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Antestor is an anomaly in the black metal genre. This is because of the band's lyrical content and religious beliefs. Hailing from the northern Scandinavian nation of Norway, Antestor is a Christian metal band that has been going at it since 1993, forming during the second wave of black metal. At this time, they played a style of music closer to death/doom metal although still focused on Christian themes. I'm not familiar with the band's debut album "The Return of the Black Death". In fact, my musical knowledge of these guys only includes two albums: the death/doom album "Martyrium" and this album, "The Forsaken". I am not a Christian, nor am I a fan of Christian metal. Aside from a select few bands, I find this genre to be extremely cheesy, annoying, and of course, preachy. I usually don't listen to music for the lyrical content, but seeing as a lot of Christian bands have lyrics that are way out in the front of the fight and easy to decipher, I tend to stay away. It's not that I hate Christians, I'm just not a huge fan of the faith or the song lyrics. However, I became curious of Antestor, because I heard many great things about this band, even from people who can stand Christian music. So I naturally gave it a listen, and I am so glad I did. This album is the best Christian metal album I have ever heard and is almost perfect.
Right away with the face-ripping yet beautiful "Rites of Death", it becomes clear that Antestor musically is a black metal band that touches slightly on melodic death metal. This album is extremely similar in structure and sound to what Dissection produced on "The Somberlain" and "Storm of the Light's Bane". Kristian Wåhlin created the cover for this album and, interestingly enough, he also did the artwork for the two previously mentioned Dissection albums, as well as the cover for Emperor's "In the Nightside Eclipse", At the Gates' "Slaughter of the Soul", and Bathory's "Nordland I" and "Nordland II", as well as many other albums. The artwork really fits the atmosphere of the music. It's freezing cold and stunningly beautiful. The guitars on this album are much more impressive than they were on Antestor's previous album. They are full of cold melodies, atmospheric clean passages, folky parts, and even a few guitar solos thrown in for good measure. The solos are actually quite technical for black metal standards but also retain loads of melody and work really well with the flow of the songs. For an example of an amazing guitar solo, see "The Return". This song has arguably one of the greatest solos on the entire album. "Vale of Tears", as the title may suggest, is one of the saddest songs of the bunch. It almost has a doom metal atmosphere about it. The riffs are performed at a slower pace most of the time, and are extremely somber and melodic. The guitars are absolutely my favorite part of the album, but the vocal performance is top notch as well, and of course, the drumming.
Jan Axel Blomberg, otherwise known as Hellhammer and well-known for his work with the controversial Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest drummer in the black metal scene. Why am I bringing him up here, you may ask? Interestingly enough and perhaps ironically a well-known fact, Hellhammer performed drums on this album. He uses his traditional style of drumming: loads of double bass and blast beats. It's really interesting how he came to play on this album as a session member, given his anti-Christian beliefs. However, the guy proves to be a clear professional. He was willing to drum for these guys and apparently doesn't allow religion or politics to interfere with his performance. He does not disappoint here and is truly a highlight of this album.
In terms of vocal ability,Vrede does a damn good job. You can hear some Christian references in the lyrics but thankfully due to the use of harsh vocals, they aren't as "in your face". I really don't get too annoyed by the Christian themes of this album anyway, due to its sheer brilliance in musical presentation. There are moments of beautiful female choir-like vocals, such as in the song "Rites of Death". These vocals are performed by Ann-Mari Edvardsen.
This album is one big mind fuck for me in a way. How can a group of Christians write something this dark sounding? This album may be a beautiful piece of symphonic/melodic black metal, but it still retains that dark, almost evil atmosphere this extreme metal subgenre is supposed to contain. If it were not for the lyrics, this album would not at all sound like it was made by Christians. Whether you want to call it "unblack metal" or "black metal", this is a solid musical adventure that anyone should listen to, regardless of any religious beliefs.
First off, let me be completely honest about this. I'm not the biggest fan of black metal, but I do enjoy some black metal acts, this being one of them. I had found out about this album, and band not too long ago, and I was surprised by them. I was even more surprised to learn that these guys are actually a Christian group (which seems like it would be awkward considering this band is from Norway). Even If you are against religion and Christianity for whatever reason, you should give the album a listen, you'd be surprised.
