My foray into the world of metal music proceeded with a two-pronged approach. Killswitch Engage ushered me in through the metalcore gate by which many of my generation have found their metal calling. It didn’t take long for this path to lead me into the rich territory of modern extreme metal, and I surveyed the land and found it to be good. But around the time that I was first hearing “The End of Heartache” on the radio, a friend of mine showed me a band that he had seen on VH1’s 40 Most Awesomely Bad Metal Songs. The band was Manowar, and what my friend meant for laughs struck a very serious chord within me. I soon found myself working backwards in metal time, scouring the racks of my local FYE store for every used Priest and Maiden album I could find. These twin entry points have left me with a strong love for both the olde and new when it comes to metal.
And this makes it all the more awesome when I find an album that resides in both worlds. is the sophomore album from UK band Forged in Black. They’ve been together since 2007, and they play old school heavy metal with a big modern sound. The promo materials describe the band’s style as a combo of Judas Priest, Candlemass, and Metal Church, and I honestly don’t think I could come up with a better description. Andy Songhurst and Chris Bone man the axes here and unleash riff after riff after riff, with blazing solos, fast licks, harmonized leads, and old school arpeggios flying all over the place. Singer Chris Storozynski has an amazing set of pipes, employing an operatic vibrato that reminds of Messiah Marcolin at times and hitting high falsettos that channel Halford at others.
The sheer number of ideas found on Descent of the Serpent reminds me of one of my other olde FYE finds: Diamond Head‘s Lightning to the Nations. Like the songs on that NWoBHM classic, some of the tracks on offer here have more riffs than can be found on entire albums from other bands. Take embedded opener “Seek No Evil,” for example. It blasts out of the gate with a thrashing riff that leads into a blistering solo. The chorus shows all of Storozynski’s styles and even includes some harsher backup shouts. After the band dials things back for a short interval, the riffs blast back in, bringing a tapping solo with them before the song finally ends with a doomy outro. It’s difficult to succinctly describe the songs here as each one contains a host of themes, but you’ve got thrashy tracks (“Palm of Silver” and “Vendetta”), doomy tracks (“One in the Chamber” and “Shadowcasters”), and a couple of near ballads in “One Last Sign” and epic closer “When Hell Is Done.”
I’ve mentioned the harsh vocals in passing, but I should probably make it clear that this is the one area where olde timers may take issue with what Forged in Black is doing. Several songs contain these shouts as well as some groove metal, with the title track even sounding like Burn My Eyes era Machine Head at one point. My love of modern beefiness makes this a non-issue personally, but consider yourself warned. One or two transitions seem forced, with the final ten seconds of “Aphelion Tormentor” introducing a riff that seems slightly out of place, and the production makes the cymbals a bit fatiguing at a few points. But these issues are minor, few, and far between. The vocals and guitars tie for best in show, and while every song here kills, the soaring vocals of “One in the Chamber,” the nasty groove of “Vendetta,” and the spaghetti western sway of “When Hell is Done” push them into standout territory for me.
The latest Brainstorm album combined old school metal, modern production, and amazing vocals, and it became my most played album of 2018. Descent of the Serpent is the first album I’ve encountered this year that could possibly fill such a sacred role in my playlist. Forged in Black has combined a unique style, amazing talent, and skilled songcraft to create a record that makes the olde feel new again. I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys, and I think they have a true masterpiece in their future.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Fighter Records
Websites: forgedinblack/bandcamp.com | www.forgedinblack.com | facebook.com/forgedinblacks
Releases Worldwide: March 5th, 2019