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FORSAKEN is a progressive doom metal band, but don't start thinking gothic keys and whiny vocals and crap like that. These guys are 'doom' in the greatest SABBATH tradition - gutsy, sludgy guitar riffs, bouncy bass lines, and awesome vocals delivered with real power and conviction. The album kicks off with a track called "The Healer", and I swear when I first heard it I thought that it was a lost OZZY OSBOURNE album or something. The riffing is great - really catchy and energetic (sort of like Manic Frustration-era TROUBLE), and Leo Stivala's vocals sounded so much like Ozzy I was amazed - I thought he was Ozzy's bastard son or something. And through the rest of the songs on the album, I continued to be amazed. They tend to write in the Sabbath tradition, too - nice, fairly long, weighty pieces that move from mood to mood. There's some really somber stuff on here, like "Season's End", "Moon Dancer", and the 12-minute epic "Winter Tears", as well as some straight-rocking stuff, like "The Healer", "Rubicon", and "Sufferance". The standouts, though, are "Madrigal", a piece that starts with just clean guitar and builds to an epic guitar-solo outro, "Slip Stream", an energetic rocker with a great chorus, and the best song on the album, "Vertigo", which is sheer genius: A constantly-changing song structure, which moves from a monster double-guitar riff, a great strutting beat, and killer vocals to a slow, clean-picked melodic outro verse and guitar solo. The guitarists, Sean Vukovic and Daniel Magri, are a team that really works on getting separate parts working together, and their riffs just sound huge. Leo changes his voice from song to song (and even within songs), showing off his powerful shout-singing, his soulful singing, and of course his 'Ozzy voice'. And for once, this is a metal album where the bass is IN the mix, and Albert Bell (also the man who pens most of the lyrics) really riffs out in an in-your-face, Geezer-esque style. He knows just when to throw in a good fill or a counterpoint. My only gripe is the drums - Simeon Gatt is talented, I can tell, but the production job sucked the life out of the drum sounds, leaving them a little limp, and under-mixing them didn't help. But that's not the band's fault, and it's not horrible - it's just that with the other sounds on the album being so good, they deserve a great foundation.
(Originally published in Eternal Frost Webzine #2 and LARM (c) 1999)