Grave Forsaken - Beside the River of Blood (Rowe Productions) 2006
1. "The Calling"
Hailing from Perth, Australia, Grave Forsaken have a lot in common with fellow Australian metal exports Mortification. Not only are Grave Forsaken on Steve Rowe's (Mortification) label Rowe Productions, they also have a lot in common musically with modern Mortification. Grave Forsaken are pursuing a traditional heavy metal direction with some thrash overtones. There were times while listening to this CD for the first time that I had to check the liner notes to see if it was Steve Rowe singing. Not only is the tone very similar, but even the enunciation of certain words are similar. The vocal duties are shared by a couple different members, yet their two members styles are not so different that I would have noticed had I not read the liner notes. For instance, the vocals used in "Play It Loud" and "Celebrity Judge And The Sinners Part I " vary from thrashy growls to a mid-range shout, not unlike you might hear on Mortification's "Blood World" or "Post Momentary Affliction." Other tracks like "The Calling" or "Death on the Cross" remind me vocally of some of the more recent Mortification releases. Also like Mortification, Grave Forsaken lyrics are very openly Christian in nature. Mortification have been accused of writing cheesy lyrics over the years, but they have never backed down from presenting a clear Christian message. For that they have gained my respect. Grave Forsaken have taken a similar lyrical stance. I found most of the songs to contain simple, memorable choruses. Only having heard this CD twice I can already sing the chorus to "Death On the Cross". "Death, death, death on the cross, Christ he died for our sins, Death, death, death on the cross, salvation comes from him." Cheesy? Perhaps, but some metal fans would have it no other way, and I am sure that Grave Forsaken wouldn't either. Personally I find the lyrical approach refreshing, but I can see how it might be a bit of a turn-off to those who are not Christians. The music contained herein is mostly mid-paced with some occasional fast parts. The songs are simple, yet have some cool guitar riffs. I wouldn't have minded having heard a few more fast paced songs, and perhaps some steady double bass here and there as well. The band incorporates some nice melodic guitar solos as well, however, I would have liked to have heard some more speedy guitar licks, not unlike you might hear from Testament or Exodus. I am quite sure that some people will take all the references to Mortification in this review to mean something negative. However, this is simply not the case. I think that Grave Forsaken proudly wear their influences on their sleeve. "Beside the River of Blood" is a good Christian heavy metal CD that will most certainly appeal to fans of traditional heavy metal and mid-paced thrash metal.
1. "Warriors Of Light"
Australia's Grave Forsaken seem to be getting labeled a Mortification clone. I suppose when you are big Mortification fans, like the guys in Grave Forsaken, that is bound to come across in your music. Indeed, I myself thought the band's full length debut sounded quite a bit like Mortification. With their second full length CD, Grave Forsaken have continued to explore similar musical ground as their debut, but they also have gained a bit more of their own identity. Comparisons to Mortification can still be made. For instance "No Eye Has Seen" reminded me a bit of some of the material on Mortification's "Blood World", and in particular "Love Song". Steve Rowe of Mortification even makes two vocal cameo appearances on "Eternal Destiny" and the epic length "The Road to Damascus". However, Grave Forsaken are not a Mortification clone. They seem to have added a wide variety of influences on this one. The music itself incorporates elements of thrash metal, classic metal, doom, death metal and even some groove based riffing. The songs range from the very fast, to mid-tempo, to slow and doomy. It's actually hard to put Grave Forsaken into any one label. I've seen them labeled as thrash metal, but this will certainly bring thoughts of bands like Slayer, Kreator, Testament, Anthrax, etc. While there may be some of those influences mixed into songs like "Warriors of Light" and "Perish the Thought", Grave Forsaken don't really sound like any of those bands. Rather I think it's just easier to describe them as extreme heavy metal. They also incorporate a lot of melodic guitar solos. Some of the lead work is performed in actual lead breaks in the song, such as the break in the middle of "Perish the Thought" or at the end of "Eternal Destiny". At at other times the leads are being played underneath a verse or chorus.
