After The Fall
A little ways off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea lays the densely populated island of Malta. Tourists come to experience the nation's varied historical influence (Malta was once governed by the Phoenicians, Romans, Sicilians, French and British before becoming independent in 1964), along with visiting the nearby Megalithic Temples -- the oldest freestanding structures in the world. The nation is also considered one of the globe's most Catholic countries, boasting an astounding 98% Roman Catholic population. Not exactly the type of place you'd expect to find a ton of heavy metal, but it’s apparently the perfect breeding ground for yet another triumphantly epic Christian-themed doom metal band: the kingly Forsaken.
Never heard of 'em? Well, if you count yourself a fan of acts such as Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Isole, While Heaven Wept or DoomSword, these guys are undoubtedly worthy of your immediate attention. Since their formation in 1990, Forsaken have released a handful of demos, three full-lengths and an EP's worth of soaring tunes melding elements of traditional/power metal (even more so in the early days) with heavy, headbanging doom. I was personally converted the moment I heard 2005's ass-kicking Dominaeon, an album I'd say comes very close to opening and closing the rulebook for epic doom, right alongside records such as Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus and Beyond the Crimson Horizon. Such a lofty statement coupled with the band's 4-year silence essentially equates to my having a very high anticipation level for the release of After the Fall.
Whether or not this record eventually surpasses my attachment to the band’s previous release still remains to be seen, but holy-friggin’-smoke does this gem have some TOWERING tunes on display. And as long as we’re talking “holy,” it’s worth my pointing out that the band’s lyrical theme definitely falls in line with their country’s history sodden with Catholicism. But those who normally flee from similarly-themed metal acts can stand fast; the lyrical intention here is not to proselytize or “condemn to fiery damnation,” but simply to weave tales influenced from the darker side of sacred lore.
One spin of opener "Aidenn Falls" is proof enough of this band's virtue: a tune that perfectly embodies all of Forsaken's strong suits -- heavy and dirty doom riffing, an ascending, emotive chorus that'll stick in your brain for weeks, and superb guitar leads painting every conceivable corner. As of now, this cut stands as my favorite song on the record, but "Armida's Kiss", "The Sage", "Dies Irae" and the closing "Metatron and the Mibor Mythos" all follow a similar formula that handily makes After the Fall worthy of purchase. Test the strength of your neck during the crushing 4:54 mark of "Armida's Kiss", and be trampled by the nearly Severed Survival romp at the onset of "The Sage"; you won't be sorry, I assure you. "Sins of the Tempter" and "Vanguards of the Void" are strong contenders as well, but they crawl at a much slower pace and exude a dire vibe more befitting of their shadowy lyrical content. Creeping as they may be, however, they still feature bright, bubbling leads and enough hook to keep listener‘s at full attention.
And what sort of epic doom record would this be without the accompanying soaring vocals? Similar to peers such as Messiah and Lowe, Leo Stivala has a huge presence on this record. His clean, emotive style would fit just as snuggly alongside a galloping power metal act, but sounds equally as impassioned (if not more so) in company with the rolling, headbanging doom crawling all over After the Fall. His fiery delivery during the chorus of "Aidenn Falls" has been stuck in my head since the day this album hit first flitted from my speakers, and he just seems to get more and more spirited in his delivery as the years go by.
2009 has been another banner year for doom metal. With releases already on the shelf from heavyweights such as Revelation, Iron Man, Isole, Candlemass and Dawn of Winter, it's difficult to imagine that anything else could warrant your immediate attention and cash, but this album does just that. Death, Magic, Doom, take a backseat, After the Fall has just beaten you at your own game...