The guitar work here is excellent. The riffing though out the album is great, and rather memorable at that, and it's all very precise at that. The way the riffs are written really adds to the overall mood and tone of the album as well. Then you have the lead guitar parts and the soloing, which are even more precise than the dark riffs you'll find used. What makes this all even better? All the guitar parts for each song actually sound unique, and it makes listening to the album interesting. As for the bass, it mostly follows the guitars (from what I can hear).
The drumming here is outstanding, and just like the guitar riffs, are very precise and tight. I though it was pretty funny that Hellhammer from Mayhem was the person behind the kit for this record, and fairly ironic too! He does a pretty nice job, keeping some nice variation going on during the songs, so it doesn't sound like a constant plethora of blast beats constantly (not that there's anything wrong with that). My only gripe with the drumming is that when he does use blast beats, it sounds like he occasionally gets off time by just a hair, but then he hits his timing dead on the money afterwards, so it'a all good.
On top of all this awesome musicianship going on, there's the awesome vocals. The vocalist uses a high pitched scream most of the time, with occasionally using some lower pitched screams, but that's fairly rare. I find his vocals to add to the overall feeling of this album and it's meaning as well, and he picked an awesome style to do this with. The lyrics behind the vocals are about dark subjects, told from a more Christian standpoint. For example: In Betrayed, it deals with a person thinking about suicide, and all the thoughts that come along with it.
Also, along with all of the great guitar and bass work, there is also many orchestral moments scattered though the album, and two instrumental tracks where the orchestra is featured, and used greatly to add to the mood. Overall, the record is nearly flawless, with only a few issues, but they're not huge glaring issues. The production is great, and all the music that lies in the album is fantastic.
Aside from Horde's "Hellig Usvart", this particular album seems to have garnered a reputation as being the unblack metal album to get. Sadly, by the time of this writing, it is no longer in print - it would be nothing short of a miracle to find it now.
Nonetheless, consider this masterwork of Antestor's to be the complete opposite of that other landmark unblack album mentioned above. Instead of white noise and cavernous production, what we are presented with is an album of epic scope, melodic and vicious all at the same time.
Sound-wise, I would compare the album to Dissection's sound on "Storm of the Light's Bane", with a bit of Dimmu and Emperor symphonics, as well as some folk influences mixed in as well. The Dissection influence is throughout, and for me, this is a major plus - "Storm of the Light's Bane" is a masterpiece, so to have something similar that is also Christian is a Godsend.
That said, the album is somewhat overrated. It begins in massive form - medieval sounding female vocals introduce the brutal track, "Rites of Death", which pummels the listener into absolute submission, before arguably the best track on the album, "Old Times Cruelty", kicks in. Hellhammer of Mayhem fame's drumming really shines here - precision blastbeats interlaced with skilled percussion work and cymbal touches all combine for a perfect listening experience.
The problem is that these flawless tracks seem to go downhill from there, in very slight degrees. It's not that any track on this fantastic disc is necessarily bad per se, it's just that after the astonishing first two tracks, the album slowly lets the listener back down to earth. It's like seeing heaven and having to go back down to earth. And the epic power metal-style solos on the latter half of the album get to be a little bit much. They have their niche in melodic black metal, yes, but sometimes Antestor veers a little too into stadium-rock territory near the end of the album.
Those minor flaws aside, one can do no wrong in acquiring this disc - it's fantastic from beginning to end (though it has its ups and downs, relatively speaking). The musical skill on display here is top notch, the vocals are primal and savage cries, and when the band gets nasty, they get NASTY. For melodic black metal, there are few albums out there as good as this one; for Christian black metal fans, it's a must, and by far surpasses the band's earlier efforts.
We can only hope they reprint this classic.