One of the things I enjoy about this band is that all the members sing. On "Destined to Ascension" I actually started to connect the voices with the different members. Guitarist Elia Salmela has the most immediately recognizable vocal style, with his deep, menacing death metal growls. Vaughn Gregory has a more straight forward, thrash metal bark. He almost shouts out the lyrics with a punk-like attitude. It's actually these vocals that remind me of Steve Rowe's post death metal material. In "Celebrity Judge and the Sinners Part II" I had to check the liner notes to see if it actually was Steve Rowe singing the verses. Drummer Matt Skipworth vocals are slightly raspy and talked out, rather than sang. Personally I would have liked to have heard a bit more him actually sing in a more classic metal style with a bit more melody, aggression and confidence. Each song features usually one or two of the different members doing lead vocals. Album closer, "The Road to Damascus" features the entire band taking turns at lead vocals, along with Steve Rowe.
As with the band's debut, the band's lyrical approach reminds me of the heyday of the Christian metal scene in the late 80's and early 90's. While some may scoff at the "cheesiness" of this sort of lyrical approach, I appreciate the band's honesty and desire to share their faith. They aren't trying to hide anything or sneak in a heavily veiled message. For this I applaud them.
The production on "Destined for Ascension" seems to be a step above the debut, but still has that raw, underground sound. The guitars are heavy and crunchy, while the drums are clear and powerful. It sounds as if the drums may have been triggered as there are times when they sound a little digital, especially during some of the fills. Cranking this CD on several different CD players, it actually sounded best on my cheap stereo. When I pumped the music through my far more expensive car stereo, some of the recording seemed a little harsh, especially the cymbals. I have a suspicion that this harshness in the highs has more to do with the mastering than the actual mix itself. Still, this doesn't really hinder the music at all. I still found myself enjoying the disc. Grave Forsaken are an underground band and they have an underground sound, with all instruments clearly heard.
My favorite tracks are "Warriors of Light", "Perish the Thought" and "Destined for Ascension", with it's driving beat and squealing guitar work.
1. "No News… Ain’t Good News" (6:16)
2. "Mother of Harlots" (3:33)
3. "This Day Forth" (3:50)
4. "Celebrity Judge and the Sinners, Part III "(5:19)
5. "Wasting Power" (4:06)
6. "Death Undone" (6:46)
7. "Holy Blood" (3:59)
8. "Affluenza" (7:11)
Australian exports Grave Forsaken just keep cranking out the tunes. On "This Day Forth" the band have progressed musically from their earlier material, offering less death metal influences and a whole lot more thrash metal influences. As well, the death metal vocals have been almost completely eliminated, save for a small portion of "Celebrity Judge and the Sinners, Part III ". Instead, much of the vocals are barked out with a punk like fury. While their earlier albums most certainly had a heavy Mortification influence, this newer album takes a cues from the many Bay Area bands. However, that is not to say that Grave Forsaken are jumping on the current retro-thrash bandwagon currently exploding out of California. Rather, they are beginning to find their own sound and steer away from wearing their influences on their sleeves. Sure, there are still some Mortification influences here and there, but you won't hear anyone accusing them of sounding like a clone of Morty either. At times I heard some influences from some of the more gutteral thrash bands like Sodom, Destruction, Whiplash and At War. Check out the Slayer-iffic opening riff of the title track, or the manic opening riff of "Wasting Power". Track number two, "Mother of Harlots" is a straight forward, machine gun, speed metal romp. The double bass assault from new drummer Dave Kilgallon (Mortification/Scourged Flesh), along with the speedy guitar riffs should send any self respecting thrash fan into instant fits of head banging mania. Ok, perhaps that's a bit corny, but it indeed does describe the sound of some of the music contained herein. Grave Forsaken are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the underground metal scene. As with any underground band who are doing everything on their own, there is room for improvements. However, with each new release Grave Forsaken continue to improve production, their songwriting and their skills as musicians. With the next release I am expecting one lethal onslaught of pure thrash metal.
Grave Forsaken - Fight To The Death (Soundmass) 2010
Grave Forsaken - Reap What You Sow (Soundmass) 2012
Lyrically, the band explores social and personal issues through a Christian perspective. Their lyrics don't come off preachy or 'cheesy', but rather thought provoking. Though Grave Forsaken now sit comfortably in the neo-thrash genre, they haven't lost their identity. There's just something about their sound that is all their own, despite the other influences that are present. "Reap What You Sow" is Grave Forsaken's best yet.