(Here’s DGR’s review of the new album by Swedish death-thrashers Carnal Forge, which was released in January of this year by ViciSolum Productions.)
There exists a strange compulsion when it comes to review-writing on this end that has often run counter to how the clear majority of reviews are conducted, which usually focus on the most recent collection of up-coming releases. That approach makes sense, as people are often looking for information on albums right around release time, and afterward the discussion moves on to the more fan-driven “what works for me and what doesn’t” style of discussion. However — and you might have noticed this referenced in the recent write-ups by Andy — late discoveries often wind up backlogged in a weird purgatory state of “maybe I’ll write about this”… in between various games of keeping up with the most recent stuff coming out.
Albums left behind can tend to claw at the back of the mind, though. We find ourselves wanting to talk about some discoveries, regardless of release date. Maybe it will give the band a boost back into the public consciousness, however briefly; maybe it’s just to ease that weird guilt of “I’ve been enjoying this since I was introduced to it, yet have said nothing”; and maybe it’s just that the passage of time helps with the congealing of thoughts. Being able to step away from something only to come back later and see what really stuck with you is a wonderful thing, as hindsight can serve as an excellent guide on how to write about a disc.
Long story short, this is a roundabout way of saying, “Hey, remember the end of January? Feels like an eternity ago doesn’t it? Well I’ve been enjoying a disc by the reactivated Carnal Forge that came out around that time and want to talk about it.”
Having originated in the ’90s and then releasing six prior albums before going silent after 2007 for more than a decade, Carnal Forge have always skated a very thin line genre-wise. The band have teetered between an evil-sounding take on thrash metal, melodeath, and even straightforward death metal at times. The results have been all over the map as multiple talents have cycled into and out of the band, with the most recent addition being vocalist Tommie Wahlberg last year. The group’s seventh album, Gun To Mouth Salvation, arrives twelve years after the group’s previous disc and at times feels like a soft-relaunch of the band.
When Trent Reznor reactivated Nine Inch Nails for the Hesitation Marks album, one of the first songs he released was a statement in the form of “Came Back Haunted”. What had not been expected was that years later it would prove to be a prediction of the future for another group, because with Gun To Mouth Salvation, Carnal Forge have in fact “come back” and, with a thrashier-influence working its way into their song DNA, have found themselves in a musical playground very similar to that of The Haunted.
In that regard, Gun To Mouth Salvation is one of the most point-to-point albums in some time. Moment one of the disc is where it becomes clear exactly how Carnal Forge are going to approach their new album, and for eleven songs comprising forty-six minutes of music the group do just that: The relentless one-two, one-two march of the drums in exceedingly fast fashion; the harsh bark coming from the vocals being delivered at an equally rapid pace; and the guitars all leading the charge with a bevy of thrash riffs buffered by the occasionally thudding groove segment.
It is music almost purpose-built to headbang along too, and more often than not you’ll find yourself recognizing each specific element as it come spilling forth, in some ways making a listen to Gun To Mouth Salvation feel like sight-reading a song for the first time, headbanging along with each movement as it makes itself known. The ease with which the assault of opener “Parasites” is understood becomes the code by which much of Gun To Mouth Salvation lives, so much so that you can see the gears turning.
“Reforged” is another of those songs where you can hear that aforementioned thrashier influence working its way firmly into the band’s DNA. It is also the song that will likely draw the most comparisons to The Haunted. The way the guitar part tends to dance between notes during the main verse segments, and the more chug-and-downbeat-focused chorus bit and bridge segments, all seem to be pulling from that same sphere of musical influence as the previously mentioned band. Vocalist Tommie Wahlberg has a blast in the rapid-fire delivery of the verses as well, snapping out words with precision before falling into the shout-chorus that makes up the meat of “Reforged”.
“Endless War” proves to be another early album highlight for many of those same reasons. It arrives just after Gun To Mouth Salvation‘s third song “Aftermath” — which itself feels like iterations on the first two tracks, making the disc seem fronted by a ten-minute brick wall of music — and arrives much slimmer than its predecessors at only a little over two-and-a-half-minutes. It moves quickly yet still finds time to pack a whole bunch of different dynamics into a song that initially appears to be more along the lines of a one-tempo explosion. It is one of the tracks on Gun To Mouth Salvation that feels the most stripped down into its absolute essentials and wastes absolutely no time getting to its main point.
Around the mid-point of the album is when songs get a little longer and a little beefier, with “The Order” taking the championship with a little over five minutes credited to it. The pacing change is interesting in part because so much of Gun To Mouth Salvation feels like songs pared down to their core, but then Carnal Forge position three of the longest on the disc right in the center before whipping things back around into the almost non-stop gallop of their rhythm section and slimmer three-to-four minute song lengths to close out the disc, starting with “Hellride”.
“The Order” is interesting in part because it starts with something actually resembling a full-blown intro, like its companion five-minute song “Bound In Flames”. Most of the tracks on Gun To Mouth Salvation seem to start suddenly, with the main guitar part of the song being that initial driving force. So having “The Order” fade in with a quiet guitar segment — and one of the few moments where the bass guitar is suddenly very prominent — and “Bound In Flames” containing a more drum-heavy intro, does change things up for the dynamic of the album quite a bit.
Ultimately though, there is that undeniable sense of just how much the record is a kind of heavy metal comfort food. Yes, there is that sense of familiarity running through the album, as you find yourself openly dissecting songs and recognizing how things move throughout the disc. But Gun To Mouth Salvation still finds a way to play on a primitive part of the brain that just can’t help but like what the Carnal Forge crew are dishing out.
It’s not a world-ending album in its progression of music, and more often than not is pulling from a couple of decades of expertise in tying together the band’s thrash and melodeath formula into music for those who enjoy the high-speed adrenaline-junkie appeal of heavy metal. Sometimes, having a blueprint to follow can work in a band’s favor. And in Carnal Forge‘s case, allowing that blueprint to be their guide does so.
Gun To Mouth Salvation is a sleek album, and although it certainly runs a little long at times with its dynamic of fast openers, mid-tempo midsection to stretch out a bit, and fast closers, the sort of pleasure derived from slamming a whole bunch of junk-food, just throwing this disc on and jamming out to it, wins out in the end.