In the early 90s, while the infamous and violent second wave of black metal was still going strong in Scandinavia,a small group of musicians in Jessheim, Norway decided to form a band under the moniker "Crush Evil." After producing a single demo under that name, the group was renamed Antestor, and went on to produce several more albums, eps and demos, among them being the landmark Christian Black Metal album "The Return of the Black Death." Their most recent (2005) album, The Forsaken, has in my opinion taken the place of TROTBD as the greatest Christian Black Metal album ever made.
The Forsaken is a marked departure in style compared to the much more primitive TROTBD(which I would compare to Satyricons masterpiece Dark Medieval Times in terms of style), and boasts modern production, more complex song structure, more prominent keyboards and, most surprisingly for Antestor fans, several long and technical guitar solos. Hellhammer(of Mayhem fame) was also recruited to play the drums, and he does nothing short of an astoundingly good job, and sets the bar once again for black metal drum performances.
The songwriting exhibited on this album is the strongest its ever been for Antestor; songs like "Old Times Cruelty", with its insane blasting and mad choirs, or "Betrayed" with its haunting keyboards and powerful lyrics are far beyond anything ever written by the band before. While the overall speed of the album is mid-to-fast paced and aggressive, there are slower, more emotional moments, like "Vale of Tears" with its uplifiting intro guitar, slowly becoming more somber; when the clean vocals emerge it nearly becomes a funeral dirge of sorts. Near the end of the album is the seemingly out of place "As I Die" consisting of power metal oriented guitars and minimal keyboards, and an almost folk-metal styled riff/breakdown midway through the song.
The lyrics are some of the best I have seen in any metal album, Christian or otherwise. Thought-provoking, dark, haunting and seemingly hopeless, but with a glimpse of light in every song, they are the high point of the album.
The individual instruments are handled with the utmost skill and tightness; guitars have a very sweeping feel to them, the keys are prominent and the drums have the signature Hellhammer sound. A minor would complaint would be the apparent lack of bass, I would have liked it to have been higher in the mix. Vocals are absolutely flawless, and performed by Ronny Hansen, who I wouldn't hesitate to call the best extreme vocalist in the metal scene today.
The Forsaken stands as one of, if not the, greatest Christian metal album ever created. Antestor have crafted a powerful, aggressive and emotional album of bleak thoughts, despair and pain, and of the hope, love and faith that sustains one through all the struggles of this world. If you are a fan of extreme metal in any way, make this album a top priority for acquiring. You will not be disappointed.
Just like everyone else, I was tempted to ignore this album altogether, considering its Christian approach on the genre. It’s not that I pretentiously avoid Christian metal, because I believe that music should be judged solely by what you hear on the album, regardless of the artist’s image. It’s just that Christian metal bands are generally musically inferior to their secular counterparts. Antestor, along with Crimson Moonlight and Drottnar, are exceptions to this generalization.
The intro to “The Forsaken” greets the listener with an angelic siren’s song, luring one in unsuspectingly. “Rites of Death” breaks suddenly, violently with furious black metal. Immediately it dawns on you that this is no run-of-the-mill white metal album. Antestor truly caught me off-guard here, nothing can prepare you for the relentless attack these Christians unleash with “The Forsaken”.
Three tracks of black insanity right from the start, blistering in intensity, the fury of the first wave is merciless! For those who survived this, Antestor lets up a little in the form of “Raade”, an ambient instrumental that changes the pace beautifully. In the second half, the album progresses considerably, with most of the songs being more experimental than the patent black metal sound on the rest of “The Forsaken”. From the ridiculously cheery keyboard interludes on “Betrayed”, to the somber “Vale of Tears”, then the uncharacteristic guitars on “The Return” and “As I Die”, this album has much more depth than I initially gave it credit for.
Notably, the guitars on the album are nothing short of astounding. With incredible composition covering many styles and genres, the fretwork on “The Forsaken” is very accomplished. Antestor incorporates various influences in every song, but it never seems too busy, or overdone, all the sections flow into each other harmoniously. The guitars are predominantly black metal, with ferocious tremolo riffs and immense speed. These are some truly heavy songs, and standout tracks for the genre as a whole, thanks to the guitars. The solo’s are amazingly fast and well-written, rivaling bands from Behemoth to Wintersun in prowess and composition. Particularly, the solo on “The Return” is one of the best I’ve heard in this or any genre.
