Forsaken Eternity – A Kingdom of Ice


You might assume Forsaken Eternity are a European metal band when you hear them, but Portland, Oregon is where they call home. They conjure the ice-cold imagery of a northern European dream world and draw the boundaries of their symphonic metal around a neo-classical centre using black metal aggression. Finland is the first country that comes to mind for this type of music, and there’s no doubt the American quartet would find a second home in the Scandinavian nation if they secured visas to visit there. If you like your metal pompous and obsessed with shredding, then this record will find a place in your beating heart. The rest of us will need to feed on the scraps of extreme metal that underpin the foundations of the music.

Trying to pick the most gifted musician in Forsaken Eternity is like choosing between your favourite German wheat beers – all of them are world class. Jason ‘The Machine’ Borton is a colossus behind the kit who’d be perfect to answer the call next time Cradle of Filth or Dark Funeral need a new sticksman. You might know him from his work with Jungle Rot and Thanaptosis, but you’ll remember the name after one listen to opener, ‘Skywards’. His rapid blast beats and crisp double-kick footwork offer the perfect invitation for resident shredder, Vladislav Sergeevich, to work his scales like the master artisan of a golden guild. The keyboards are a notch too loud in the mix and overshadow the metallic extravagance of his guitar work, but you’ll have no time to criticise this when the band sweep you up in their hurricane of notes. The epic rush of ‘A Dark Divinity’ is just as enlivening with its violent syncopation and sensational alt-picking thrash technique. Emperor fans will rub their gloved hands together with a twitch of the nose and a predatory smile.

We’d award Forsaken Eternity full marks if we were to judge them by their musical ability, but praise for virtuoso skills must not be the only criteria. Unfortunately, the band aim to harvest through as many notes as possible on almost every composition here, as if aiming for a new world record. They might enjoy this challenge, but you’ll be less indulgent. The power metal melodrama of ‘Shadow Fortress’ is more like a competition between each instrument for supremacy in the mix. Sergeevich handles guitars, keyboards and bass, which means he often competes against himself when not setting impossible standards for his drummer. Only Nathan Mote’s malevolent shrieks retain a black metal edge after track number three. Instead, Sergeevich loses himself in a haze of neo-classical flourishes when the band need him to keep the focus. A Paganini interpretation on electric guitar and a Yngwie Malmsteen cover are more of a distraction that an enhancement to the album’s fluidity.

Few of the songs here are unlistenable. The speed and shred intensity are superhuman in their efforts. ‘A Kingdom of Ice’ showcases some of the finest alt-picking thrash techniques you’ll hear all year, while the title track offers a rare variation in dynamics and starts with a magnificent staccato crunch of guitars, bass, drums, and keyboard. In moments like these, you realise why symphonic metal has so much potential yet so little scope to realise it. The songs here are too busy, almost exhaustive due to the frenetic speed of the rhythms. You’ll need a cooling towel once the album comes to an end.

Forsaken Eternity are grateful to be here and releasing their debut album after six years of setbacks. For that alone, they deserve a hearty handshake. No doubt, they’ll look back on A Kingdom of Ice as the record they needed to make in 2022, but one wonders if their mindset will be more of the same on the next one. Or will they prioritise more song writing and less shredding for their sophomore effort?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/07/2019

Record Label: Rottweiler Records

Standout tracks: Skywards, A Dark Divinity, Forsaken Eternity

Suggested Further Listening: Malice Divine – Malice Divine (2021), Journey into Darkness – Infinite Universe Infinite Death (2021), Primalfrost – Lost Elegies (2021)