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Well, wouldn't you know, Sweden conquered again. Just when I was beginning to think thrash had completely lost all its relevance and vicious bite, components wearing painfully thin in this flock since its peak years in the late eighties, this upstart band Antichrist and their almost purposefully cliched moniker has unleashed this shocking abomination of evil known only as Forbidden World. One needs only to look at the (in my opinion) awesome cover art and the song titles to figure out what's in store for the listener here. No, don't call it revitalist thrash metal; this isn't the overly produced and formulaic material offered by Metallic/Exodus lite bands like Havok and Evile; this a forty-three minute torrent of utter musical chaos set to pulverize any poseurs who dare come too close and demolish any living thing foolish enough to get in its way--the greatest metal album of a great year that just kinda snuck in and took the crown while no one was looking.
As one might expect by the dark vibes of the lyrics, Antichrist is more firmly rooted in the scarier German side of all things thrash, and the violent, noisy nature of the actual music strongly reflects that. Hints of early Kreator are strong with this one, though the speed is often a tad less jarring and the album a great deal more melodic in turn. I would compare it to the controlled onslaught of Coma of Souls if Antichrist didn't sound so hostile here, as if they were wild, bloodthirsty hounds just a chain link away from breaking free and tearing their cruel human captors limb from limb. Just listen to the chilling vocals; are they the sound of a simple man's sinister screamed rasps, or the product of a demented soul tortured for all existence? I could hardly tell the difference, Steken presenting his panicked, frenzied phrasing like a speed demon freak from within the heart of Hades.
They don't screw around when it comes to delivering the riffs, either. There's admittedly little technically astounding about the guitar-playing, but I dare anyone to sit still when a full-on blitz like "Torment of Hell" engulfs your system. It's mostly delivered in a fast but intelligible manner, only slowing in truly epic numbers like eight minute tracks "Necropolis" and "Minotaur," the former bearing a verse rhythm to die for and latter being an instrumental anthem that never loses your attention even in its trying length. Every element of the sound is drenched in low-fi tones, mesmerizing in its commitment to being as 'pure' as possible in its relentless pursuit of capturing a bygone era without losing any of its own songwriting elegance. Oh, and these songs are about as memorable as they come. It'll only take a few listens before you start making yourself look like an idiot shouting along to its many unforgettable lines. Don't believe me? Try for yourself.
Yes, Antichrist is firmly rooted in the old school. There's no getting around that fact and it absolutely bleeds through into the music. They're not afraid to worship Kreator, Destruction, Assassin, of Morbid Saint any less than your next throwaway "retro" thrash band is. However, unlike most bands in this oversaturated genre today, this band's fearlessness doesn't stop at pummeling the listener into an insurmountable void of unconsciousness; and, although I respect what they do, that's not something I could say for similar groups like Vektor. This is an album that represents everything great about thrash in a nifty package suitable for the new century. Yep, Forbidden World really is that good. Doubters of grandiose statements better turn away now. It's the best thrash album of the millennium thusfar (by far) in this reviewer's not so humble opinion, and the most satisfying debut offering in years. You just don't know how much you need it.
P.S.: You might want to pick up some medications for the neck and back pain this album will inevitably cause. Phew, I'm dizzy; time for a break.
Fuck this band for taking everything I so loved about the early, aggressive thrash from both the Bay Area and German scenes, mashing it up, adding a relish of kinetic, blackened vitriol and then feeding it to me all over again. How is it that Sweden keeps churning out bands like this, or rather not exactly like this but from all over the metal spectrum, in such quantity and quality? It's like they have something in the soil over there that makes its way into their plants and livestock and inevitably ingested into some metallic lobe in their brains. Born metal, living metal and spewing metal into the ears of the rest of the world, so that we must writhe in the envy. For sure, there is nothing remotely unique about Antichrist. They couldn't even come up with an original band name. But with music this incendiary, exciting and enthusiastically vicious, they've done one better than innovation: coming up with what is the most fun release of its kind in many moons. Some of the most fun I've had all year in this genre.
