Live Burial – Curse of the Forlorn Review

It’s not often that I get accused of underrating an album, but when I covered Live Burial’s 2020 release Unending Futility, a handful of citizens with torches and pitchforks came after me. Even our own El Cuervo said, ‘All the shit you give a 4.0, and you 3.5 this? This record is incredible.’ Now, it’s easy to see why people were up in arms, because Live Burial is an insanely talented bunch of musicians. Their brand of old-school death metal is heavily influenced by the almighty Death, and their technical ability is not far below Chuck Schuldiner and his cast of virtuosos. But while I found Unending Futility to be incredibly well made—the production was almost as impressive as the performances—there was some intangible part of the songwriting that held me back from being more enthusiastic about the record overall. I always score with my rather substantial gut, and in that case, as in all cases, the gut wanted what the gut wanted. I stand by that score two years later, but I approached follow-up Curse of the Forlorn with great anticipation, hoping that Live Burial would blow my socks off this time. Am I typing this barefoot? Let’s find out.

I’m going to be honest: on the first few passive listens—I always approach new promos with a few background listens, just to attune my mind to the sound and reveal any real standout moments—Curse of the Forlorn felt like a major disappointment. Sure, the technical ability on display was even better than ever, but there didn’t seem to be any moments that assertively demanded my attention. I thought that the record was all style and no substance. But when I began my close, focused listens, my tune began to change. Curse of the Forlorn is a dense record, with so many things going on at the same time that it can become a wall of violent sound if you’re not paying attention.

But when you are paying attention, the record opens up to reveal its bounty. Embedded single “Exhumation and Execution” begins with a whirlwind of percussion and guitar, and maintains that intensity while a few blistering solos sail over the top; it’s a lot for the brain to process, but the song eventually settles into a thrash groove, then drops into a slower passage at the midpoint when things take a groovier turn and melodic leads flood the tune with emotion as the track comes to a close. As great as the heavier moments are, those slower melodic passages become the album’s life line. The bookend tracks, opener “Despair of the Lost Self” and closer “This Prison I Call Flesh” introduce and reprise a beautiful theme, tempering the harsh, and at times overwhelming, bludgeoning death/thrash of the band’s core sound and providing some welcome contrast.

If you’ve followed me for long, you know that I condemn technicality for the sake of technicality and progressiveness for the sake of progressiveness; these embellishments must serve the music and cannot be the music. At times, Live Burial treads right along that very subjective line for me, but they use enough groove and old-school stylings to keep me grounded in musical bliss. Vocalist Jamie Brown could use a bit more variation to interrupt his seemingly endless stream of barks, but he ultimately serves the music really well. The production is even more open and vibrant here than it was on the already stunning Unending Futility, and it reveals the intricacies of the guitar work of Jake Bielby and Rob Hindmarsh and the noodling bass of Lee Anderson. Audiophiles will love listening to standouts like “Despair of the Lost Self,” “My Head as Tribute,” “Exhumation and Execution,” and “This Prison I Call Flesh.” The latter track is by far the most impressive thing on display here, and it demonstrates that these Brits have the potential to eventually achieve true greatness.

I once again anticipate your rotten tomatoes, and I will relish your chants of ‘Underrated!” Those who loved Unending Futility will love Curse of the Forlorn as much or more. Live Burial is astoundingly talented, and they deserve any praise that gets tossed their way. But I’m still waiting for the record that capitalizes on—and balances—all of their strengths and makes me stand up and take notice on listen one.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 23rd, 2022

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