Forsaken - Pentateuch 01 Being a music reviewer comes with a certain set of challenges. You receive a promo, plunk yourself down for anywhere between 20 to 96 minutes (more towards the latter, in my case), and give the album a good listen, or six, before writing an informed, honest opinion on it. Sometimes, labels and bands make it easy on us with genre labels and comparisons to other bands. In the case of Malta’s Forsaken, often cited as their country’s answer to Candlemass and the long-dormant-and-sorely-missed Solitude Aeturnus, it should check off all the tick marks for a good-to-great album. And with their fifth full-length (and first album since 2009’s After The Fall), Pentateuch, it would seem like a solid grand slam of Epicus Doomicus Malteseum Metallicus.

Thankfully, on a musical level, it performs admirably. “Serpent Bride” displays some incredible riffs and chops by guitarist Sean Vukovic, amplifying the dreary, heavy atmosphere like a doom metal pro. Each of the non-instrumental tracks contains a powerful chorus that sticks in your head and refuses to give release, all made powerful by the incredible pipes of Leo Stivala. In fact, Stivala’s vocal acrobatics rival the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Robert Lowe, Messiah Marcolin, and Sebastian “Zeb” Jansson (Below), and give songs like the colossal “The Dove and the Raven” that much needed oomph that sends those songs to the stratosphere. So it’s great to report that a band that’s labeled “epic doom metal” is actually that beast. So far so good, right?

But this is where the needle violently scrapes across your favorite record. The two interludes, “Phaneros (Coming to Light)” and “The Banishment,” while not bad, don’t really serve a purpose compared to the strength of the actual non-instrumental tracks, especially when they’re the first and third songs, respectively. Elsewhere, the fifteen-minute closer “Apocryphal Winds” could shave off a few minutes and leave a lasting mark. The shorter songs tell a morose tale better than the repetitious, stretched-out longer tracks do, with the exception of the awesome “The Dove and the Raven.”

Forsaken - Pentateuch 02
Speaking of needle-scratching, let’s talk about the production. But before I discuss the biggest hurdle the album voraciously trips over, let’s give a list of the production credits from their official website, shall we?

  • Guitars recorded by Sean Vukovic, at Vukoville Studios, Sliema and Gharghur, Malta between 2013 and 2014.
  • Bass recorded by Chris Grech, Mellieha, Malta, June 2015.
  • Vocals and drums recorded by David Vella at Temple Studios, Mistra Bay, Malta, August 2013.
  • Narrations, female and additional vocals, effects and keyboards recorded by Sean Vukovic at Vukoville Studios, Sliema, Gharghur, Malta, March 2017.
  • Produced, mixed and mastered by Sean Vukovic.

Folks, this album was recorded by three different engineers at three different studios, during four different stretches of time, stitched together Dr. Frankenstein-style, and soaked in a vat of battery acid because fuck your eardrums. Seriously, this is one of the worst production jobs I have ever heard on a doom metal record. Each song has a different-yet-equally-bad snare drum sound from the next. Speaking of drums, in “Sabaoth (The Law Giver),” Simeon Gatt’s bass drum and cymbals, as well as Vukovic’s guitars, are mixed hilariously front-and-center, effectively smothering everything else. During “Decalogue,” Albert Bell’s bass pops. I don’t mean “stands out and takes charge,” but rather “pops.” Like popcorn. And yes, Virginia, this is enough to bring Pentateuch down from a good-to-great album to one that you’re better off avoiding.

And I fucking hate saying that, as the music on here ranges from enjoyable to downright stellar at times. Given a better production job, at one studio, during one stretch of time, and by someone outside of the band, Pentateuch would be praised as loftily as one of the greats in Epic DOOM Metal. That said, I can’t recommend anyone exploring this if it means destroying their eardrums at a low volume. This should have been a no-brainer 3.0-3.5, and, instead, I’m asking that you give their other albums a chance, because Pentateuch hurts both souls and eardrums, and not in the “that’s fucking AWESOME!!!” sort of way. I would give my kingdom to trade the “disappointing” label for this score for “heartbreaking,” because that’s what this is.

 


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Mighty Music
Websites: forsakenmalta.com | facebook.com/epicdoom1991
Release Dates: EU: 2017.10.13 | NA: 10.20.2017

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  • VenusAdonis

    This is my first time hearing of this band, and after listening to an older album of theirs (Dominaeon to be specific) the difference in production quality is seriously night and day. Why the hell would they release this?

