Artist: Forgotten Tomb
Album Title: Nihilistic Estrangement
Label: Agonia Records
Date of Release: 8 May 2020
I may need to rethink my moniker, because how can I call myself the ‘Man Of Much Metal’ when I am unaware of a band in the metal underground that has released nine albums and is (according to the press release anyway) credited with helping to create and define a subgenre? Ok, so ‘depressive black metal’ isn’t exactly on the tip of most of our tongues, but I feel a bit of a fraud for not knowing anything about this band until being presented with acres of spare time and this, their tenth studio album. The band I’m talking about is Forgotten Tomb, an Italian trio who have been plying their trade well off my radar for over twenty years. Ashamed, I tell you.
Now that they have made their way into my world, allow me to bring you a review of ‘Nihilistic Estrangement’, to see if it tickles your fancy in the way that the doom-meets-black-death metal tickles mine. The trio is comprised of original member Herr Morbid who has had many roles in the band but has now settled on playing the guitar and being the vocalist. He is joined by bassist Algol and drummer Asher, both part of the Forgotten Tomb family since 2003.
Overall, ‘Nihilistic Estrangement’ is a very good album, excellent in places and magical in others, despite it only being comprised of six tracks with a running time of around the 40-minute mark. When the band deliver their best material, there is something about Forgotten Tomb that is incredibly exciting and exhilarating and, for much of this record, their best material is what I suspect we are getting. Of course I have no frame of reference, but I’m going to infer this from the quality of the material on this record, if that’s ok with everyone?
Within moments of ‘Active Shooter’ assaulting the senses, it is clear that Forgotten Tomb are a band that want to keep things authentic and, dare I say it, ‘old school’. The music that emerges from the speakers is powerful but, as confirmed by the accompanying press release, the use of analogue recording techniques really comes across. The result is a rather nice blend of muscularity and clarity, with a layer of unpolished, warts and all dirt and grit, the latter helping to accentuate some of the groovier, doom-heavy riffs that litter this album throughout.
The opener initially delivers a bruising, chugging doom-laden riff, with Herr Morbid’s snarling gruff voice for company. It’s groovy and immediately catchy, with some nice, simple lead guitar embellishments to accent the bruising central riff. But just when you think you’ve got the song pegged, in marches the most sublime, atmospheric melody. The bass of Algol dances beautifully, whilst the lead lines from Herr Morbid inject a melancholy element. As it develops, drummer Asher throws in something dangerously akin to a double-pedal attack to ramp up the intensity before the track once again reverts to its groovy beginning.
In contrast, ‘Iris’ House Pt.I’ initially threw me off course as it slithers forth at molten lava pace displaying overt blues trappings, complete with some slide guitar and ‘clean’ spoken-word vocals to give it a ‘Southern’ flavour. I’ve come to admire the track, if not love it, principally due to some brutally crushing riffs that punctuate the song at strategic moments.
‘Iris’ House Pt.II’ is different again. It feels much more aggressive in tone, even if the pace of the track rarely gets above a monolithic crawl until the tail end when a sense of real urgency is unleashed. It’s the sheer weight of the riffs that does it I think, the kind of riffs that are hard to ignore, not that you’d want to of course. And the more you hear their mile-deep grooves, the more they get under your skin too.
Another grower is the enormous ‘Distrust³’ which benefits from a wonderfully dark and menacing tone. You get the feeling that Herr Morbid is genuinely angry, almost spitting out his diatribes, and I definitely believe him when he says ‘you’d better watch your back’. The track also features what might be my favourite riff on ‘Nihilistic Estrangement’; it is malevolent and crushing, made even more powerful by the fact that other parts of the song have more of a looser, punk-inspired feel about them. I just wish it appeared more often within the six minute life of the song.
There’s no doubt though that my favourite track of the six is the title track. It begins with guitar work that immediately recalls the ‘Discouraged Ones’/‘Tonight’s Decision’ era Katatonia and as such, I’m already sold. But from there, we’re treated to a masterclass of heaviness, aggression and sumptuous melancholic melody. The lead guitars are almost heart-breaking when they deliver their lines with such poignant and elegant beauty. This is definitely a standout song from 2020 so far, that’s for sure.
‘Nihilistic Estrangement’ concludes with ‘RBMK’ which offers up some of the fastest-paced material on the album to justify the ‘black metal’ tag. Asher delivers a relentless attack for much of the composition, whilst the riffs feel frosty and cold for pretty much the first time on the album. And yet, there’s a well-hidden sense of melody that prevents it being a forgettable exercise, as well as a succinct exercise in showing us yet another intriguing facet of the Forgotten Tomb armoury.
I’ve got to be honest and say that the only real negative I can throw at this trio is the relative brevity of this album. I’d have loved another track, especially if it happened to be of a similar quality to either the opening or title tracks. Otherwise, ‘Nihilistic Estrangement’ is nothing short of a rousing, yet miserable success.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: