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A Forgotten Tomb at crossroads - 79%

The_Desolate_One, September 29th, 2019

Forgotten Tomb is an odd band to be a fan of. For their first three albums, they had been perfecting a formula which, while quite simple, worked wonders: part Burzum, part early Katatonia, Herr Morbid (and, later, friends) pretty much assaulted you with heartfelt leads over heavy, sometimes droning riffs, with the occasional blackish blastbeating section, while belting out earnest, very personal lyrics through tortured vocals. Those songs instantly pulled you into a sickly atmosphere of hatred and scorn for oneself, the world and life in general, but, because of how visceral Herr Morbid’s vocal performance sounds and because they often save their most touching melodies for the final sections of their longer songs, (see “Disheartenment,” “Alone,”, “Love’s Burial Ground”) the effect is cathartic.

Then something happened in 2007. I don’t know if Herr Morbid kind of got over his depression or if he simply felt like he’d exhausted the possibilities of those feelings, but Negative Megalomania was a weird album, mixing their blackened doom with black ’n’ roll and introducing clean vocals that clearly needed some more work. The quality of lyrics also had sharply decreased (“Why don't you take a look / to your silly teenage life?” seriously, man, picking a fight with children??). Volume V revisited some of their hits, but Herr Morbid changed lyrics to turn all the sentences that were in the first person into the second person, so, for instance, the deeply confessional “I try to find a way out from this state of suicidal urge” became the limp “You try to find a way out from this state of suicidal urge.” It honestly feels like he began feeling embarrassed to be that personal and vulnerable in public, so he subtly tried to shift that emotional burden to the listener instead and adopted a tough guy attitude to cover it. It was obvious they couldn’t go on with the same style as before.

So the year is 2011 and Under Saturn Retrograde is released—quite aptly while Saturn, in astrology the planet of all things evil and melancholy, was actually retrograde. Like Megalomania, this is a more generally upbeat work—as another reviewer put it, the guitar sometimes sounds joyful, in fact—but the material has been treated better, giving it all quite a bittersweet atmosphere overall. The clean singing is back, and mercifully improved, and the lyrics are often less personal, as they urge the listener to fuck up their lives, rejecting existence and all, but, while there is a tiresome tough guy act going on, they’re also less stupid (no cursing at teenagers, thank Satan). There are new elements too to the music, with a tinge of gothic rock (“Joyless”), acoustic guitars (“Under Saturn Retrograde pt. II,” “You Can’t Kill Who’s Already Dead”) and sludge doom (“Shutter,” “Specters over Venice”).

For me the best songs in the album are the title track, parts I and II (which I usually listen as a single song broken in two), and “Specters over Venice.” The title track brings back the FT brand of depressive black metal we all had come to love, though with a more modern production, with loud blastbeating sections broken by slower, dissonant bridges, that give way to a chorus that feels like a tremendous amount of pressure is being applied to your skull. This pressure is finally released as part I ends with a more melodic section. Then part II is an instrumental, which again reminds us of FT’s formula of leaving the most soul-crushing parts to the end. It begins with a quiet acoustic guitar followed closely by the bass and soft drumming. As the riff is repeated, it builds on and on, the drums get more agitated, reaching an unnerving marching rhythm that announces that the song is about to explode—and explode it does, with a dissonant wall of sound, Herr Morbid’s pained, wordless screams, and a heartrending lead that twists and turns like a knife buried in your chest.

“Specters over Venice” starts slow, with a doomy riff and clean guitar over it, alternating between this and a more mid-paced rhythm before striking you with a powerful solo and a clean break that gathers energy to burst into one massive Neurosis-like riff, with the clean guitar playing over it still, as Herr Morbid actually sings with a lot of emotion. Dealing with a common, relatable situation, the inner turmoil that arises as one walks through a city one has mixed feelings about (Venice in this case), it is the most personal and subtle song here, and it works wonderfully because of that. It feels mature, and I wish they’d write more songs in that vein, neither trying to sound tough nor wallowing in self-destruction.

Other very good songs are “Reject Existence” and “Joyless,” sickeningly catchy as they are. However, because they are bound to a more traditional song structure that makes them almost radio-friendly, they sound less epic than “Under Saturn Retrograde” and “Specters”, even though all of them clock in at similar song lengths. The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” turned into a black’n’roll tune is another highlight as it injects a nice bit of energy after downers “Shutter” and “Downlift,” which are OK songs, if a little unremarkable. Finally, “You Can’t Kill Who’s Already Dead” also picks up with an upbeat riff after the title tracks’ emotional devastation, but it gets a little boring in the long run as it confusedly veers into doom territory.