The bass isn’t particularly unique or memorable. An average effort, but effective nonetheless. One isn’t often aware of the bass guitar on this album, though. The keyboards play a major part on the release, creating excellent atmosphere. It accentuates the songs very well, and is somehow unique compared to the keyboards heard on other BM releases. It specifically comes to the fore on the instrumentals and “Betrayed”.
The drums, played by none other than the legendary Hellhammer, are a triumph. These songs showcase some of the best drumming I’ve heard in black metal. I’d even go as far as rating it above his epic work in Dimmu Borgir. Fast beyond comprehension, the constant blasting and double-bass is addictive. Another crucial element of “The Forsaken”’s success is the vocals. As far as black metal goes, the vocalwork is tremendously good. The screams aren’t quite as high-pitched as in comparative BM albums, but rather in-between, a true venting of rage, unlike anything in Christian metal, save perhaps for Crimson Moonlight.
Sadly, however, the glorious vocals are short-lived, let down by the lame lyrics. It seems Antestor couldn’t get everything right after all. Horrendous poetry showing a strange depression angle on the Christian theme is the major weakness of this monumental album. However, the only Christian aspect of “The Forsaken” is the lyrics. There’s no denying that we are dealing with true Nordic black metal in almost every sense of the word.
The album fades out as inauspiciously as it entered with the symphonic “Mitt Hjerte”, and you’re left wondering what just happened. “The Forsaken” really blew me away with its very innovative take on black metal. Antestor is a rare Christian metal success story and this album is so remarkable, you’ll never want it to end.
So if you can find it in your dark heart to look past their Christian ideologies, Antestor is worthy of a place in the collection of any black metal fan.
Sadly, this band will probably remain forever underrated because of their Christian beliefs. It is a shame that someone would pass up music this good just because of the beliefs of the band and not....say, the MUSIC?
From beginning to end, this album catches your attention and most importantly, keeps it. From the opening track which features a beautiful and somber female vocal solo, quickly followed by a blast of sheer ferocity and mayhem; to the ending: a beautifully ochestrated instrumental which finishes the album in an epic manner.
The production of this album is top-notch. There is not many, other black metal bands that can boast such a good mix, except for those like Dimmu Borgir, who are already very widely known and have decent label support.
Overall, the musicianship on this album is amazing. The guitars are fierce and brutal, showcasing that dark and depressing side of black metal (from playing minor chords of course), and provide several fantastic solos. The drums are of course top-notch since Hellhammer is the drummer on this recording. He never ceases to amaze me. The vocals are some of the more shrill and pissed off vocals I have heard in a long time. Many vocals in black metal nowadays, like to just present the high, raspy gowl for their vocals. This band prefer to add that with a mix of screaming their asses off! I honestly haven't heard such ferocity and anger in a voice since Aborym or Annorexia Nervosa. Furthermore, the keyboards present a huge frozen landscape of sound. They always know the perfect accomadation for the music, and never overpower any of the other instruments (a difficult task in this particular genre).
This album is a whirlwind of soft, beautiful arrangements, to some of the most brutal and heavy-hitting riffs found in black metal. All the while, Antestor provide a thick and smothering (and may I say epic?) atmosphere that leaves you feeling sad and bitterly depressed. This album is a definite MUST HAVE! It is truly a classic from beginning to end.
Antestor’s latest full-length release The Forsaken is an absolutely stunning display off black metal. It has all the qualities that a great album should, dark atmosphere, raw emotion, brutality, beautiful melodies, flawless musicianship, and intelligent thought provoking lyrics. However they are still sadly one of the most underrated black metal bands around. Many people don’t even know of their existence, and many hate them because of their Christian beliefs. I find it really sad and pathetic that people can never seem to look beyond the ideology of great bands and here the music for what it is, amazing black metal.
