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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.