'...And Don't Deliver Us From Evil' - Forgotten Tomb (6/10)
Although Forgotten Tomb have never strayed from their fixation on depression, self-harm and the darker side of human nature, at some point they underwent a change in style. Gone was the strictly depressive black metal sound, with its melodic, ‘pretty-sounding’ guitars and tortured howls. In its place has come something more tempered, and therefore more digestible to the metal crowd at large. Although this added focus on structure and more typical rock-based elements shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of Forgotten Tomb by this point, I cannot help but mention that this style-shift continues to disappoint when compared to the emotionally devastating stuff they released earlier on in their career. With that being said however, “...And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil” is no pushover; it is a well-composed and produced black metal record with a few great moments to boot. Although Forgotten Tomb’s latest release doesn’t tend to sway my opinion concerning this change in sound, it’s a worthy companion for anyone feeling the strain of the dark winter months.
Although I prefer the days of “Songs to Leave” and “Springtime Depression”, Forgotten Tomb have in many ways improved their act. For one, their style has been fleshed out to incorporate elements outside of the typically narrow depressive black metal mainstay; gothic rock, doom metal and even a mild progressive have found their way into the mixing bowl. Add to that a fine production standard and one of the more memorable album covers of the year, and it’s clear that Forgotten Tomb have realized their potential as their execution goes. Although the music tends to rely on simple riffs and chord progressions, there is often a solid arrangement and layering to the music. Acoustics and clean guitars are often used in tandem with the metal tones, and as always, there are great lead melodies to enjoy. Forgotten Tomb tend to stick close to comfort when it comes to sounds and instruments used; although the occasional acoustic break offers a welcome respite from the gloom, there are few surprises to behold throughout the album. Forgotten Tomb rarely stray from the main course, but fortunately, they have a remarkably meaty sound as black metal goes. The guitar tones- however tired as they feel by the end of the album- enjoy a nice richness to them, and the bass end of the mix is given a pleasant boost; it’s not often where the bass guitar is audibly heard on a black metal record!
Although the songwriting is solid, the compositionship on “...And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil” suffers the same pitfall as their performance; it feels generally anaesthetic, too clean to get across the same sense of grief they once conveyed so powerfully on early albums. Greater an issue still is not the fact that they have evolved their sound, but where they took it. Although the melancholic, gothic doom/black hybrid sounds great and promising on paper, Forgotten Tomb suffer from a painful case of follow-the-leader here; that is, they sound as if they are following the examples of a few other bands, rather than forging a clear path of their own. Being influenced is one thing, but the incarnation of black metal Forgotten Tomb have conjured here sounds as if they’re trying to copycat the Swedish Shining. Although I will say that their take on the sound certainly rivals what Shining have done this year, it feels futile to have taken so many steps to develop their sound, only to seemingly emulate someone else. Closer still is the pitch-perfect resemblance to fellow Italian doomsters Novembre when the gloomy clean vocals are brought out on “Adrift”. Forgotten Tomb perform these styles well, but at the end of the day, the derivative approach doesn’t make so great of a lasting impact.
“...And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil” is a good album, but in fairness, I would have hoped to hear something with more of a unique identity than what they’ve done here. There are some great musical ideas and melodies throughout the album, but perhaps not enough to entirely excuse the lack of originality. The dark atmosphere has survived Forgotten Tomb’s translation to the cleancut end of the depressive black metal medium, but they’re not taking it as far as they once did.