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Long before Glen Benton and headlining tours, Vital Remains proved to be the exact definition of an underground death metal band when they literally were shadowed by Florida’s sudden metal uprising in the early 1990s. Four full-length records emerged before you could find Providence’s finest selling out shows, but sadly, those great releases have suffered repression much like these madmen faced in their early days; however, they’ve never had a slither of a chance to show what lurks within, and that’s the cruel reality “Forever Underground” has been dealt. People always enjoy blasting their “Altars of Madness” or whatever, but where’s the death metal that just screams of brutality much like its classic competitors? Where’s some death metal that can feel epic, exciting, dynamic, and beefy all in one setting? Where’s some death metal that’s able to impress you today and tomorrow? Simple answer to all those questions: right here.
Funny thing is, “Forever Underground” fabricates itself around Vital Remains’ old-school death metal approach as expected, but not without implementing longer songs, keyboards, complex riffs, and solos that focus more so on style than technicality. Tony Lazaro’s guitar playing strictly resembles an instrumental peak in both his creativity and talent levels, mainly due to his voluminous licks exploiting scorching speed, pulverizing mid-paced sections, and stellar tempo changes. Dave Suzuki’s debut in Vital Remains shows the multi-talented musician literally flexing onto every part of his drum set while avoiding the blastbeat commonplace that turned so many individuals away from their later works; “Battle Ground” is really the one track containing a fair amount of blasting, but like I said, it’s just fair in quantity. Also, his shredding influence is felt entirely, especially when experiencing those memorable leads that almost feel well-known in an atmosphere similar to “Dechristianize” or “Icons of Evil.” Take “I Am God” and those flamenco solos for instance…just too cool.
Vital Remains had suffered lineup change after lineup change during this stage in the band’s life, so instead of dealing with typical crap, they agreed on sticking Joe Lewis at both the microphone and his primordial bass, yet here’s the kicker: he fucking rules at growling! Parched barks are constantly exiled from Joe’s twisted larynx while his morbid moans become one with Lazaro’s axing riffs and Suzuki’s outrageous drumming, which seems somewhat surprising considering his original place. Beings able to fit all these pieces together sounds like a band being born again, yet it’s completely clear each mentionable quality has been upgraded even further than before. Matured and redefined, “Forever Underground” comes off as some miners whom finally found perfect diamonds after years of digging over their specific foundation; it’s got the best riffs, percussion, bass lines, vocals, and general song schemes than anything else on Vital Remains’ original full-length collections.
As for production, we have not a single tweak of digital improvement; rawness reigns supreme on all instrumental levels. When placing this disc in the presence of your ears, you’ll be quickly consumed by rough guitars squished against chunky bass lines; it just has such a dirty background, and that’s how I like it, baby! But of course, the finest contribution resulting from keeping rareness intact is Dave Suzuki’s wild percussion, which honestly couldn’t sound more fitting on “Forever Underground” and its general muddiness. His snare’s volume quickly alters between crushing snaps and tiny pops, which are obviously based on his speed, yet those frisky toms he uses so intelligently also appear to be one with the undercooked as well. Be away with your triggered drums! We need not those swallow customizations!
It really sautés my tilapia to see “Forever Underground” in such a state of neglect after stuff like “Dechristianize” gave Vital Remains modernized publicity. Hell, it even adds a fat layer of butter on my tilapia when witnessing the Benton-only fans purposely ignoring this wonderful album just because his name sound familiar, whether it be from Deicide records or the Satanic gimmick he’s known for. Hypocrisy, I say! Discarding that mild inconsistency, please understand Vital Remains’ third chapter completely defines great death metal throughout its forty minutes of madness. A high-powered observation overall, and like its name, truly is – and shall eternally remain – forever underground.
This review was written for: www.leviatan-magazine.com