Things You Might Have Missed 2011: Forefather – Last of the Line

This little gem fell from Odin’s mighty beard in the waning days of December and since that time of year is so hectic, this may have eluded the attention of many metal-minded folk. Steel Druhm simply cannot abide such a ruinous oversight. Why? Because the U.K.’s Forefather plays such a highly endearing mix of black, viking and folk metal with some power and NWOBHM tossed into the Anglo-Saxon stew. Over the course of five albums, they’ve honed that mix into an insanely catchy, guitar-driven style of epic-infused music. With Last of the Line (Seven Kingdoms Records), that honing continues unabated and this is one sharp ass piece of jagged iron. Though Forefather consists entirely of two brothers (both appear in Folkearth as well), they know exactly how to blend genres and craft tunes that alternate between catchy and heavy, epic and black and most of this material is designed to stick deep in your brainpan. Stylistically touching on Falconer (or Mithotyn to be more exact), Running Wild, Tyr, Crom, Ensiferum and Amon Amarth, they manage to carve out their own identity and I’m betting after hearing some of this stuff, you’ll join me in wondering why Forefather isn’t more of a household name in metal… houses.

Songs like the driving, powerhouse title track go right for the throat with galloping, infectious riff mania not unlike classic Running Wild (viking pirate metal makes sense, right? [Actually, since vikings were basically pirates, it makes a lot of sense. They just weren’t your classic British variety which is what most of the “pirate metal” is based on. – Angry Metal History Professor]). The energetic riffing leads into a BIG, beer stein swinging chorus, making use of both clean and black vocals to great effect. There are so many hooky guitar parts in this song alone, its like an ale-soaked ticket to Air Guitar City. Ditties like “Chorus of Steel” (mega-riffing, nifty solo at 3:06), “Wolves of Prayer” (epic chorus) and “Doomsday Dawns” (impressive guitar-work throughout and enormous chorus) are all instantly likeable and feel refreshingly interesting. Whether they opt for a more folky sound, as on the excellent “Up High,” or more straight-up blackened thrash like “Spears of Faith,” they really nail it and things always come together in an engaging way. All the songs have memorable moments, riff-tastic segments and interesting vocals of varying colors. This thing smokes all the way through.

As with prior Forefather releases, the guitars of brothers Wulfstan and Athelstan are the keys to their conquest. Regardless of the speed or style they adopt, they churn out rockin, accessible riff patterns and more than a few winning solos. Likewise, they both get the job done vocally, taking turns with black rasps and cleaner, epic style vox. Most of the songs have LARGE and memorable choruses meant to get the fists in the air and the horns raised. Though it seems they employ a drum machine (which is never a good idea), it doesn’t ruin things for me and even Thor would agree, this stuff still sounds great (and you know Thor is an expert at percussion).

I loved Forefather’s 2008 Steadfast opus (“Cween of the Mark” is one of my all time favorite songs) and this is right up there quality-wise. Its an album loaded with winningly addictive viking tunes, scads of wicked guitar melodies and fun noodling (effectively out-Croming the mighty Crom for epic music in 2011). Songwriting is at a premium and they have a unique charm that will keep you coming back for more. I’ve no clue why these guys aren’t bigger but regardless, don’t miss this thing you might have missed. Hail the brothers Stan and respect your Forefather!

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