Foretoken – Triumphs Review

I seem to pick up a lot of bombastic and blistering melodic death promo—Ephemerald, Unflesh, Equipoise, Stormlord, et al. Hampton, Virginia’s Foretoken snatch the first baton for that category this year, with their upcoming slab of symphonic melodic death metal, Triumphs. Despite never hearing of this band before about three weeks ago, I quickly ascertained that quite a bit of buzz surrounded this release. Since that time, my own anticipation grew and grew, and soon enough I was chomping/champing at the bit to take this record for a spin.

Foretoken take a particularly aggressive approach to melodic death metal, much like The Black Dahlia Murder do. Yet, this duo also share considerable affinity with more opulent acts such as Brymir, Mongol, Ephemerald, Stormlord and Aephanemer. Symphonics play a support role exclusively, however, as vicious riffing and ripping leads take charge and guide the record through battlefields of speedy tech-death percussion. Interestingly, those symphonics regularly adopt a vaguely Asian mode, reminiscent of a stripped-down Serenity in Murder. Regardless, their effect remains the same: to instill drama and bombast in Triumphs. It’s an enthralling mix that feels familiar but still carries its own distinct voice.

Foretoken, being a fairly young band of only five years since founding, haven’t smoothed out every wrinkle of their uncharacteristically well-conceived sound just yet. Repetitive passages conspire against consistently strong riffs and engaging compositions in the first half, which might make listeners apprehensive about staying the course. While fun and frothing, opening duo “Revenant of War” and especially “Demon Queller” suffer at the hands of such invariability, though it may allow the strongest melodies to stick with fewer spins required. As a direct result of copying and pasting passages with no new elements or twists to distinguish them, these songs leave some measure of dynamics on the table and expose choice opportunities for further development that Foretoken missed. Bloat exacerbates the issue, blighting almost every song preceding “Serpent Kings Venom.” For example, the six-minute “The Wraith that Weeps” constitutes a very strong blackened death metal cut overall. However, it extends its welcome by unnecessarily reintroducing previously played segments at the close, long after the bridge offered an ideal point of resolution. Compare that with follow-up “The Labors,” which covers the same ground as its predecessor in less than four-and-a-half minutes without recycling perishable ideas.

In contrast, everything following “The Labors” is nigh unimpeachable. With the second half of Triumphs, Foretoken allow their songs to evolve and build into massive crescendos, often coming back to the main theme with new and novel elements that add depth and character to the whole. “Serpent Kings Venom” revels in a delightful tempo shift in the final third, swapping out the previous rhythm for a frolicking gallop, thoroughly surprising me and invigorating my renewed interest in the material. If that wasn’t enough, the final trio of songs create an unstoppable run of incredible songsmithing that earns consideration for Song of the Year on multiple fronts. “His Riastrad” pulls the best attributes from Brymir and Aeternam, juggling arpeggiated riffs with blackened tremolos and sneaking a clever key change into the final refrain. Closer “A Tyrant Rises as Titans Fall” again reeks of Aeternam’s propensity for epic proportions, enhancing those attributes with pure bloodlust the likes of which I rarely hear in this genre. The bridge section is particularly ripping, inhuman fills pummeling my skull, and the continuously mutating main lick igniting my soul in ways early tracks couldn’t. The pièce de résistance, however, is the incredible “Devil O’ the Sea.” Simply brutal riffs kick into high gear from the start, embellished by spine-tingling descending chromatics from the strings. Then, an infinitely shoutable lyric—THEY’RE ALL DEAD—cycles the song back to that sweet brutal riffset again. Perfection.

As an added bonus, Foretoken threw in a shreddy cover of Naglfar’s “I Am Vengeance.” It’s a killer tune to start with, and this group did it ample justice. So, too, did Foretoken do their chosen genre ample justice. Triumph represents very, very good blackened melodeath that showcases a talented band with untold potential yet to uncover. In short, if this is just the beginning, it won’t be long before Foretoken triumph above all!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2023

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