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Look Past the White Veil... - 90%

XuL_Excelsi, December 10th, 2009

Just like everyone else, I was tempted to ignore this album altogether, considering its Christian approach on the genre. It’s not that I pretentiously avoid Christian metal, because I believe that music should be judged solely by what you hear on the album, regardless of the artist’s image. It’s just that Christian metal bands are generally musically inferior to their secular counterparts. Antestor, along with Crimson Moonlight and Drottnar, are exceptions to this generalization.

The intro to “The Forsaken” greets the listener with an angelic siren’s song, luring one in unsuspectingly. “Rites of Death” breaks suddenly, violently with furious black metal. Immediately it dawns on you that this is no run-of-the-mill white metal album. Antestor truly caught me off-guard here, nothing can prepare you for the relentless attack these Christians unleash with “The Forsaken”.

Three tracks of black insanity right from the start, blistering in intensity, the fury of the first wave is merciless! For those who survived this, Antestor lets up a little in the form of “Raade”, an ambient instrumental that changes the pace beautifully. In the second half, the album progresses considerably, with most of the songs being more experimental than the patent black metal sound on the rest of “The Forsaken”. From the ridiculously cheery keyboard interludes on “Betrayed”, to the somber “Vale of Tears”, then the uncharacteristic guitars on “The Return” and “As I Die”, this album has much more depth than I initially gave it credit for.

Notably, the guitars on the album are nothing short of astounding. With incredible composition covering many styles and genres, the fretwork on “The Forsaken” is very accomplished. Antestor incorporates various influences in every song, but it never seems too busy, or overdone, all the sections flow into each other harmoniously. The guitars are predominantly black metal, with ferocious tremolo riffs and immense speed. These are some truly heavy songs, and standout tracks for the genre as a whole, thanks to the guitars. The solo’s are amazingly fast and well-written, rivaling bands from Behemoth to Wintersun in prowess and composition. Particularly, the solo on “The Return” is one of the best I’ve heard in this or any genre.

The bass isn’t particularly unique or memorable. An average effort, but effective nonetheless. One isn’t often aware of the bass guitar on this album, though. The keyboards play a major part on the release, creating excellent atmosphere. It accentuates the songs very well, and is somehow unique compared to the keyboards heard on other BM releases. It specifically comes to the fore on the instrumentals and “Betrayed”.

The drums, played by none other than the legendary Hellhammer, are a triumph. These songs showcase some of the best drumming I’ve heard in black metal. I’d even go as far as rating it above his epic work in Dimmu Borgir. Fast beyond comprehension, the constant blasting and double-bass is addictive. Another crucial element of “The Forsaken”’s success is the vocals. As far as black metal goes, the vocalwork is tremendously good. The screams aren’t quite as high-pitched as in comparative BM albums, but rather in-between, a true venting of rage, unlike anything in Christian metal, save perhaps for Crimson Moonlight.

Sadly, however, the glorious vocals are short-lived, let down by the lame lyrics. It seems Antestor couldn’t get everything right after all. Horrendous poetry showing a strange depression angle on the Christian theme is the major weakness of this monumental album. However, the only Christian aspect of “The Forsaken” is the lyrics. There’s no denying that we are dealing with true Nordic black metal in almost every sense of the word.

The album fades out as inauspiciously as it entered with the symphonic “Mitt Hjerte”, and you’re left wondering what just happened. “The Forsaken” really blew me away with its very innovative take on black metal. Antestor is a rare Christian metal success story and this album is so remarkable, you’ll never want it to end.

So if you can find it in your dark heart to look past their Christian ideologies, Antestor is worthy of a place in the collection of any black metal fan.