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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 sounds dark and aggressive in its own unique way. 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 and different elements. The song structures for each song are flawless, going from slow, doomy, heavy riffs to fast riffs with blast-beats to sections containing beautiful 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. On these early albums, especially Forever Underground, the variety in the song structures are much different, letting some wicked, dark vibes to seep through along with the heaviness. 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 mixed black metal riffing with the style of American death metal riffing, and the guitar tone is perfect. It is unfortunate that Jeff Gruslin quit the band before the making of this album, but Joe Lewis delivered great vocals, but certainly not as powerful and memorable as Jeff's voice. Dave's raw, tin-sounding drums fit amazingly with this musical sound and his guitar solos and melodies are perfect examples of what neo-classical solos should sound like. He was able to make his guitar sing. Dave Suzuki really proves to us here how talented he is on both drums and guitar. Tony and Dave really defined a new and very superior sound.
The album has really low, raw, cheap production quality, but then again, it didn't need such excellent production quality like any death metal album today. After listening to some songs off the album for a while, you realize that the production quality really doesn't matter at all. All the value lies within the music itself.
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!