The last blackened/thrash album I had such a strong reaction towards was Abigail's Sweet Baby Metal Slut in 2009, but that was a lot cruder with some straight speed/heavy metal undercurrents balanced off by the harsh barking. Antichrist is more explosive and refined, at least in terms of velocity and the business of the riffing, but lyrically and aesthetically it's just as primitive. Imagine if you might pick around in the time stream of the 80s and draw forth the very best elements of Destruction's Sentence of Death, Kreator's Pleasure to Kill, Slayer's Hell Awaits, Bathory's first few albums, vintage Possessed and Venom's Welcome to Hell and then breed them together for several generations in some dank, forgotten kennel in a corner of Hell. About a century hence, or rather 20 years give or take, the offspring of their offspring finally emerge from some crack into the mortal purgatory and unleash the devil's music upon the unsuspecting. Forbidden World is not 'news', perhaps, and hundreds of other bands have followed a similar path, but treacherously few with such ripping, diabolic finesse.
The first two traits that stunned me into submission here were the vocals and guitar tone. Front man Steken has this impressive, abominable ability to sound as if he is screaming and rasping at precisely the same time, as if he were singing from not only his mouth but some cut in his throat simultaneously. Whether it's single tracked or double tracked makes no difference. The guy is part Schmier, part Jeff Becera, part Tom Araya and perhaps a hint of 'Hellbutcher' Gustaffson from fellow Swedes Nifelheim. The guitars are nice, crisp and crunchy, yet their fuzzy nature never falls behind the intense pace of the music. I can't promise that every pattern on the disc isn't at least derivative of some past recording, but the notes always play out like pitchforks being stabbed through your spine at incredible speeds and as a result you've got no choice but to flip about like a marionette of unwitting carnage. In addition, Antichrist has done well to cast the leads in a brighter, spurious tone so they leap off the rhythms like evil incantations leaping off some weathered scroll.
Selecting particular highlights here is almost impossible since every song is so entertaining, but I feel like "Militia of Death", "Victims of the Blade" and "Sign of the Beast" are all fine examples of their uppity thrust that would immediately impress anyone into the more extreme speed and thrash of the mid-80s, or the blackened variations since. The Swedes can also show a softer and more atmospheric side to their music in the titular "Forbidden World", a gorgeous acoustic interlude, but this is an exception to the rule. Other points of interesting include "Necropolis" and "Minotaur", both of which are 8 minutes long and have a more varied, epic structure that often recalled some of the Japanese Sabbat's more ambitious offerings. The leads are almost always intensely memorable, the tremolo and muted guitars engaging and loaded with twists and turns, and the vocals simply incredible. About the only thing I could not count in their favor is that the lyrics and titles seem pretty derivative of their influences (if not poorly composed). But then, if something is this damned good, I maintain that there is always room for more.
I had a conversation with a friend not too long ago regarding the thrash revivalist craze of late, noting that he was quite dismissive of it. For him it was a matter of been there, done that, having lived through the first go around from 1985 through 1991, and there is perhaps something to that. Most of the bands in question are not merely revisiting the style of said time period, but also attempting the same atmosphere, production practices, guitar sound, almost as if trying to turn the clock back about 25 years. But for someone of my age, someone who lived through that time period but was a bit too young to full appreciate it (I remember the video for Metallica’s “One” scaring the crap out of me at age 8), it’s a different situation, and by extension a much more welcome one.
To be fair, most of the newer bands that are picking up the old school thrash sound are not fully plagiarizing any particular band, but rather a style that shifting fairly considerably depending on which band is in question. Sweden’s recent addition to this scene Antichrist (taking a fairly cliché name, to be sure) is one of the more obvious examples of a band doing a little experimentation within an already established paradigm. The heaviest influence appears to be coming from early 80s Slayer and the mid 80s offerings of the Teutonic Trio, though a strong amount of melodic hooks that were more common to the mainline New York and Bay Area bands. It’s sort of an interesting mix that is observable in other bands such as Fueled By Fire, but here the nastiness of the vocals and the rapidity of the riff work reminds just as much of Kreator as it does Dark Angel.
