Forbidden - Twisted Into Form
It's not often that I find myself sitting down to review an album with thougts of Bobby Burns echoing in my head. In fact, it's not ever that I find myself doing so, until now. When I pulled my dust laden copy of Twisted Into Form
out of the disintegrating old refrigerator box where I keep all the albums I no longer listen to, I fully expected to slag it off and delight in the cries of shock, dismay and frustrated impotence sure to emanate from the ranks of the slighted speed metal fanboys. But, apparently, my memory failed me, because this is, if not a brilliant album, then one that cetainly aspires gamely to excellence. So, once again, the best laid schemes o' mice an' men...
Twisted Into Form
is in many ways the archetypal late model speed metal album. Nothing here is particularly novel, instead, Forbidden offers a refined and deepened exploration of the ideas of Metallica, Artillery, Testament, Anthrax and other predescessors. Here, the band excels by refurbishing the hoary discipline of speed metal through applying a greater musical awareness and technical savvy to the tried and true techniques of the genre.
What is truly impressive about Twisted Into Form
is the degree to which its more formal elements are integrated fully into core of the album's sound, rather than serving merely as embellishment or distraction. The band's use of a harmonizing lead guitar is especially laudable: they neither apply it constantly and indiscriminately as a gimmick, nor do they use it sparingly and predictably just to spruce up intros and bridges. Instead, it is applied strategically throughout songs, often at dissonant intervals to enhance the sense of furious, frustrated alienation that lies at the heart of most of these (often quite literate) songs. The lead work is equally notable for its pertinence, as the masturbatory glee with which many skilled but stupid guitarists ruined albums of this era is blissfully absent.
Indeed, the musicianship is uniformly superb, technically astute and tastefully executed. While the riffs are simple and direct in conception, they are played with an intricately syncopated precision that belies their bludgeoning intent. Paul Bostaph's percussion is similarly punishing yet subtly complex, particularly in its shifting textures (it's clear that despite the claims of Lombardo fanboys, Bostaph should not be held responsible for the abomination that is later Slayer...as if Christ Illusion
wasn't proof enough), and Russ Anderson's vocal performance is among the best of its era, immaculately tuneful, yet filled with spite and bile.
Unfortunately, the band's undeniable ambition is at times undermined by the essential conservatism of their chosen style. The Bay Area sound, of all the major branches of the speed metal tree, was the least removed from its heavy metal roots (and therein lay the core of its appeal to those for whom Slayer was too much and Sodom and Kreator were right out), and it suffered from the inherited defects of its ancestors. The emphasis on explosive rhythmic consummation, while undeniably satisfying on a visceral level, also places stultifying limits on the range of narrative expression, and Forbidden simply cannot match the intricate motivic architecture pioneered by Slayer and expanded upon by subsequent generations of extreme metallers from Morbid Angel to Immortal. Too, the rock-based verse/chorus arrangements the band favors here often stagger under the unwieldy weight of perhaps too many riffs. As a result, Twisted into Form
at times seems both mechanically ponderous and painfully dated, as much a thing of the past as the Soviet armored divisions Americans of the time expected to come lumbering through the Fulda Gap.
Where this music redeems itself is in its inspiring combination of passion and sincerity. Even when its grasp is exceeded by its reach, the youthful fire of the band's creative desire and unleashed anger at an illogical world carry the day, and, for all its flaws, Twisted Into Form
stands as a fitting epitaph and final monument to speed metal.