The bottom line is that, though we can hear elements of early FT, this is a completely different band now in mood and style. While a bit underdone, Under Saturn Retrograde pointed at new possible paths, mixing black/doom with gothic and sludge in interesting ways. Unfortunately, while I do grant that the follower ...and Don't Deliver Us from Evil is generally an album with better songs, in their later outputs FT has lost their personality, content in copying the bands they're drawing from, and, as a result, I find myself losing interest in their more recent albums.

I reject this... - 59%

zhay777, June 9th, 2013

Well, Under Saturn Retrograde was my first Forgotten Tomb album and also my first album in black/doom metal, so it isn't strange that I liked it at first. Now when I have listened to other their albums, I've started to think that Under Saturn Retrograde is their worst album ever released. Even more, if it was be the album from Forgotten Tomb I checked out the last, I wouldn't believe that this album is by them, because it's quite different from their music.

Here are different kind of vocals, which I couldn't consider to be bad. It's just something different. I haven't heard this kind of rasp in any other band, so it was nice surprise. Also, you can hear few pleasant clean vocals, for example in the track 'Joyless' and 'Spectres Over Venice'. Guitarist does really good job too, especially in the track 'Reject Existence'. Also I would like to highlight the guitar riffs in the track 'Under Saturn Retrograde, Part I'. Mainly riffs are repeated, which is typical for black metal. Also drummer is good too. There's nothing to say 'wow', but this drumming fits perfectly into this music. Here also is the decent cover of the song 'I Wanna Be Your Dog', originally performed by The Stooges. They gave new life to this song and somehow, the new direction too.

So what's the problem? The problem is in it's atmosphere. Most tracks sound positively and optimistically. Take 'Joyless'. This song should be called 'Joyful', because the guitar riffs here are fucking joyful. If here would be only clean vocals, everything would be ruined. There are same problems with the most of the other tracks: Shutter, Downlift... Here are two tracks that aren't fail. The track 'You Can't Kill Who's Already Dead' is really great one, it has everything, clean vocals and depressive atmosphere too. And the second superb my favorite track here is 'Spectres Over Venice'. This is really what other tracks should have sounded like. The whole song including the second half with clean vocals and acoustic parts bears the atmosphere of depression and negativity, which is what fans expect from Forgotten Tomb.

To sum up, this is good album to start listening to black/doom metal or to try something different, but if you are seeking the misanthropic misery and suicidal negativity in the music, you'd better try Springtime Depression by these guys.

I Don't Like Where This Is Going - 80%

Musical Warfare, August 24th, 2012

Part of me was hoping that Forgotten Tomb’s latest album Under Saturn Retrograde would be at least a partial return to their older musical style, but I’m not really surprised with how it turned out. The new release follows the stylistic changes of 2007’s Negative Megalomania, gradually moving away from the band’s doomy black metal sound in favor of a more rock-based approach. These most recent two albums have been kind of a watered-down version of the Italian group’s once-potent depressive sound, occasionally flashing tempting glimpses of darkened brilliance but more often coming up short.

A sore point for a lot of fans, myself included, is the sudden emergence of clean vocals in Forgotten Tomb’s sound. Their use ranges from slightly inappropriate to downright cringe-worthy, and unfortunately on Under Saturn Retrograde they show up in nearly every track. Metal fans wouldn’t be metal fans without some tolerance for unusual vocal styles, and I wouldn’t have a problem if the vocals were the only issue, but musically I didn’t find most of the tracks on the album to be especially memorable either. Aside from more straightforward, blackened tracks like ‘Reject Existence’ and ‘Downshift’, ‘Joyless’ had a sweet riff or two and the ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ cover wasn’t bad, but the other tracks didn’t really add much to the album.

The only real bright spot for me was the opener ‘Reject Existence,’ which served as a reminder of what Forgotten Tomb can be when they feel like it. The blackened tapestry of Herr Morbid’s scathing vocals and sinister riffing is every bit as dark as any of the band’s earlier material, but the track is also infectiously catchy, boring into your consciousness in the same way that Satyricon and Katatonia’s newer music does. ‘Downshift’ is similar, but doesn’t carry quite the same weight.

