Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Forsaken - Anima Mundi

Forsaken - Anima Mundi
2004, Golden Lake Productions

I suppose I should know more about traditional doom metal. Having been first attracted to Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus at a young age, for some reason I never delved deeper into this incontrovertibly conservative art form in order to bring to light treasures accordingly pleasurable...I limited myself to scratchings on the surface. I do regret that now. I'm sure there is a thriving trad doom scene all across the world, just as there are corresponding subgenre cults stretching over the dim Earth through every appearance of metal aesthetics. Whatever the arrangement, I can't imagine this Maltese (give us more bands from Malta, please!) band being seen as a limited entity, or some manifestation better left to the shadows. I have not traced their history in the scene or the echoing sentiments of the other bands that surround them, their reflection in the eyes of bitter or rapturous critics, etc. I only know what I hear while this spins, and that is...excellence in presentation, songwriting skill, melodic talent, a sure hand that restrains undue exuberance or crude overt emotionalism, etc. Forsaken are experts...able, subtle craftsmen, as expert in turning a well-framed musical phrase as they are in suiting the music they have written to the puissant illustration of the lyrics. I will not press this album to try to bear some hasty or overworked example of genre-transcendence, pretending that they are originators, visionaries, etc. No, they are just...very good at what they do, a veteran band, and this is a remarkably firm, listenable, entertaining series of conventional doom constructions. It does not convince me to reach into their back catalogue (I haven't even bothered to examine that at length on their website) or to strain myself to stretch, Tantalus-like, for hyperbole unsuited to a full and fleshed-out description of this material - I'll leave that to the doom purists and fanatics from other magazines. "Anima Mundi" has, however, beguiled me into spending a few enraptured hours of diverted listening admiring their smooth, transparent skill and the amount of honest work that obviously went into the album's elaboration. At this point that's all I'm willing to ask from it.

Although some of these songs (especially "The Eyes of Prometheus", but that creation myth was never a simple series of ideas, see Aeschylus and the Shelleys) stretch the idea of "epic" to suggestively self-indulgent lengths, I forgive the band a minor trespass of this nature when they can put together such solid work as the opening "Kindred Veil" (9 minutes and 14 seconds of grindingly heavy crushing chords and Dio-like soaring eagle screams) and respectfully somber echoing reflections of St. Vitus like "Carpe Diem". Still, what I admire the most about this band, as I mentioned above, is just the fact that they wisely limit themselves to pursuing well-worn, polished, stylistically-reserved paths of songwriting prowess, staying close to their original strengths and not overreaching themselves in some vain gamble for flagrant experimentation. Above all, I think their love for their self-imposed genre characteristics comes shining through in this material and convinces utterly, even while an amateur in the style's history like me is listening. While I might not be able to trace some of the more obscure scene references that appear here or have my fingertips on all of the outstretched heartstrings they may be tugging at by choosing x chord in y place or z reference in this or that song, perhaps it is another mark of their expertise and quiet, determined proficiency that even a trad doom novice such as myself is suitably impressed. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to hardcore devotees of the genre (who probably have it already) or to metal fans who just appreciate well-written, masterfully produced and arranged material. A solid effort, through and through.