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One of the best EPs ever released - 96%

Aeturnus65, February 18th, 2006

Let me say this right up front – if you enjoy epic doom bands such as Solitude Aeturnus and Solstice, then you should stop reading immediately and go find this EP. Forsaken are one of the most criminally unknown bands of the past decade and are unfortunately forced to share band names with, among others, the more well-known (but nowhere near as good) modern death/thrash band. Malta’s forsaken have nothing to do with death and thrash metal, instead sounding like a delicious mixture of the Solitude Aeturnus sound, a slight pinch of power metal, and some more keyboards for added atmosphere.

True, Forsaken are a doom metal band, at least by the strict definition of the word. But the four songs on display here don’t quite mesh exactly with the traditional doom sound. For example, things are usually a little faster-paced, and the emotive, almost soaring vocals don’t always paint a picture of true despair. But forget all that, because Forsaken are just too damn good to worry about classifications.

The band officially landed on my plate way back in 1996 with Evermore, a disc that had one flaw, that being a poor production. On Evermore, vocalist Leo Stivala switched between a very Ozzy-ish nasal croon and the more natural-sounding soaring voice. For Iconoclast he’s dropped the Ozzy style and improved greatly as a pure clean singer. Not nearly as high as Solitude Aeturnus frontman Rob Lowe used to be, Stivala nonetheless impresses with his sheer emotion and power. He even throws in a few near-growls in a couple spots, but this is still power/epic doom through and through.

Likewise, the production on this one beats Evermore’s to a bloody pulp. Everything is crystal clear with a huge bottom end, a massive sound entirely befitting a solid doom offering. It’s even a bit raw in some places, as you can easily hear the fret slides and similar “artifacts” not normally found in squeaky modern production jobs. Stivala’s a bit high in the mix compared to a lot of doom singers, but he’s good enough so as to make that a non-issue. As mentioned, keyboards are used quite frequently, but in the doom style (and not the power metal style), so no complaints.

Though we only get four songs, at over thirty-four minutes there’s plenty of material, especially for an EP. One song (the first one) is a re-recording of a tune the band wrote back in their demo stages, but you wouldn’t know that unless you were very up on the band’s history. If I had to pick a favorite tune I suppose I’d offer the second track, “Via Crucis”, though all four are great. The lyrics, mostly written by bassist Albert Bell, are head-scratchers – get your thesaurus out, folks. At times Bell seems almost too smart for his own good, writing lines that look impressive on paper but will likely confuse most listeners, mainly because he likes to use words that simply are neither heard nor seen much at all in the English language, especially in familiar conversation. Regardless, Stivala makes the whole thing sound very impressive, even if he’s singing stuff that’ll evoke a “what the hell does that mean?” from listeners.

As EPs go I cannot recommend this thing highly enough, especially seeing as how it is available cheaply from various places. Fans of epic doom – Solitude Aeturnus, Solstice, Candlemass, and so on – not afraid to try something that at times kicks the tempo up closer to something approaching the realm of power metal should love this disc. Highly recommended along with the entire Forsaken catalog.