So while some of Forgotten Tomb’s newer stuff is the perfect example of Patrick Bateman’s phrase “more commercial and therefore more satisfying in a narrower way,” a lot of the new material is simply forgettable, and even worse I feel it dilutes and cheapens what the Forgotten Tomb name means and symbolizes. I don’t have a problem with musicians experimenting and evolving, but Forgotten Tomb’s musical evolution is taking them so far from the bitter, plague-infested world they once occupied that it’s hard to treat them as the same band.

(Originally written for Musical Warfare)

FORGOTTEN TOMB: "Under Saturn Retrograde" - 60%

skaven, June 9th, 2012

I’d consider myself as one of the many who enjoyed Forgotten Tomb’s first albums - Songs to Leave and Springtime Depression in particular - to a great extent, those albums being some of the cornerstone albums of the suicidal black/doom metal phenomenom, but since 2007’s Negative Megalomania and its upbeat rock elements, the downfall began. On their newest offering Under Saturn Retrograde, the band continues on this renewed path, meaning rather accessible compositions in a clear production with almost zero signs of the mournful melodies of the first albums. However, I wouldn’t go as far as calling this effort a total failure, because it’s very audible that Under Saturn Retrograde is a thoughtfully crafted album.

To depict the band’s current sound, one could think of modern Katatonia’s (The Great Cold Distance, Night Is the New Day) pulsating metal / rock rhythms and bright sound, combined with Shining’s lunacy. This all is most evidently witnessed on the first track "Reject Existence" and the two other rather chorus-based followers, "Shutter" and "Downlift", after which a surprisingly decent The Stooges cover "I Wanna Be Your Dog" appears. Next up is the goth-full "Joyless" that, albeit having some pretty nice and delicate melodies in the end, is a slight moodkiller with its HIM and Sentenced influences, especially in the clear vocal department. "Under Saturn Retrograde Part I" is the fastest and most black metal song on the album, followed by the opposite "Part II" which relents a little with acoustic guitars and sweet bass guitar lines. "You Can’t Kill Who’s Already Dead" runs a little too long for its 9-minute length, but "Spectres Over Venice" is there to compensate, being the album’s highlight with its great ending chord progressions.

It must be stated again that Forgotten Tomb is no longer the same band it was during early 2000s; Under Saturn Retrograde is a rather sophisticated dark metal / rock album from which a devoted DSBM lover won’t find much to enjoy. But in regard to what the band plays nowadays, they do it with success. It might not be what I’d personally listen to on a daily basis, but will certainly, and generally speaking, trigger the interest of a slightly younger and mainstream audience who are not interested in lo-fi suicidal black metal bands.

3 / 5
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A new, astonishing direction - 93%

Verd, January 8th, 2012

Standing probably as one of the most known bands from the Emilia region in the world, Herr Morbid's Forgotten Tomb has gained a lot of followers throughout the years from South America to Australia, while he never stopped evolving the sound and even the genre of his own band. The fifth full-length of Forgotten Tomb, "Under Saturn Retrograde", is in fact another innovation in the band's career, which on the musical aspect shifted from fast black metal to a slower and doomish suicidal/depressive kind, thus landing here on what one could label as gothic/doom/black metal/rock, since (finally) Herr Morbid chose to make a good and vast use of his clean vocals, almost never to be found in his older productions. It's an evolution that follows a lot that one of Sweden's Shining, the other giant in this kind of black metal devoted to the themes of negativity, nihilism and pain.

From the very first song, Reject Existence, Forgotten Tomb's new sound can be clearly defined: the tempo changes from fast - with double bass and so on - to slow, Razor SK's guitars are extremely melodical and play many kind of riffs throughout the whole song, and most of all the song itself rotates around a surprisingly catchy refrain, in a manner that is not so familiar to black metal listeners, of course, but it's so greatly composed and addictive that probably even the pure blacksters will like it. This pattern, made up by distorted guitars playing different riffs (and awesome solos, another characteristic not that common in these genres), vocals shifting from raw to clean and ending up in catchy choruses, and doomy (Shutter has a final part made up by clean vocals and slow guitars that can not make everyone avoid thinking of Black Sabbath!) and oppressive passages, is a pattern that repeates, with so different melodies, tempos and vocal lines, throughout the whole album.

