Style: Black/Death Metal
Release Date: 1 Mar 2020
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The best way to highlight what Smouldering in Forgotten sound like may be to explain where their name came from. They were happily going about their days under the name of Bleached Bones until deciding in 2005 to rename to a lyric from Upon This Deathbed of Cold Fire from the debut Goatwhore album. It does make my heart glad to realise that Goatwhore, one of my favourite band names of all time and an excellent live act, are known well enough in the Kingdom of Bahrain to prompt a local band to rename in homage.
If you don't know Goatwhore, their style is blackened death metal with some elements of thrash. Smouldering in Forgotten are similar but darker, warmer and with Mardus's vocals far more consistently death than Goatwhore's black, oddly given that they seem to have started out as a black metal outfit. I'd suggest that they have better production as well but then I realised how it blows out the extremes for the sake of volume and so it distorts annoyingly often. Instead I'll just praise the mix, however it got output. Of course, you can never be sure with anything that touches on black metal if the bad production is deliberate to "keep it real".
When it stays within available amplitude, I like the sound here and I prefer the deeper vocal style, which is old school death metal. The instrumentation tends to build a backing wall of sound, over which the guitars embellish and riff and the vocals rumble. There's not much variety here but there are some interesting points, like the middle eastern flavour early in Tartarus that I wish had emerged more often, and the philosophising about the rise and fall of civilisations that closes out the album.
Generally speaking, I prefer the longer songs here. The average Smouldering in Forgotten song runs five minutes and change and features much of the same result. As if to suggest that they need more room to work, the longer songs bring a little more to bear. My favourite here is Lord of Venom, a seven and a half minute epic. After that, I'd probably plump for Of Chains and Crowns, which runs almost seven minutes if we cut out the long sample. It's notable that these songs don't do anything special that the other ones don't except breathe more. The riffs feel stronger for it and the slower moments feel all the more ominous for it.
Excepting Of Chains and Crowns, which closes out the album, it's the trio of tracks at its heart that impress the most. Lord of Venom kicks them off and Tartarus wraps them up. Inside those bookends is My Pyre Awaits, which could well be the fastest and most blistering piece here and the closest we get to a black metal song. Busac is a whirlwind behind the drums and both the bass and guitars get memorable runs for Hussam and Voidhanger respectively.
There are a couple of earlier Smouldering in Forgotten albums, Legions into Black Flames and I, Devourer, though they're surprisingly old, having been released in 2007 and 2010. I don't believe the band ever ceased to be but it seems that this is the band's first new material in a decade.
I like it but I don't like it as much as I should for "first new material in a decade". I ought to feel the hunger of a band who finally find themselves back in the studio and can't wait to lay down ten years worth of writing and honing and finessing. I don't think they sound tired and they're all clearly talented musicians but, sadly, I don't think they sound remotely as hungry as they should.