songs on this album. "Vale of Tears" starts with some ROTBD sounding guitars at a very slow and sorrowful pace. The almost sluggish drumming and grim-sounding clean vocals test the patience of the impatient extreme metal fan. As the song progresses, the black vocals join in as the guitars quicken to a blistering tempo. It takes you to the edge of a cliff only to rip you back and begin again. As the intensity builds afresh you inch back to the edge of the cliff before the song explodes with force. The soaring keyboards, double-bass, blasting, brutal guitars, and shrieking is joined by some sickening growled vocals that bring the song to a new level as there is a flurry of sound that enthralls the listener. This is the perfect song to listen to at full volume on the best stereo you own.
"The Return" chimes in next with yet another harsh black metal composition. The guitars on this song are downright scathing. Around mid-song the band goes from extreme to emotion-filled with a moving guitar solo - the kind that you just close your eyes to and allow you head and entire body to move to each note that is played. This is just fabulous stuff that I can't get enough of. Antestor is not about pleasing one particular crowd. They don't blast away ala "true" black metal for 40 minutes straight with no rest. And they don't wimp out on you after the first 2 songs and go power metal. Every note on this album has a purpose and every song is exactly as it should be...unblemished in every way.
"As I Die" is probably my favorite song on the entire album. The song starts off in progressive metal manner ala Symphony X before slipping into some meandering guitar work that ends up in ROTBD mode with the hypnotizing guitars. This is a great headbanging, hair swirling song. While I don't have lyrics available for a review of this promo copy, the lyrics I can make out on this song are fantastic. The chorus contains the fabulous line, "We ought to realize that mankind must end if purity will prevail." I can't wait to have all the lyrics to this song as what I can make out sounds very cool. The intense guitars, shrieking, and horrifying growled vocals combine near the end for a great finish with the passionate screams of "In my living hell, I can no longer lay!!!" Female vocals also chime in near the end giving the song a rousing conclusion. The only downer would be the somewhat abrupt ending.
Song ten, "Mitt Hjerte" closes the album with a peaceful instrumental of keyboards, flute, and a stunningly beautiful, yet powerful guitar solo.
Production on this disc is stellar and the cover artwork by Necrolord is astounding as usual. When I get the final version I'll try to comment more on lyrics and packaging. Word is that this will come in a digipak limited to 1000 copies. The digipak will house the full length and also the EP (that you should have bought earlier). The front cover will have the artwork for The Forsaken and the back cover will have the artwork for Det Tapte Liv. The digi unfolds to reveal both covers in one large painting. Both discs and the digi are made to fit nicely in the special limited edition box that was sold with the first 1000 copies of the earlier released EP. Definitely another fantastic packaging idea by Mr. Durling at Endtime Productions.
Fellow music fans...this is the real deal. The hype is true. This is one killer album that I can find no flaw with. I love every second of this disc even after what has to be hundreds of listens. Whether you are fans of older Antestor, Emperor, Old Man's Child, or any of the other greats in black metal, you cannot go wrong with this purchase. And while the jewel case version will be great, I highly advise you to snatch a copy of the full length limited edition digipak as well as the limited edition box EP while they are still available.
Big thanks goes out to both Antestor and Endtime Productions for once again holding high the standard of excellence. We've come to expect nothing less.
Review By: Matt Morrow
Label: Endtime Productions
Total Songs: 10
Total Time: 44:48
Tracklisting: 1. Rites of Death, 2. Old Times Cruelty, 3. Via Dolorosa, 4. Raade, 5. The Crown I Carry, 6. Betrayed, 7. Vale of Tears, 8. The Return, 9. As I Die, 10. Mitt Hjerte.
Best Songs: Tracks 2, 7, and 9.
Band Lineup: Vemod - Guitars/Backing Vocals, Vrede - Vocals, Sygmoon - Keyboards, Gard - Bass, Hellhammer - Drums, Bjørn Leren - Guitars.
Band Website: http://www.antestor.com