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“Forbidden Fruit Always Taste Sweet,… - 77%

bayern, October 1st, 2017

but musical deviations from the norm always sound distorted.” Yes, I know you’re well familiar with this timeless piece of wisdom dating back from times immemorial; only that when the album reviewed here came out, it wasn’t such a distortion anymore provided that the sound the band paid tribute to had already established itself as the leading component on the scene.

Oftentimes I try to picture a hypothetical reality in which the whole groovy/grunge/alternative transformation never occurred, and the old school continued to dominate the metal arena for, say, another ten years. Were we, the fans, going to receive more, equally as distinguished twisted forms, puppet masters, mental vortexes, deceived victims, and souls in a coma… It’s really tough to tell now. I guess this groove/aggro “epidemic” was merely created by the Metal Gods as a test for the adaptation skills of the 80’s practitioners. Because without such skills how can you claim to be a great musician, right? Consequently the metal audience lost their respect for many of the 80’s veterans who disgraced themselves drowning into the sea of groove and machine-like, industrial sounds, amazingly failing to adjust to those less skill-demanding soundscapes.

Some acts retained their dignity, though, and Forbidden were by all means one of them. After the climactic sophomore opus there wasn’t much left for the band to do in order to prove themselves any further. The Black Album came darkening the horizon, and hordes of metal performers rushed forward groping in the newly instilled “darkness”, hoping to somehow emulate its staggering success. The thrash form was already handsomely twisted in the Forbidden camp so what was left to do was to continue twisting it, bending it… But in what direction? The next four years nicely provided the answer to this question, and Russ Anderson and Co. had to give these alien sounds a go.

And they did, with this “distorted” opus here which remains one of the better adaptation attempts made by 80’s purveyors. The bouncy nervy rhythm-section of the opening title-track holds no illusions towards the 80’s canons, and with an angrier, less tolerant Anderson behind the mike the situation quickly becomes all too clear: another “victim” of the 90’s metamorphosis is to be experienced, but how painful this metamorphosis would be in this case? Not very as the virtuous melodic leads at the beginning of “Hypnotized by the Rhythm” promise, the heavy squashing drama witnessed afterwards not irritatingly groovy. “Rape” provides appropriate jumps and jolts with volcanic hard-hitting riffs, and although this is pretty much 90’s post-thrash all the way, the final impression is not exactly on the negative side.

“No Reason” even attempts something more technical with alluring lead-driven schemes and less predictable twists and turns, a satisfying hectic shredder superseded by a lyrical balladic etude, the intro to “Feed the Hand”, Anderson forcing himself to sound more melodic and less pissed, this track another decent modern post-thrasher with cool atmospheric breezes. “Wake Up!” deserves its title moshing with a more classic flair, even reaching headbanging proportions at some stage, and “Mind’s I” is a heavy groovy ballad testing Anderson’s singing skills again. “All That Is” is a nice more intricate piece the guys making an admirable attempt at technicalizing (now if this isn’t a new word!) the 90’s trends, and “Under Taker” is sustained in a similar vein, albeit made more minimalistic with an overt doomy aura. All the way to the closing “21st Century Schizoid Man”, a cover of the progressive metal behemoths King Crimson, an overambitious conclusion to this recording, a 10.5-min rendition of this classic which may become overbearing way before the end due to the constantly pounding riffs and the trippy jam-like atmosphere, not to mention Anderson’s synthesized vocals which are simply not the right choice for this disorienting, multi-layered composition.

The ending may be a major pullback to some since it doesn’t serve right this otherwise homogenous opus which didn’t display such musical prowess to require an interpretation of one of the most difficult to execute numbers from the repertoire of the mentioned progressive metal masters. Even in the context of the much more complex “Twisted into Form” this cut would have hung awkwardly as this particular template doesn’t give the Forbidden guys an opportunity to exhibit their more structured, more scholastic musical dexterity. I guess anything went back in the mid-90’s so why not try something totally outside the box…

Anyway, this opus was far from a mitigated flop, and sounded almost as convincing as the earlier released Anthrax’s “The Sound of White Noise”, Kreator’s “Renewal”, and Coroner’s “Grin”. It wasn’t such a drastic compromise with the guys’ earlier exploits, and at the same time it did sound like a new path chosen; one that could be trodden safely on future instalments having in mind how many other feet have walked on it earlier.