“Forbidden World” is an enticing package, particularly for someone who wants a middle of the road experience of the more extreme fringes of thrash, one that isn’t pointing quite as obviously to the death metal sound that Slayer and Kreator were by 1986. “Dark Sorcery” and “Torment In Hell” are excellent examples of that fast and frenzied darkness heard on “Hell Awaits”, but also comes equipped with a series of lead breaks that are much more disciplined than the frenetic character of most mid 80s extreme shredders, putting out a bit more of an Exodus or Megadeth vibe. “Necropolis” showcases this band’s versatility, reminding that this style have to perpetually cook at 200 clicks and can infuse some grooving mid-tempo punishment and creepy lead guitar passages to paint a dark yet less chaotic picture. And the longwinded instrumental “Minotaur” all but channels Iron Maiden’s galloping, lead melodies galore approach into a nastier, yet auspiciously faithful rendition.
Perhaps many of the older crowd have the right to dismiss this music as being passé and something that some kids rediscovered and don’t fully understand. But since I have no desire to sound like an old fogy who lectures about how it was done once and shouldn’t be done again, or to be one of these avant-garde types who only go for things that push the envelope to the point that it barely even sounds like metal anymore, I’ll be happy with plenty more of this. This is the kind of metal that can be both scary and entertaining at the same time, blowing your speakers while inspiring that unique one-man mosh pit euphoria that only a real thrashing can bring. This has been done before, and it’s even been done better by a few of the original mainstays, but it ought to be done a lot more and with this level of intensity and intrigue.
Since I came across this band's two demos and saw them live around a year ago, I've been a huge fan of Antichrist. I consider them to be the best of all the revitalist thrash bands. On Crushing Metal Tape and Put to Death there was a massive influence of early Slayer but the music has own special vibe being not just a rip off. Forbidden World still offers plenty of Slayer-worshipping as well as influences from a band like Possessed especially concerning the vocals. But from the very first second you could get confused whether you had put on Hell Awaits since the intro sound very much like it. But as soon as the music starts, you are blown away.
The albums kicks off with "Dark Sorcery", "Militia of Death" and "Torment in Hell". These first three songs are very similar in style. This is Antichrist at their best: straight forward, fastpicking, old school thrash metal. "Torment in hell" can also be found on Crushing Metal Tape but the sound is much better here so it not a problem."Sign of the beast" also appeared on Put to Death and is one of my favorite songs so again, not complaining.
On many of the songs they use more or less the same formula. But what makes this band different from many other in the same genre is the variations in speed the use if breaks and the fact that they are great riff-makers. Fast, short, guitar leads adds a new dimension to the music. The same with the vocals. A lot of metal band tends to rely too much on just sheer brutality and end up sounding like a barfing dog which tends to get pretty boring after a while. In "Victims of the Blade" the singer adds some really interesting vocal work at the end of the song. It kind of reminded me of Holy Terror. This is just one of the means the band is using to make the music more interesting.
Especially in two songs, the band explores new territories. After the instrumental intro "Forbidden World" comes "Necropolis". The beginning leads more towards Black Sabbath and epic metal than traditional thrash metal. It is also the first Antichrist song that starts out midtempo. "Minotaur" is an 8 minute long, instrumental journey back to the glorious days of heavy metal, with plenty of guitar triplets and dual guitars. It never gets boring and makes a pleasant break from the 199 bpm attacks that defines 80 % of this album. It really shows the band has grown as song writers.
This band is very underground. Too underground (and too cool) to have a web page so you will have to find the music on your own. As a curiousity, they relased on of their demo tapes in a version smothered in goat blood.
If you are a fan of early 80's thrash metal in the vein of Exumer, Deathrow (Riders of Doom era), Possessed and teutonic thrashers like Kreator and Destruction you will love this album.
// Steel Inferno