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Forgotten Tomb : Under Saturn Retrograde

Forgotten Tomb feel more 'bandly' and 'jamming' than ever.

So, after the 10th year anniversary compilation from last year, we are faced with the fifth 'proper' full-length record by Italy's Forgotten Tomb. Needless to say, ever since their first EP/demo ’Obscura Arcana Mortis’ and the now classic ’Songs to Leave’, the band has evolved quite a bit, enough for the 'first-album-purists' to perhaps stop reading here. First of all, while a brainchild of Herr Morbid, Forgotten Tomb has maintained a stable band line-up for a few years already and this seems to me to mark the said- evolution of their sound. If one has heard ’Negative Megalomania’ or the live in studio compilation ’Vol.5: 1999-2009’, it's possible to quite clearly identify that more and more space in the sonic treatment of misery is given to each individual musicians, if not in terms of composition, then surely in terms of arrangements and some of the technical finesses and variety that are undisputably leading Forgotten Tomb's music from the cold isolationism and misery of the debut to a more complete and especially live sound. And this appears to be the major difference of ’Negative Megalomania’ and the now reviewed ’Under Saturn Retrograde’ from the band's past efforts. Second, there is definitely something that makes the Italians a 'Rock band' more than ever – and apparently, the band and/or their (new) label are proud to use the tagline 'Nihilistic Black Rock unlimited' in the promosheet.

The record kicks off with ’Reject Existence’, which very much sums up what the band is known for – catchy harmonies accompanying the sloppy riff-runs, simple and effective tempo and a flow of intensity displaying the skills at building up the tension coming to erupt in the chorus' climax and Mr. Morbid's screaming vocals which (at least with the reviewer's deciphering skills as long as the promo doesn't include lyrics) reveal a slight dose of irony when it comes to the use and abuse of morbidity and misanthropism. The more one dwells into the record (ah well, got the second track in mind), the more visible becomes the aforementioned 'live' eclecticism of the band, as the song structures lean towards a dose of riffs that distantly echo names such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or perhaps Crowbar – check ’Shutter’'s ending section for that matter to hear what I mean. As with what distinguished the previous effort from its predecessors, the clean vocals - while keeping the proportion to a few lines here and there – have remained present. Overall, more than is the case with ’Negative Megalomania’, they add to the variety of the tracks and, most of the time, it is quite a good thing – or more misanthropically put – it 'works' as, unlike some other extreme metal vocalists, Mr. Morbid is able to stay in tune. In a more surprising manner, the track ’Joyless’ kicks in with a verse that resembles the vocal style of the now unfortunately deceased frontman of Type 0 Negative, Peter Steele, which once again adds to the nihilistic Rock attitude of the record. As the album proceeds, its end reveals a leaning toward a bit bleaker side of the band, with the songs as ’You Can't Kill Who's Already Dead’ and the piece known from the last year's compilation, ’Vol.5 1999-2009’ bearing the name ’Spectres over Venice’, which turns out to be one of the highlights of ’Under Saturn's Retrograde’.

I guess it is a never-ending dilemma with most bands. Those who want next ’Songs to Leave’ or ’Springtime Depression’ will simply fall short, because of the way how things turned. We're not dealing with how things were a decade ago. Those who appreciate progress might wonder whether where the band has evolved is really the most potent and successful point. One thing is sure, however: if ’Negative Megalomania’ was a hard piece to crack, this one will prove even a tiny bit more difficult. The experimentation and eclecticism is this time hiding even deeper in the song structures, so while the radical surprise element is lacking, the challenge is undisputably there. The thing that stands almost for certain is that with ’Under Saturn Retrograde’, Forgotten Tomb feel more 'bandly' and 'jamming' than ever and this clearly indicates that one will likely experience something of a massively high standard when witnessing the chunks of the record played in concert. Whether ’Saturn’ will become a highlight in the band's discography, at this point it feels still uncertain and will need a lot more spins – even despite Forgotten Tomb's myspace page claiming the songs and sound are the best the band ever did and that this will be the best album of 2011 – and only time can prove these ambitions right. To close a perhaps too ambiguous review, it however hopefully doesn't have to be reminded that, given the band's legacy, we're here not even distantly dealing with any kind of musical amateurism unworthy of buying.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Reject Existence
2. Shutter
3. Downlift
4. I Wanna Be Your Dog
5. Joyless
6. Under Saturn Retrograde partI
7. Under Saturn Retrograde partII
8. You Can't Kill Who's Already Dead
9. Spectres over Venice

Duration : Approx. 51 minutes

Visit the Forgotten Tomb bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-04-27 by Lukas
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