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Tracklist: 1. Short Fuse (inst.) 0:39 2. Front Toward Enemy 4:05 3. Killswitch 3:28 4. In Loathing 5:28 5. The Hopeless & the Frail (inst.) 2:08 6. Blessings 4:08 7. Shifting Our Vision 4:34 8. What I Have Become 3:00 9. Keep Suffering 3:22 10. From Fragile To Strength (inst.) 1:07 11. Eleven Years 9:52 All tracks by The Fallen. Line-up: Mike Granat - electric & acoustic guitars; lead vocals Mark Venier - electric guitar; back vocals Bryan Klinger - bass; death vocals Max Wolff - drums; mute vocals Produced & engineered by Bill Metoyer at "Preferred Recording". Mastered by "DNA Mastering", Studio City, CA.
Prologue. As most of you dear readers know, I love and appreciate not only all the possible progressive genres, but also most of the kinds of heavy music. Furthermore, I regard the latter as an excellent alternative to the so-called sound designs, sound sculptures, etc, all of which, IMHO, have nothing to do even with simplest forms of proto-progressive music. I assert, asserted, and will always assert that music must be composed by composers and performed by musicians, and not built by sound engineers, designers, and sculptors. Thankfully, the first bunch of promo CDs from the legendary "Metal Blade" label, along with the new album by The Fallen, has fallen into my hands. The band was formed eleven years ago (which is 'confirmed' in the title of the album's closing track). However, thanks to their 'live' activity and several demos, the band was by no means obscure during the 1990s, at least in the USA. "Front Toward Enemy" is the follow-up to the first official CD by The Fallen, "The Tones In Which We Speak", which was released in early 2000.
The Album. Stylistically, eight out of the eleven tracks that are presented on "Front Toward Enemy" are clearly about a blend of Techno-Thrash and Doom-Metal. These are: Short Fuse (which, in fact, is just an intro to the album's title track), Front Toward Enemy, Killswitch, In Loathing, Blessings, Shifting Our Vision, What I Have Become, and Eleven Years (1 to 4, 6 to 8, & 11). The alternation of the high-speed (the machine-gun fire-like, to be precise) and slow riffs of electric and bass guitars is typical for all of them. However, the drumming on this album is almost always highly intensive regardless whether the basic arrangements are slow and dark or fast and aggressive. The diverse and wonderfully virtuosi solos of lead guitar are varied in tempo, though those of them that were played fast on the background of the slow and mid-tempo riffs of rhythm guitar are especially impressive. The tempo contrasts, along with complex stop-to-play movements, kaleidoscopic and, often, really sudden changes of musical direction, tone, and mood, and the frequent use of the odd meters, are one of the hallmarks of this album. The founder of the band, guitarist and lead singer Mike Granat, has strong, severe, and, overall, quite aggressive vocals that fit well this music. In the line-up of this CD bassist Bryan Klinger is mentioned also as the 'death' singer. However, I haven't heard any of the real death or black vocals here (which, though, is okay for me). Furthermore, a few of the unique back choirs that are featured on most of the tracks here sound sometimes even less severe than Mike's voice, the lowest timbre of which on this album is somewhat comparable to Johan Edlund's vocals on Tiamat's "The Astral Sleep" and "Clouds" (1991 & 1992 respectively). By the way, some parallels can also be drawn between the progressive Doom-Metal related textures of the "Front Toward Enemy" album and those of both of the said albums by Tiamat. (Of course, I did not forget that the primary source of almost all of the kinds of Metal, as well as main source of inspiration for most of the Metal bands, is the creation of Black Sabbath.) The only heavy song on the album that is out of its predominant stylistics is Keep Suffering (9), which entirely consists of high-speed arrangements of a purely Techno-Thrash-y character. In other words, this song is less diverse than any other heavy composition on the album. Both of the remaining tracks, The Hopeless & the Frail and From Fragile To Strength (5 & 10), are the instrumental pieces. Both of them are very original and, musically, represent kind of a concerto for the duet of acoustic guitar and drums (exclusively). However, two of the nine compositions that I described above shine with uniqueness as well: In Loathing and Eleven Years (4 & 11). The first of them features not only wonderfully eclectic arrangements with a very intricate guitar solo 'at the head' of them, but also long and in many ways unique riffing moves by two guitars, done in fourth and, later, in fifth, closer to the end of the song. Apart from a couple of simply fantastic solos of guitar, the album's closing track has an amazing secret. After the seemingly final note of the album and the 1-minute pause there is hidden a real and full-fledged ballad, which was sung with the surprisingly high and clear lead and back vocals to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar. Doubtless, Eleven Years and In Loathing are the most complex, diverse, and intriguing songs on "Front Toward Enemy". These two, along with the instrumental piece The Hopeless & the Frail (5), are, IMHO, the best compositions on the album.
Summary. Both musically and technically, the second album by The Fallen is the high-quality Metal production. Compositionally and structurally, this is intricate and, overall, very harsh album, though it is far from Metal's extreme styles (Grindcore, etc). Stylistically (and relatively only), the music that is presented on "Front Toward Enemy" has some common ground with early albums by Voivod, Celtic Frost, and Tiamat, Death's "Individual Thought Patterns" (1993), "Elements" (1993) by Atheist, Into Eternity's "Dead Or Dreaming" (2001), etc. If you're into such a kind of music, as well as Techno-Metal in general, you will be pleased with the "Front Toward Enemy" CD as well. (By the way, most of the bands that I named in Summary, including even Death, have their entries in the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock. Which means that most of the readers of the GEPR polled to recognize them as progressive bands, whatever one may say.)
VM. August 29, 2002
Metal Blade Records:
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