    • Grymm

      That’s what got me. The writing and performances are first-rate, but the production is a gigantic pneumatically-catapulted launch backwards from their earlier works.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Maybe they accidently sent you the demo Tascam 4 track copy…..

  • Septic

    The cover art is pretty spectacular IMHO; I can’t imagine why the album was recorded over such a long period of time and with so many hands in the honey pot… Lack of funds maybe?

    • Grymm

      I wish I had the answer to that question, because if this had a better production, this album could have made bigger waves for them.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Wish they had pentataken more care with the production…….ok I’ll stop now.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Just because you can self produce doesn’t mean you should..

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Yea, verily, self produce hath begat self abuse.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Hesitations 3:16

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Wish they had pentataken more care with the production.

  • Wilhelm

    the cymbals just deafened me for life, this is why I should read reviews beforehand.

  • Maximos662

    My God. Fifteen seconds into the sample track, and my ears already hurt. And that’s tragic, because the riffs are actually pretty solid.

    • Grymm

      RIGHT?! With a better production, this could have been monstrous.

      • Maximos662

        The riffs are mammoth, and the compositions are excellent, but this is the worst production I’ve heard all year.

        • Grymm

          It’s tied with Saille for me in that department.

          • Maximos662

            I love Saille, and I passed on their latest for that reason.

            I’ve heard demos, recorded on 4 tracks, that sound better than this.

  • Hammersmith

    Not to be confused with The Forsaken. Or Enforsaken.

  • PapaRay

    Been waiting for something new from these guys for years. But yeah, that production is startling. :(

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I feel your pain. Thank you for saving me from the same fate.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    I mean if it didn’t destroy my eardrums I might have given it a fair chance.

    • Yolo Swaggins

      I mean, I have a headache now.

  • RuySan

    These guys are obviously talented and experienced musicians, so i would guess they would know better than I how music should sound.

    I have no idea what happened. There are many other self released albums with better sound than this. And if it’s about lack of funds, there are many major releases with terrible sound (Decease Alluring by Alloyica the best known example).

    I love good Epic Doom. This is a tragedy, but not in a good doomy way.

  • I.B. Hurtin

    My hearing is bad in both ears so for me to notice and laugh at the sound of the album you know it’s BAD!

  • sir_c

    Maybe they should start a Kickstarter campaing to re-record this album. Like you said, the compositions themselves are more than decent.
    Hell, let them play live and burn the soundboard output onto a CD and it will be an improvement

  • Hope for the high-res remaster some day I guess?

    • Grymm

      I was awaiting your input on this album!

      • Though much worse, this suffers from StS syndrome.

  • Thatguy

    I stopped reading when I came to’oomph.’

    And whatever that is, this ain’t got it.

    • Sharp-Blunt Boy

      You’re right! I reckon adding three Germans to this recording would be a wild improvement.

      • welyyt

        Adding three Germans will improve anything.

  • undead_toaster

    Hmm, the production on the embedded track actually doesn’t bother me too much; this is cool.

  • The embed track sounds like the one from Candlemass’ Chapter IV. It is the strange one among Candlemass’ catalog, which is rather heavy metal than doom, and I really like it, but there is few followers to that. So I’ll give this album a shot. However, the sound itself is really bad… Bass and drum are too crunchy and polished, otherwise guitar is too weak and raw.

    I respect that they may have struggled to complete this album through the months. I’m sorry for the result.

    Lesson: Strike while the metal is hot.

  • John Stormbringer Demiris

    I don’t really understand what’s so wrong about the production. I mean sure it’s not crispy, but to call it unlistenable? I don’t know.

    • Grymm

      This track is easily the best sounding one on the album. The rest range from laughable to downright painful.

      I stopped counting how many different snare drum sounds there were after I hit the sixth track.

    • I think doom metal is a most atmospheric sub-genre in metal. It should be rather spiritual, theatrical, or ritualistic than material. So, being listenable does not mean good.

  • The production is not that bad. Then again I don’t really care about production as long as it isn’t St. Anger or Physicist bad. If you can listen to 90’s BM, then you cant complain about the production here. The music sounds great, the production could’ve been sooo much worse.

    • Grymm

      I’ve heard quite a bit of 90s black metal that sounded a lot better than this so yes, I can complain about the production here.

      If you’re losing count of how many bad snare drum sounds there are on here, that does not make a well-produced album.

      • Still not as bad as Nattens Madrigal and that album still slays!