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The title of this review says it all. Vital Remains' third album, Forever Underground, is truly their best work. Dechristianize and Icons of Evil have NOTHING on this album. Forever Underground captures a very strong and memorable atmosphere with its mixture of black metal and death metal. Surprisingly enough, Forever Underground has remained a hidden, overlooked gem just like every other Vital album that doesn't include Glen Benton.
Every single song on this album captures this dark, obscure atmosphere. Each song tells its own story and there is not one filler track on the whole album. Forever Underground's songs contain such a large amount of variety in its riffs. The song structures for each song are diverse, going from slow, doomy, heavy riffs to fast riffs with blast-beats to sections containing these beautiful guitar solos and melodies. On Dechristianize and Icons Of Evil, most of the songs sound very similar to each other, each having the exact same song structures and same amount of fast, merciless riffs and brutality with no slowing down whatsoever. On these early albums, especially Forever Underground, the variety in the song structures are much different, letting some wicked, dark riffs to seep through in between fast riffs that blast off every once in a while. It's almost as if these less technical songs really breathe out something that sounds quite natural and spontaneous.
The musicianship on Forever Underground is, by far, the best I've ever heard from Vital Remains. Tony Lazaro perfectly mixes black metal riffing with the style of American death metal riffing, and the guitar tone is perfect, it's not really deep and muddy, it's not too clean, it's right in the middle and it has this excellent crunch sound to it. It is unfortunate that Jeff Gruslin quit the band before the making of this album, but Joe Lewis delivered his own death growls; a slightly deeper voice than Jeff Gruslin's. Dave's raw, tin-sounding drums really fit the sound of this album, although it takes a lot of getting used to. But if you really like raw, analogue production quality, this album obviously has it. No compressed, digitally-recorded drums or any instruments to be found here. And also, this album introduces Dave Suzuki's fantastic neo-classical guitar solos. These solos are another way Vital Remains try to stand out from all the other death metal bands who would never try something like mixing such a style with the fierce brutality of death metal music. Vital Remains mixed neo-classical with death metal and this album proved that it works for them. The two different styles when fused together doesn't create a goofy, cartoonish sound like some people may expect, but an genuine, innovative death metal sound. The solos become an interesting contrast when mixed with heavy and brutal riffs. Tony and Dave really defined a new and very superior sound on this album.
Overall, this is Vital Remains' magnum opus; a truly underrated classic in death metal. I highly recommend it to any fan of black/death metal and to any new Vital fan who thinks Dechristianize is the best death metal album they've ever heard. Forever Underground remains a fantastic, satanic, dark masterpiece!