I do not envy songwriters who delve into symphonic metal and all of its various off-shoots. If you lean too heavily into the symphonic elements you risk coming across like John Williams’ grandson’s hackneyed death metal project (that’s actually not a horrible band name). Lean to lightly on said elements and those European symphonic metal purists are going to be chanting “poser” in three-part harmony with a Nightwishian riff to back it. To drive this point home even further, it’s basically what Galadriel said to The Fellowship.
My point is, though possible to achieve the desired balance of symphonic and metallic elements, it is not easy.
That said, I’ll admit it. It took me a few listens through Foretoken‘s Ruin for it to grow on me. The epic, symphonic song structures can be daunting as a reviewer not particularly well-versed in this subgenre, but dammit anyway, the show must go on!
What is evident about Ruin from the get-go is the phenomenal drumming courtesy of Hannes Grossmann (formerly of Necrophagist). Hannes is the glue that holds these ambitious songs together. It would’ve been a much different album in his absence.
My favorite part of the instrumentation – other than the drums – are when the symphonic elements are subdued and the guitars get a chance to shine. However, this could purely be my preference as there are some catchy alternative instrumental moments happening on tracks like “The Retribution.” However, I much prefer the traditional guitar onslaught that is “His Rage Made Manifest.”
The vocalist reminds me a bit of Trevor Strnad‘s vocals on “Verminous.” Now, before The Black Dahlia Murder fans come at me, I said a bit. I’d like to see an increased variety of vocal theatrics on future releases. Not to take anything away from Dan Cooley. I think he does an admirable job here.
An obligatory note on the production quality — it’s top notch. This isn’t Norwegian black metal. You can’t have two guys fart into a kazoo while one screams into a children’s karaoke toy (what the fuck is that picture?) and call it a day. Symphonic metal requires a little more nuance than that. Mission accomplished, Foretoken.
Now, did Foretoken strike that perfect balance aforementioned? Mostly yes! But a little no. Ruin is not without its flaws but still worth your time, especially if symphonic metal leaning towards the extreme rather than the melodious is your shtick. My main criticism is that some more editing could’ve been done on tracks like “Indelibility of Iniquity.” There were many movements in that track that worked for me and some that lost me. I am fine with extended track lengths but that requires consistently engaging songwriting.
Overall, this will be a worthy addition to any extreme symphonic metal fan’s collection. It is a bit for purists only. I don’t see many outside the subgenre taking to it. I’m not sure Foretoken cares about that though.
While Foretoken is no Simone Biles, Ruin strikes that difficult balance of symphonic versus metallic more often than it stumbles.
Favorite Songs: “The Retribution” and “His Rage Made Manifest”
Release Date: 5/1/2020
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