posted on 12/2010 By:
It's albums such as Omega Wave that present the biggest scoring headaches for me. I can tell you directly off the bat that I've greatly enjoyed dipping back into the Forbidden pool with an hour's worth of fresh material after all these years, but it's improbable this record will secure a spot in my top favorite metal releases of 2010 because my appetites have simply shifted too much since the days when I used to take every measure possible to make damn-sure I'd hit any and all Forbidden/Devastation shows with friends and cans of beer stowed away in the interiors of our denim jackets.
And even holding to my general practice of "scoring within the genre," or breaking it down even further into "newer thrash albums from bands of yore," I'd still rank Omega Wave just a c-hair behind records such as Exodus' Tempo of the Damned, Testament's Formation of Damnation and Overkill's excellent Ironbound. And as a guy who rarely reaches for pure thrash that's not melded into other styles these days, I suppose that means this thing's gonna have to fight pretty hard for extra playing time when that occasional bug does actually bite. But Omega Wave is making a pretty damn good case for itself, I have to admit, as it's chock-full of the sort of elements fans have certainly come to expect from these often under-appreciated Bay Area thrashers.
Also standing as a barrier to these long-time laborers is the fact that I can imagine a number of our younger metal fans recently welcomed to the genre through the (now waning) thrash resurgence might find a record such as Omega Wave to be downright cozy compared to the more lethal interpretations from newer bands focusing their attention closer to the 80's scene out of Germany. But Forbidden has never been the most bloodthirsty of American thrash outfits, and that's still not really their primary concern. Even the band's most cruel offering, 1988's Forbidden Evil, fell far short of outright severing throats in the same savage manner their California cousins Holy fucking Terror managed during the same era.
But here's what Forbidden did and still does right: melodic Bay Area thrash metal bolstered by a surprisingly skillful singer. That's right, sports fans, I said singer. While still a healthy stretch from the RJD/Halford camp of supremacy, Russ Anderson did bring an actual singer's talents to the burgeoning scene back during a time when most thrash acts didn't really give two shits about such a thing. He still demonstrated the requisite grit and gravel when necessary, but he wasn't afraid to temper the formula and let the occasional trembling scream pierce and lift to the rafters. And that's probably the most surprising thing about Omega Wave: Russ still fuckin' has it. I witnessed it live and in person a couple years ago at an intimate reunion show at the Burro in Livermore, and it's presented in spades on this recording as well. Infectious choruses at the heart of "Dragging My Casket", "Immortal Wounds" and the kickass "Hopenosis", along with occasional flashes of those familiar piercing wails within "Adapt or Die", "Overthrow" and "Behind the Mask" show the man has honestly not missed much of a beat in the long thirteen years since the release of Green.
And as far as the melodic side of the coin's concerned, I'd comfortably say the loss of Tim Calvert and his fiery fretwork is definitely made up for with the acquisition of Steve Smyth (Nevermore/Dragonlord/Testament/Vicious Rumors) paired alongside original axeman, Craig Locicero. These two light up the strings all over Omega Wave, so if you're a fan of those shimmery, bubbling leads, this record will be particularly fun for you to digest. The pair still shows ample evidence of riffing prowess to boot, particularly during the album's more aggressive charges, such as "Adapt or Die" and the outright ripping "Forsaken at the Gates". And the de facto nostalgic dogs in the house will bask in the memories of those elder "slow circle pit" rituals once the 2:50 mark of the impressive closing title track hits the speakers -- good luck staying in your seats, fellers.
As I walk away from this review I can't help but feel that I've cast an unnecessarily negative light on this record, or at least painted a picture depicting a hell of an uphill battle for these guys. But pure Bay Area thrash is a tough sale in today's climate where bands continue to find ways to bend the Brutality Barrier over and gruesomely violate it. But as I said, Forbidden isn't necessarily looking to lop off heads with viciousness, and they've already proven they're immune to trends by releasing two very solid records in the mid 90's long before the thrash resurgence was even a twinkle in Municipal Waste's eyes. Forbidden doesn't need to be on the tips of everyones' tongues, but they're also not ready to simply be "remembered" either. Omega Wave is undoubtedly proof enough of that.
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