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Taking power/thrash to the next level - 93%

Xeogred, April 1st, 2011

It's been awhile since I've reviewed much and I think that's taught me it's best to sit on albums for quite awhile before really breaking them down. Now to instantly go against that I'm going to have to say Forte here is an exception. I discovered these guys just last November, somehow, I think I was looking at Oliver Magnum's page again or something and followed James Randel to Forte, threw down a search on youtube (ridiculous how much is up there just within the last year or two) and hearing one single track from this thing blew me off my feet. I quickly got the rest and it's been one of the best random discoveries in a very long time.

For starters, the production on this demo is absolutely phenomenal. Seriously one of the best I've ever heard for a demo that blows many full lengths out of the water. Interesting and ironically enough, it destroys the production/mix on the follow up full length Stranger than Fiction that somehow suffered a bit from unbalance and that annoyingly metallic drum snare junk, etc. Four of the five tracks off this demo appear on that album and I'd easily argue these versions sound 10x better, especially The Promise which loses just about all of its mysterious atmosphere on the debut.

That out of the way, the second thing that really impresses me is simply Forte's style here. This is probably one of the greatest defining moments of real power/thrash I've come across. Everything is insanely heavy and fast, with drumming that even has a lot of brutal antics. Both with James Randel's singing and the way the songs are melodically structured it's still safe to say there's a bit of a speed/USPM sound going on here as well. Simply put this is just one of those cases where it really doesn't matter what we call it, it's heavy and aggressive as hell. Maybe it'd be like if you stripped away Deadly Blessing's epic touches from their debut and topped it off with more anger, or gave Agent Steel's first two albums a stronger dab of USPM, or took Flots & Jets debut and gave it a more melodic flavor dropping the thrash a bit. Do these comparisons and bands even work? Who knows, so again let's just say Forte's one of those bands that's just straight up heavy-as-hell-metal.

To be honest I've never been too wildly impressed with Oliver Magnum, but I typically like to say “never say never”, so who knows if that'll change someday. But the fact is James Randel rocks and here in Forte, he completely dominates. Imagine an insanely pissed off James Rivera or something, this guy completely nails the delivery, shrieking or screaming left and right effortlessly. Along with the no thrills nonstop head banging music here he is constantly on fire and it's always awesome to hear really proficient, aggressive, melodic singers. He'll rip your face off with Digitator. It's a damn shame he didn't stick around for their later releases or didn't land somewhere else. Next to him, I've gotta say a lot of the gang shouts and whatnot on this one are pretty powerful too. Great execution.

This entire demo sounds something like German thrash merged with US influences of all sorts. There's some slight Bay Area style riffing going on at times but these guys never let up and there's no breaks in sight, which is more my style. Nothing chunky here, it's all about the speed. Rapid firing rhythms left and right, the bassist's fingers are probably melting with what he's doing, and the pounding drums are explosive. There's multitudes of solo's riddled throughout every track but I almost think the riffs themselves dominate the most, not something I always notice. Highlights? Everything. Digitator has it's screaming memorable chorus you won't forget after a first listen, but from tracks 1-4 it's just going to decimate your face song after song. The Promise on the other hand is a completely different beast and I think it really showcases that the band had potential to evolve into excellent USPM of sorts (but 1988 was sadly a late time for something like that to happen). It's somewhat of a ballad, but a very dark and mysterious one in the vein of something like Agent Steel's Traveler, with a lot of nice tricks with layers of Randel's vocals throughout. The song eventually erupts into an onslaught of metal and solo's, just like the other tracks. Ends on a real high note. If you're a fan of classic speed/thrash and USPM of any sorts, you definitely have to check this one out.