Not everything is great, of course, and mainly the cover of a song that I do not like at all, I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges, a 1969 piece made up by a too much repetitive riff of three notes repeated through the whole length, is something that should have been added as a bonus track, mainly because even if it's played in the style of the album (raw vocals, distorted guitars and so on), it's really useless and takes down the rating of the album itself - probably only Razor SK's solo prevents the cover from being a total worthless one. Even Under Saturn Retrograde Part II is not that good to me, being acoustic (and pretty uninspired) for almost three minutes and repetitive (and still instrumental) for the remaining length - you won't find another Springtime Depression here, unfortunately.

After these not-that-great experiments, though, the last two songs of the album makes us return to the awesomeness of the whole opera, and mainly Spectres Over Venice, an older song that Forgotten Tomb used to play even two or three years before the release of the album: even here the same pattern repeats once again, but an astonishing instrumental intro and a great use of always different guitar riffs played throughout the song takes us, after an inspired acoustic passage, to an amazing gothic/doom clean vocal part ("I wonder what this cold life will bring on my way.."), still accompanied by Razor SK's always stunning guitar melodies (yeah I think it's clear that I'm in love with his style) - and it's a great pity that he left the band after the release of this album, since even live he was so great and suitable for this band!

For what concern the lyrics, even here many detractors point out that the older themes of suicide, depression and pain are long gone, but the main fact that they do not consider is that all these themes have been abandoned (even if they remain in an underground level) just because Forgotten Tomb has evolved even in this aspect, producing some stunning lyrics relating to the themes of negativity, titanism and inner strength, in a continuous subtle feeling of peace through superior detachment. At least, these are my interpretations of the new Forgotten Tomb's direction - a direction I hope they will follow in the next years. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that, of course, the lyrics of Spectres Over Venice relate to the city itself, and probably if you have never been there you won't be able to fully understand all the feelings that lyrics like that can evoke into someone who wandered through the real Venice. If you plan to go there, keep in mind Herr Morbid's words.

So, deciding to explore a new territory, even for what concerns the length of the tracks (pretty short, compared to their previous albums), Forgotten Tomb has definitely opened - another time - a new vein in the vast musical world related to black and doom metal, and I am pretty sure that this album will be enjoyed by many different listeners, from the blackster to the one into doom and gothic melodies, and even those who have never heard of Forgotten Tomb before, aided by the catchy and fresh attitude of "Under Saturn Retrograde", will be fully satisfied of Herr Morbid's last masterpiece.

Same tomb, but with flowers placed out front - 67%

autothrall, April 22nd, 2011

Based on the strength of their first three albums (Songs to Leave, Springtime Depression and Love's Burial Ground), I would have felt no hesitation in naming Forgotten Tomb my all time favorite metal act from Italy. Unfortunately, their following, fourth effort Negative Megalomania sought to modernize the band's languishing, melodic black metal sensibility, and the change was simply not all welcome. It was by no means a poor full-length, but seemed to me to lack all of the puerile, ghastly architecture of its forebears. The band has since taken some time off, but rather than return to their foreboding, grim roots, their latest Under Saturn Retrograde seems to follow in the same motions as its direct predecessor, a clean and tidy excursion into the driving, melodic fundamentals wrought by acts Agalloch, Katatonia and Opeth.

Not that this is necessarily a bad move, but I rather miss the more vicious, snarling vocals and demented, depressive atmosphere so latent in Songs to Leave or Springtime Depression. This album often feels like its dragging its feet, despite the obvious propulsion in production standards that it has over their formative releases. Each of the nine tracks is graced with at least 1-2 riffs that provoke atmosphere, but they are set against a mundane backdrop of straight doom rock guitars ("Shutter") or Gothic/black drawl ("Joyless"). There are some shining, eerie components to "Reject Existence", "Spectres Over Venice" and the bloated "You Can't Kill Who's Already Dead", and at least for those last two I felt like a time capsule had opened on the band's past, but then you've got the rather vapid cover of The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog", or the tranquil clamor of "Under Saturn Retrograde Part II" that don't feel as if they have much to contribute to the suicidal terror so inherent in the first three albums.

Ultimately I found this even less effective than Negative Megalomania, but I wouldn't say its a total waste of time. There are good ideas present, or at least the shadows of such ideas, and the mix of the album is quite astoundingly bold and bright, almost in tandem with the band reaching their next stage of accessibility. If you're into primal driving Gothic death or black metal, or the depressive black acts who risk using higher audio standards (Lifelover, Apati, etc) then there is a likely some appeal to this. A handful of riffs stand out, and the album is undeniable moody (and not in a 'good' mood); but I felt none of the same cavernous convulsions of agony that made me want to slit wrists and paint the walls and sky with my drained life force.