Antestor has changed their sound once again which is not a bad thing. This change could in part be because of their new members and the influence of their former band Vaakevandring. They are always seeming to evolve but never lose their greatness and overall feel which is dark sorrowful metal. As fans of Antestor know their earlier works The Defeat Of Satan (originally recorded under their first name Crush Evil), and Despair were death/doom metal. They changed their style with their first full-length album Martryium to what they called “sorrow metal” which was black metal, but still had death metal songs and a doom metal feel which has always stuck with them. Martyrium is a legendary album in the Christian metal scene, being that it was one of the first ever Christian black metal albums (along with Horde’s Hellig Usvart). Their next full-length The Return of the Black Death was more of a raw black metal sound, but still melodic with a doom metal feel. It reminded me of older Dimmu Borgir, and Satyricon, but also had a Burzum, and DarkThrone feel to it. And know The Forsaken a melodic atmospheric black metal masterpiece with folk and doom metal incorporated into it as well.
The album begins with Rites of Death which is the only song from the EP Det Tapte Liv (The Lost Life) which is included in the full-length. The mix of this song is also different then that of the EP. The album begins with female clean vocals before it kicks into high gear with the brilliant guitars, stunning black metal vocals, and the furious drumming of none other then Hellhammer (Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Arcturus). The Forsaken also offers great synths and some clean folk and doom vocals as well. Every track on this album is done exceptionally well. The synths are incredible using classical sounds and what I would call atmosphere enhancers to their full ability. Though they do not over kill their music with them like many bands of this day and age seem to do. Instead they use keyboards to add beautiful elements to their music. The guitars are very well done both melodic and brutal adding a sense of overall sadness and doom. All this raw emotion is felt throughout the entire album. The solos are very original and technical and just add to the greatness that is Antestor. The drums... Well only one word is needed to tell any true black metal fan how amazing they are and that word is Hellhammer. The vocals are incredible I would go as far as saying Vrede is perhaps the best black metal vocalist of this time. His screams are haunting but also very understandable. The lyrics are thought provoking and compelling whether you are Christian or anti-Christian. Every aspect of this album is just absolutely perfect. Overall this album is a perfect epic assault on your ears. Highlights are Rites of Death, Old Time’s Cruelty, Via Dolorosa, Betrayed, and As I Die. I would strongly recommend this album to any fan of black metal especially to fans of Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, and Old Man’s Child. Whether you are Christian, Satanic, Atheistic, Pagan, or whatever just look beyond the stereotypes and listen to the music for what it is exceptional black metal.
I believe that Antestor is, sadly, one of the most underrated black metal bands of our time. Even though their music is compelling, dark, emotional, and brutal, they are overlooked simply because of their Christian faith. If people would look beyond the ideology and truly listen to the flawless composition of The Forsaken, they would understand that all that truly matters is the music.
The album starts off with solo Celtic female vocals for a duration of nearly thirty seconds, on the track Rites of Death. After the intro, Hellhammer’s signature drum sound adds to the beauty of all the tracks on the album, including the first. The vocals are also done very cleanly, and add to the overall “blackened” feel of the music.
The next few tracks are all done amazingly well, with the usage of classical synth sounds to add a symphonic element that moves the album steadily along. Unlike many modern symphonic black metal acts, Antestor never overdoes the keyboards parts or the choral elements which play along so beautifully with the music.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this album is the guitar work. As a guitarist, I can identify the patterns that are used by both Vemod and Bjorn. With minor chords played up high and barred, the looming feeling of sadness and doom, along with a sense of suspense and brutality, is felt the entire time.
The lyrical content is very compelling, even though it is Christian. The catchiness of many of the lyrics in songs such as “Old Times Cruelty” and “The Crown I Carry” resembles the patterns and vocal techniques used by such popular acts as Immortal and Dimmu Borgir. This is one of many reasons that I enjoy listening to this album often. The pacing of the songs is done very well, using a mix of both symphonic instrumental songs and fast-paced black metal songs.
Even if you are a Satanist or an Atheist, I would not suggest denying this band a fair listen simply because of their beliefs. In my opinion, they are one of the greatest Norwegian black metal bands of today, and their albums will always remain a legacy that upholds their talent.