I didn’t like this album at all when it came out, and I remember I regretted buying it without trying it out at the shop first. I guess I trusted Forbidden that they would always deliver, and wouldn’t be a let-down regardless of the circumstances. Well, I was only partially wrong as I learnt to hop up and down following its unnerving busy riff-patterns later, trying to convince myself that this was how “Twisted into Form” would sound like if created entirely in Grooveland. I never looked for “Green”, though, and I never listened to it until much later in the new millennium. This time I was right; one “distortion” was indeed enough for one whole decade… “The Omega Wave” was a fair return to form, not the masterpiece that was expected, but convincing enough to make the fanbase forget about all past “distortions”. Well, I choose to recall this one from time to time; not as my first pick when going to a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, but definitely as a sometimes needed distraction from the numerous classic thrash, more or less twisted, forms that keep “blocking” my aural space.

Losing perfection out of sight - 75%

Felix 1666, July 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, GUN Records

Time to speak the truth (or what I believe to be the truth): "Distortion" is better than its reputation. (Now I feel better.) Surely, Forbidden were not able to surpass their early milestones, but the entire first half of the third album presents high quality thrash and the weird, drug-imbued "Mind's I" adds a fantastic, melodic highlight with great vocals during the second half. The remaining songs... well, they show formerly unknown weaknesses. It's correct, Forbidden did no longer reach for the stars of the thrash metal firmament, but they still were a very powerful entity with an almost intellectual understanding of this music. "Distortion" is no celebration of brutality and it has nothing to do with polished metal of a once furious band. The album just houses brilliant thrashers - and unfortunately a few stinker as well. No doubt, the band had released two almost flawless albums, but now the guys began to lose perfection out of sight.

The vigorous production combines sharpness and clarity without delivering a softened overall impression. The fury of the energetic debut is missing, but heavily stomping tunes like "Rape" or "No Reason" develop their charm as well. Without being born as an old geezer, Forbidden did never release infantile tunes and here they just have formed another configuration of thrash. Yet the sawing guitars are still more or less omnipresent, Russ Anderson's charismatic voice does not lack power and the rhythm section provides the proper backbone for the individual tunes. "Feed the Hand" also does not head for new speed records, but its desperate touch, its emotional drum work and the profound heaviness of the more aggressive parts shapes an impressive piece of mature thrash metal. Ferocity does not play a role and therefore some might say that one cannot speak anymore of thrash metal, but I disagree. These rather slow-paced pieces - and one does not find really fast songs here - still have enough guitars, violence and power with the effect that mainstream listeners will never enjoy them.

Admittedly, the album cannot hide the fact that it was a child of its time. 1994 was, and I know that I am telling an old story, a bad year for thrash metal and some experiments just did work. The pretty unnatural vocals in "Undertaker" are annoying and the entire song is devoid of stirring riffs. Moreover, "21st Century Schizoid Man" is a cover version and it sucks. Psychedelic shit without any link to the usual approach of the musicians who celebrate this pretty lawless track for more than eleven minutes. I always hated free jazz, but maybe somebody likes free metal? Or to drink his own urine? Well, rhetorical questions aside, Forbidden run out of ideas as the album progresses and songs such as "All That Is" remain vapid and expressionless while suffering from a chorus that fails to leave its aroma. Like many other bands, Forbidden had lost the compass and tried to keep up with the times instead of defending their old, authentic values. Long story short, much light, just as much shadows, this is what the album offers. No doubt, "Distortion" appears as a pretty suitable title, but in a different way than the five-piece had intended. Without showing a dramatically decay, the once almost perfect band had begun to go astray.

Door closing fast. - 55%

Diamhea, February 26th, 2015

This album has been largely forgotten, and for arguably good reason. I never hear this album dropped in conversation, and even the band themselves consider it an exercise best forgotten. There are some expected carryovers from the ballistic debut and all-time masterwork Twisted into Form, so it has that much going for it at least. There was a pretty sizable gap between the last album and this, so some changes are expected, and the band was lucky enough to be one of the few US acts to sign with the GUN Records imprint. It could have been another classic.

Obviously it isn't, but there are definitely a few solid numbers lurking throughout this thing. The enshrouded, depressing atmosphere from the last album is taken to a new level here, and it totally chokes the potential. There just aren't enough straight-up bangers, with the band instead attempting to craft a more vocal-driven, morose slant with Russ taking command more than ever. He has always been implemented in a very upfront manner, and here the vocals are often layered again and again in hypnotizing cadences. Anderson still sounds good, unlike on Omega Wave where his voice was totally shot, but it just isn't what I want from this band. Locicero's warped leads and solos are still accounted for, but he seems to be forgetting the basics as he attempts to hammer out a survival plan for the shifting music landscape. "No Reason," for which an obscure music video was shot, really lays it all out to bare in and of itself. An excessively long atmospheric intro that opens the gates to half-baked thrash riffs and that flaccid, underpinned "bouncy" groove that never really sat well for the style. "Step by Step" eats this for lunch.

