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Ah, This Takes Me Back - 93%

Nokturnal_Wrath, December 16th, 2014

I first discovered Forgotten Tomb during a rather uneventful time in my life. A time where I would spend long stretches by my lonesome in my bedroom, moping about girls and binging New Vegas. On the plus side, I did discover some pretty good music during this time, mainly underground black metal bands which really spurred my fascination with the genre. Forgotten Tomb were probably the first true depressive black metal band I've heard, the song Disenheartenment to be exact. I was amazed by the singers powerful vocals and the touching melodies, heck, I still am to this day. And whilst I don't listen to the Tomb as often as I used to, this band, and this album in particular with always maintain a place in my heart.

Forgotten Tomb are one of the biggest depressive black metal acts along with Lifelover, Shining and Xasthur. The music they play on Songs to Leave is a slow to mid paced style of depressive music with heavy doom elements scattered around. The overall playing ranges from slow and mournful sections to more frenetic, blasting sections. The melodies range from mournful and depressive to upbeat and melodic, it's a rather curious mix upon first glance but the juxtaposition between abrasion and melody is expertly woven into the fabric of the music.

Songs to Leave seemed to have set the modern standard for the genre. The low production values, distorted guitars and haunting vocals are all what the scene will become known for. Although there is still some more traditional black metal elements within this album. A lot of the melodies have a very Burzum feel to them, lots of long, droning melodies with a fair amount of variation thrown in. The doom elements are presented by some of the thicker guitar tunes, Steal My Corpse in particular is a heavily doom influenced track showing the bands willingness to mix and match genres.

One of the other reviewers criticized the vocals heavily, however I find their delivery to be emotionally engaging. They have a very raw and anguished feel to them which suits the overall tone of the music which is very dark and dreary. The production is perfect for the album, the guitar tone is rather thick and meaty and the vocals are at a suitable level. Even the bass can be heard which I appreciate. There's a very good balance going on with the production, although the level of distortion on the vocals presented by Entombed by Winter is rather difficult to stomach. The distortion robs them of any power, rendering them thin and synthetic.

However, despite the shaky beginnings the album soon begins to pick up pace. The more doom laden guitar work present in the aforementioned track is effective, with the band choosing some really cool guitar lines, very emotional indeed. Overall, the album has a very neat flow to it, despite each track being different in their own ways, nothing ever feels incongruous. The more upbeat nature of Solitude Ways balances well with the dirge of Entombed by Winter. Transitions are always smooth and executed with surgical precision giving the album a very organic and natural feel. This is one of the albums where individual songs can be listened to as each track has their own unique personality.

Whilst I've drifted a fair bit from Forgotten Tomb over the years, I still hold Songs to Leave to be a masterpiece of depressive black metal. The anguished vocals and brooding instrumentation all come together to create an emotionally engaging album that still holds up to this day. Being one of the most pivotal bands within the scene, you owe it to yourself to check this out.