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I’ve often heard Black September’s vocalist Jen Pickett compared to that same woman that shall remain nameless, but in my opinion ruined Arch Enemy, and that’s only because they both sing in the typical growling death metal style. Trust me, that is exactly where the comparison stops.
Black September’s The Forbidden Gates Beyond is a true testimony to what real death metal should encapsulate, never mind female-fronted death metal. I won’t denigrate Pickett in any way to simply point out her being a woman as a sacred parcel for the band. She stands aside any modern male growler with the best of them, toe to toe, and where the Arch Enemy vocalist growls with a certain precision while shaking her backside in too-tight leather pants for a gathering of horny metalheads it’s vocalists like Pickett that destroy on talent alone. The deadly combination of blind anger and fused brutality make for a potent piece of repugnance in this album.
The familiarity of the death metal guitar tone is the driving force behind these small forays into brutality. From the speedy beating you get with “The Forbidden Gates Beyond” to the atmospheric/death entry of “Tyrants” there is a hellish quality to the music that seems to plod along like an F-5 tornado at the most jagged of paces, picking up varying objects of weighty matter and sending them flying miles into the blackened sky. That’s exactly what I feel when listening to parts of this album; it’s like a raging storm that seems to pick up steam as it goes along. If an album can hammer itself into your head and stomach like that, it’s worth a few repeated listens.
Pickett’s vocal is a seemingly effortless entry, calling upon the most horrific of visuals when she belts out the verses as though they were backward bible verse, strength for strength and without merciful bandying. After the fraying beginning of “Tombs” sets the scene for the most evil of surroundings, she comes in once more shredding the minions to tiny bits throughout one of the best death metal tracks I’ve managed to hear in some weeks. The easy manageability of the music shows a severe subservience to integrity and a shunning of this sweeping flaccidity that finds its way into every metal movement that begins with the best of intentions. Without devaluing the black/death movements, Black September ensures that every basic homage is covered without the deranged obliviousness many bands get lost in when trying to find the latest wagon to hitch on to for fun.
I have found this album to be a sinister merging of crusty death and black metal that leads us all into temptation with a polished resonance that is some of the finer elements of the movement out there right now. With some EP’s and this full-length making noise in the underground I’d suggest you seek them out and allow yourself to be persuaded south.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)
I have followed Black September since happening across a cool collaboration they did with Winters in Osaka, a song called 'Hordes of Flesh and Bone' that utilized both Black September's grimy death/ crust and Winters in Osaka's harsh noise feedback. They have a few other EPs and splits in that same rough and crusty style, but their debut full-length The Forbidden Gates Beyond adopts a more streamlined black metal sound akin to Negator or Watain with a suggestion of recent God Dethroned.
Although they got up to some interesting, atmospheric stuff before, I shan't spend too much time complaining about the change in direction (a more well-trod direction at that) as this is a healthy-sounding bit of blackened carnage that deserves your attention on its own merits. The mix is cleaner, with the guitars sounding more defined and the cascade of blastbeats coming through the wall of often tremolo-picked riffs nicely. Vocalist Jen maintains the harsh acerbic rasp she employed on previous recordings, snarling through the melodies rather than matching them, making for an effective disembodied performance.
My favourite here comes early on, the pummeling 'Creation of Chaos' that really picks up those motoring God Dethroned tendencies I mentioned, colouring it with the menacing stature of Behemoth and some Dark Funeral-stye guitar widdles. Can't get enough of it. 'Tombs' follows the nihilism of 'Tyrants' with a more frenetic set of melodies and an urgent feel. 'The Absence of Life & Death' does a good job of sounding like just that, employing the band's former taste for slow, menacing riffs in the vein of Bolt Thrower to create a deathless temple from which they launch a furious assault of knife-sharp riffs.
There are still unexpected moments that speak of their daring unclassifiable past, such as the vicious chugging breakdowns in 'Unleashed' and the gnarly instrumental 'Hallow of Decay', as well as the presence of more catchy but the album is far more cohesive and focused than past efforts. It is almost disappointing that they didn't try to progress their old fusion sounds, but I can actually see myself listening to this a fair bit more than previous releases.
These young hopefuls from Chicago have seemingly caught on to the fact that well-executed USBM is currently much more vogue than the unfiltered eclectic deathcrust of earlier efforts. One could blame them for that if they weren't doing such a damned good job and sounding nastier than ever.