It’s been a busy year for Subservience‘s Scott Bishop and Martin Shouler. Not only have they managed to push out a Black Bow Records debut for their hardworking death metal band, but they even have a debut record for their doom/stoner counterpart, Grim Ravine. No small task considering that neither of these bands shares anything in common. Grim Ravine‘s The Light Is from Below is a slow, droning nightmare that spreads its four tracks over thirty glacial minutes. Subservience‘s Forest of the Impaled, on the other hand, is a violent war waged through the militaristic practices of Grave, Vader, Dismember, and Hypocrisy. I know what you’re thinking: not more Swe/Poland–death. Legitimate complaint. But, while Forest of the Impaled isn’t the most engaging or original of releases, it has just enough going on for it to avoid being the discharged aftermath of their predecessors’ lustful ways. Forest of the Impaled has a concise layout, a crisp production, and a decent selection of hammering riffs. But, no matter what this review entails, their name is Subservience. I have no choice to listen.
Unfortunately, Forest of the Impaled doesn’t start off on the foot I was hoping it would. Instead, it steps out on “In Depravity They Dwell” with a belligerent gait. After sorta getting my noggin bobbing, this by–the–numbers death metal ditty branches off into bizarre, meandering guitar leads that don’t quite keep me excited. And, at its conclusion, I’m not looking forward to the rest of the record. Thankfully, this forced feeling subsides. So, don’t blow off Forest of the Impaled just yet.
At least wait until after you hear follow-up tracks, “Beneath the Earth” and “A Taste for Violence.” The first is a hateful journey that finds Dan Hofthouse barking at the moon while the mid–song interlude traverses from Hypocrisy territory into a closing Katalysmic groove. The second borrows from the vibe of the first, pressing you between thunder hammer strokes and a fucking death–metal anvil. Though the introduction of the song has a goofiness to it, the focus is on the build–up to the ball–busting charge of the closing riff. But, if we’re going to talk about riffs, “The Dying Light” has the best. Though it’s simple, the song has just enough balls to give “A Taste of Violence” a run for its money. And enough variety to make it a fresh mid–album piece. Not to mention, it has a level of melody not yet seen on the album. I’m not talking about melodic sappiness of melodic–death levels of emotion, but its Hypocrisy-like coating keeps it from falling away to mediocrity. There’s an “approachability” to the songwriting that makes it both fun and hooking.
“Desperation” and “The Consummation” are others that look to the pages of death metal melody. But, like “Entity of Indifference,” “Desperation” flounders a little with its old–school Darkthrone-esque interludes. Sure, not a bad thing to some, but those odd tremolo–picked riffs don’t go anywhere and provide an odd tangent that disrupts the flow of the song. Yet, of all the more “melodic” ditties on the record, the one that stands out the most is “The Consummation.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well and the emotion behind the atmosphere just isn’t memorable. This one, along with “Entity of Indifference,” seem to pass me by without notice.
Closer “Descend into Despair” (much like “The Dying Light” and “The Consummation”) tries hard to inject some uniqueness into the album’s sound, but it just doesn’t come through. The keys at the beginning and end aren’t only awkward, they kill the vibe of the entire track. Unfortunately, what this means is that the bookends of the record are a couple of the weaker tracks. That said, the first half (up to “The Dying Light”) and the album’s production, make the disc worth a spin. The smoothness of the production, in particular, helps the record a lot. It’s not exactly the most uncompressed album of the year, but its openness and warmth make repeat listens enjoyable. Forest of the Impaled ain’t for everyone, but they have some potential. So, if you crave some lively Swe/Poland–death metal, be sure to check this out.