Positives? Well, there are some okay moments sprinkled about, but they are almost always counterpointed by poor ancillary choices. "Undertaker" sounds like it is going to liquify insides once it finally fires up (yes, another long "atmospheric" intro to mitigate), but once Russ comes in, here we go again with the same imbalances. "Rape" comes far closer to the goal, with some powerful, scattered rhythm work and a stronger emphasis on what fucking works, but even this song would just blend into the rest on the prior two records. It is still good though, as is the title track, which is really quite the deceiving little number that sets the listener into a comfort zone soon vacated. If the band was cogent enough to to keep the material flashing between faster, aggressive blitzes and mid-paced, murky breakdowns without devolving into constant stop-start swill we would be right on point with another strong effort from these guys. I suppose it just wasn't to be in this case.

And don't get me wrong, Green is far worse than this, considered a disappointment at the time of release that has been basked in a more positive light by revisionist dolts. However, Distortion isn't exactly worlds superior, regrettably forced to follow-up two classics. I could cite the lazy euphemism that it sucks because it grooves, but hell that isn't even accurate. "Feel No Pain" from Forbidden Evil was in a similar vein but totally slays. This is like a glove slap to the face in comparison most of the time. Check out the aforementioned solid numbers and maybe "Hypnotized by the Rhythm," but the rest just doesn't hit the mark. Surprisingly, the production is huge, perhaps with the best guitar tone the band ever put on tape, but the material lacks the bite the sonic bark implies. Skip.

A darkened Forbidden - 79%

sAlex, October 1st, 2007

Wow, I can't believe no one wants to write a review for this one. Although I kind of understand it, due to the fact that this album (like it's follower ''Green'') has a nasty reputation of being the ''Black album''of Forbidden's career. Well...it's kind of true. But the ''enjoyment'' factor of this album still depends on how open-minded can you be.

With the arrival of the 90's scene that slowly (but not entirely) disintegrated the metal scene of those days, many bands were forced to split-up due to the label issues and lack of interest. On the other hand, many bands (with the success of Metallica's Black Album perhaps) felt that they need to adopt to the 90's scene and instead started to experiment in their genre. Just like tons of bands, Forbidden were no exception. Did they really change due to circumstances or due to personal progress is irrelevant, what matters, is that they kept going and developed their music in a whole new way.

Distortion really is nothing like it's two predecessors, although one still could easily draw many parallels between them. It distances from their BA prototype thrash and has new, much more dark and depressing elements that were also prominent on ''Twisted into form'' but weren't as dominant as they are here. Right from the beginning of the title track ''Distortion'' one can instantly hear the darker feel I'm jabbing about. Riffing is more heavy and less fast and complex, though the solos are probably even better than ever before (if that is possible). Russ almost totally abandons the falsetto screams now screaming in more raspier style and the odd chorus melodies demonstrate that Forbidden are now on a different road.

Half of the songs here still flirt with their older approach of writing while others show their own way of exploring the subjects of gloominess and darker feels. We have here some absolute thrash monsters like ''Hypnotized by the rhythm''. Without a doubt one of the best songs the band has ever composed, and also probably the best song on the album. Other songs like ''Wake Up!'', ''All that is'' and ''Rape'' also represent the thrashier bits of ''Distortion'' album. On the other hand we have songs like ''Feed The Hand'', ''No Reason'', ''Mind's I'' and ''Undertaker''. Mostly dark, groovy pieces (once again) soaked with the feel of doom, frustration and depression, that are just not something a fan of their earlier material would quickly adopt to. Nevertheless, they manage to pull is off marvelously well, once again showing their genius approach to write music, whatever the genre may be.

The instrumental section is also quite changed now. Tim Calvert, handling the guitar duties, together with the boss Locicero, and bassist Camacho, has the main impact on composing music here I believe, especially the gloomier part of it. They all exhibit an incredible ''gallery'' of solos and unique song-wrtting and I can't do anything else than bow to the masters here. Steven Jacobs controls the drums, also replacing Mr. Bostaph incredibly well and the standout part: Russ Anderson also experiments with his abilities. While he replaced his trademark screams with raspy high shrieks, he sings most of the album in only one range, almost not switching to a higher register. It may sound dull, but the vocal lines are even more sharp and melodic than before. One can clearly hear him stretching his throat high above the limits and trust me... that is not an easy thing to do. Once again, a superb performance from Russ.

In conclusion, this is a big step away from the Forbidden you probably know. It may take a few extra spins in the radio so you'll get used to it but don't expect any ''Chalice of blood''. Distortion certainly isn't comparable to it's two predecessors, but still proves to be a great album. Fans of Forbidden, check it out!