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Check this: Forlorn Path is a blackened death/doom metal outfit from New Jersey. Now, as far as I know, New Jersey SUCKS, so that's probably what inspired them to get into the darker end of music. The guys seem to know what they're doing, though, which is always a plus in my book. Their 2013 release, "Man's Last Portrait", is a solid mix of death metal instrumentation, doom metal pacing, and a blackened touch to the vocals. The album actually opens up with a tense, melodic instrumental track called "The Coming of Winter", and things turn from tense to intense real quick when "Empire of Decadence" (the next track) erupts into this fantastic mix. I can say with absolute certainty that "Man's Last Portrait" is one of the better offerings of 2013 that I've heard thus far - and it's self-released, too!
While these guys definitely have an assortment of influences to speak of, the vocals of "Man's Last Portrait" are almost entirely composed of a delicious black metal scream and a spectacular death metal growl. Bassist and vocalist Dave Imbriaco knows his stuff when it comes to unleashing hell from his vocal cords, and the power behind his voice is quite formidable. You know when you've got quality vocals when every utterance of every syllable is pretty much a perfect showcase of the vocalist's potential, and that's what we have here on this record. I especially dig the slower moments of the album - using the tail end of "Words Only Wind Can Speak" as a prime example - where Dave's vocals are said in such a manner that they resonate through the rest of the mix, leaving a sonic implant in your brain matter as they do so. I don't know when this fucker picked up a microphone, but it was probably one of the best decisions he made in his entire life. And his basswork isn't half bad, either!
The guitars wear a few faces throughout "Man's Last Portrait", but each face is adorned with all the bedazzling ornaments and makeup that make me want to sleep with someone, so that's A-okay! The most common inclusion of Yuriy Garnaev's and Ivan Chernikov's guitarwork is a fast-paced wall of death metal grooves and black metal riffs, but there are a few estranged solos in the mix here and there, and other times the guitarwork simply leads the mix in the songwriting. You might not pay all that much attention to it, but the guitarwork is well-executed and well-planned, and plenty of it was enjoyable to my ears. There's also plenty of melodic passages scattered throughout the album, and some acoustic-sounding pieces that open up a few of the slower songs. Everything you hear will sound great, but even so, you have to give them props for the variety. I think that's what really boosts this album above the rank and file of its contemporaries: Forlorn Path, as a band, simply aren't holding themselves to a single genre. They can execute that variety damn well, too, which is the only reason it works anywhere near as well as it does.
Now I'm about to slam you with some shocking news: "Man's Last Portrait" is Forlorn Path's debut album. Yeah, seriously, these guys have that much talent. I'd also like to point out that the band doesn't have a drummer, but some guy named James Applegate (the only American name on the entire roster, and it's SUPER AMERICAN) tracked drums for this album. He did a respectable job, too, as it fits the instrumentation of the music just fine for my liking. Surely it could have been better - I feel that during the slower points of the album, James does a lot of nothing - but during the buildup into the blisteringly-fast moments, he's phenomenal, doing just what he needs to turn that shit up a notch. Faults and all, "Man's Last Portrait" is a fantastic record that anyone who enjoys extreme forms of metal will enjoy. Don't take my word for it, though - buy the damn thing and enjoy yourself! It's got my seal of approval. Quality guaranteed. You know, the whole shebang. Seriously, go get it. Dummy.