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Classic Speed/Thrashin Literature in Force Majeure - 93%

bayern, March 31st, 2016

Thrash metal was a dying breed in the early-90’s. After some of the major players acquitted themselves with their magnum opuses (Coroner, Sepultura, Dark Angel, etc.) a year ago, it seemed as though all was said and done from a thrash metal perspective, and the genre was already prepared to enter a more or less timely scheduled period of hibernation. Signs of revolt were inevitable thanks to both old-timers (Tankard, Sodom, Overkill) who were stubbornly refusing to lay down their weapons, and young budding formations (Depressive Age, Assorted Heap, Invocator) who were moshing out with such a steadfast dedication to the old school that some bystanders must have clearly seen the walls of the newly established agro-groovy hegemony tumbling down…

Sadly, that never happened, but the loyal retro thrash fanbase was jubilant to welcome newcomers like Forte. The guys started with a demo released in 1988, the material from there later serving as the backbone for the album reviewed here. The interesting thing is that when the songs were served initially four years earlier, they showed the band trying to keep balance between the more epic power metal of acts like Omen and Jag Panzer, and the more aggressive speed/thrashy exploits as heard on the works of Forbidden and Death Angel. For the full-length the power metal spirit was almost completely gone, mostly due to the sharper production, and the speed/thrashing vigour had taken the upper hand to the point that this opus could be rightfully labelled “Forbidden Evil” of the 90’s.

The album has so much energy that it could possibly work as a power generator for a sizeable village, and possibly a small town. Which should come as no big surprise, mind you, because in what other way could one show his/her resentment towards the new grunge, aggro, porno, pseudo-thrashy vogues? Playing fast and loud seemed the only reasonable way to make a statement at those times, and these four youngsters from Oklahoma had no second thoughts about it. Equipped with crystal clear production, the ten tracks presented here are quite possibly one of the surest recipes to developing chronic migraine by the uninitiated. Closing on just over half an hour, the album wastes not a single minute exposing the listener to a fiery cavalcade of lashing sharp riffs their supply seemingly unending.

Starts “Coming of the Storm” which couldn’t have been titled more appropriately: a furious speedster second to none, this piece sweeps you like a blizzard the main motif sounding like a leftover from the Metallica debut. One can’t help but notice the extraordinary bass implements which make the guy, the name Rev. Jones, one of the ten biggest experts with the four strings from The States. The “storm” only becomes harder to handle with the marvellous technical speed/thrasher “The Inner Circle” which will also recall Toxik’s “World Circle”... sorry, "Circus"; speed/thrash at its most grandiose best. The title-track follows suit, another relentless mosher with a more overt speed metal edge “winking” at the German speed metal heritage. “G-13 (Devoid of Thought)” is the requisite quiet break, a nice short bass-driven instrumental seamlessly tied to the following “Mein Madness”, rigorous hard-hitting thrash to the bone. Another big asset has also come up to this point: the man behind the mike; James Randel remains one of the most underappreciated singers from the thrash metal movement. His emotional high-strung, clean tember is truly impressive without falling into the screamy/shouty traps, never losing its power, never becoming thin and annoyingly high-pitched, leading the “assault” with panache, becoming more lyrical whenever necessary.

The highly energetic formula never falters decorated with a more stylish, semi-progressive flair on “Digitator”, the major deviation remaining the balladic beginning of the closing “The Promise” which indeed “promises” some respite from the incessant high-speed delivery, and manages to give the album a beautiful, “romantic” décor not without the help of the outstanding vocal performance. It works brilliantly as a finishing touch to this standout tribute to the past decade, probably the finest one to be produced during the 90’s. The band summed up the speed/thrash metal movement within half an hour, albeit this could hardly be considered the “lullaby” the genre needed for its intended slumber. Their youthful exuberance wasn’t the staple naïve display of rough-around-the-edges, not quite there yet performance; on the contrary, it reeked of calculated professionalism which many of the 80’s debutants could only have dreamed of. Yes, one has to acknowledge that in 1992 the novices had plenty of templates to choose from, and combined with the advanced technologies in music sloppy production qualities were out of the question. Still, this album is an exhibition of so much thought and dedication put that one could have easily imagined the band spreading their retro thrash ideas far’n wide for at least another ten years…

Many of the bands who appeared during the early-90s with the intention of keeping the old school flame alive, eventually succumbed to the modern trends, at least those who managed to survive beyond the one-album-wonder trajectory. Forte had to make some adjustments, and in their case that meant a heavier guitar sound, and an overall angrier delivery also reflected in the vocal lines, sung by the new throat Bill Dollins, which on “Division” were strictly in the mid-range without too many melodic leanings. Regardless, the album shreds and not only because of the excellent cover of Accept’s “Fast as a Shark” at the end. “Destructive” followed suit three years later the band sounding a bit angrier, but those squashing cutting riffs must have made many a 90’s headbanger's day. “Rise Above” didn’t quite “rise” the guys “above” the competition, which was becoming more and more voluminous at the time, but sounded perfectly in pace with the thrash resurrection hints that were coming from all corners of the world.

And that’s it; the band, who were keeping the thrash metal flame burning during the dark ages, split up at the time when the genre was slowly, but surely moving towards its second peak. So thrash’s next ascension had to happen without them, sadly… Truth be told, excluding the band’s diehard fanbase, there were so many new thrash metal acts alongside reformed veterans at the beginning of the new millennium that Forte’s absence was hardly the most noticeable occurrence. The reviewer has no information as to what led to this untimely decision; neither is he aware what brought the guys back with a vengeance 13 years later with the excellent “Unholy War”; full of fast blitzkrieg guitar work and comprising a steady group of direct, no-bars-held speed/thrashers, this effort comes very close to the unrestrained genius displayed on their magnum opus, and can rightfully be placed right underneath it in the band’s discography.

The great news is that Randel is back with his old comrades and will reportedly grace with his inimitable vocal antics the next installment from Forte’s saga. How much “stranger than fiction” this next opus is going to be, is a polemical question; the fans will be waiting full of hope bracing their necks for another chapter of loud classic speed/thrashing “literature”.