FORBIDDEN – “Omega Wave” CD ’10 (Nuclear Blast, US) – You know what I’ve been thinking? This has been one helluva year for the SF Bay Area. I mean, think about it. The Giants just won the World Series. Now, as a baseball fan, had somebody told you on April 1 that they would be holding the title in November, would you have bought that over MLB’s nearly pre-ordained Yankees/Phillies match-up? Don’t think so. And, as an Oriole fan, I gotta say it was nice to see at least SOMEBODY wearing black and orange hoist that trophy since, even now in the “Buck Era,” the chances of the O’s doing it any time soon are slim and none. And as Chuck Thompson would say, slim just left town.
So, yeah, SF is atop the sports world right now and we haven’t even begun on music. To put it simply, 2010 has witnessed a hundred megaton explosion in the Bay Area thrash scene. It’s been a confluence of brutal greatness, seeing spectacular new releases from longtime luminaries like Exodus, Heathen, Death Angel and now, FORBIDDEN. Of course, it would be real easy for me to lie right here. I could say that I have been the biggest FORBIDDEN fan since the release of their first album, “Forbidden Evil” in 1988. However, there would be a problem with that. It wouldn’t be the truth. At all. Now let me make one thing perfectly clear: I haven’t had anything against these dudes. It’s not like I found out their albums were the carriers of some strange disease and, therefore, vowed to keep them from crossing my threshold for fear of contamination. It’s not that I have some personal grudge against any of the band members for running off with a wife or girlfriend or stealing any of my shit. I’m pretty sure none of them have ever done any of those things. No, there really is no explanation for it. Sometimes even a guy like me who tries to keep up with everything that goes on in the music scene whiffs on something entirely. I mean, hell, Columbus missed an entire continent when he thought he was in the West Indies and he got a holiday for it, so take it easy people! Thing is, I just never checked these guys out! I have no idea why. Probably was too busy listening to Natas rehearsal tapes or something. So, when I started hearing a lot of talk online, on Facebook and all, people going on about a new FORBIDDEN album, first one since 1997, I went “Hmm…” When the comments began alluding to the fact that this was on the order of a new Heathen release I was like, “Whoa, wait a minute Charlie, either these people are imbeciles or I need to be schooled.” I looked again at the names of said persons, realized they were decidedly not idiots and headed to class. Thus, a crash course ensued in ass-busting records like the aforementioned “…Evil,” and “Twisted Into Form” and with that thrash credo under my belt, I sauntered into Record And Tape Traders on Monday Oct 25 and plunked down $ 11 for “Omega Wave.” As it would turn out, choices don’t come a whole lot smarter than that.
Simply put, this record is an MMF. That is to say, my friends, it’s a monster-mother-fucker. It kicks ass…and then it kicks some more ass. Then it takes what’s left of your sorry butt, drags you behind the woodshed and gives you a fine, sound beating if you need one. And if you don’t, it gives you one anyway, in spades and like a red-headed stepchild. This sumbitch has simply got it all. It takes all the best aspects of the fresh and early thrash scene, ratchets it up with super unique ideas and riffs (pretty hard to do now some 30 years down the line from “Kill ‘Em All”) and laces it with wonderful dollops of cherry topping like great vocals and lead guitar work that will have your head spinning for days. Oh, and did I forget? Simply superb, memorable songs. Interestingly, “Omega Wave” is kind of a tale of two halves and I’ll explain what’s so cool about each. After the soaring intro called “Alpha Century,” filled with some dazzling guitar harmonies that would do Tipton & Downing proud, FORBIDDEN launches into a headlong thrash assault. Borne on smokers like “Forsaken At The Gates” (Why do I miss titles like this so much!) and “Adapt Or Die," this is the sound of a band that despite their…ahem…maturity…are sounding as hungry, pissed and lethal as it gets. Craig Locicero and Steve Smyth pull one nasty, saw-toothed riff after another out of their axes and surgically rivet your ass to the wall as Russ Anderson lashes out with vox that are at once raw, powerful and still way-tuneful. At this point comes a strange little 2-minute instrumental called “Chatter,” after which we go down the rabbit hole…and I mean that in the best possible way! While the first half of this album is a brutal thrash attack (adorned by some Voivod-like progressions in “Swine”) we really see the magical creativity of the band unfurl from “Dragging My Casket” on. Here, the songs begin to spread out, pushing closer (and into) the 6-minute range and the ideas flow like molten lava. Through “Hopenosis,” “Immortal Wounds” and “Behind The Mask,” the originality and light and shade continues to grow, peaking in awesome fashion with “Inhuman Race” and then tying everything together as the odd structures and thrash lasers come together perfectly in the scorching title cut. Matt Camacho (bass) and Mark Hernandez (drums) form a ten-ton foundation as atop their punishing blows, Locicero and Smyth weave guitar riffs and leads that will at once have your head Linda-Blair-ing and snagged by deep hooks at the same time. Anderson becomes a vocal chameleon here, laying down one of the most impressive performances I can remember in this kind of music. The guy can effuse gnarly power one minute and thoughtful melody the next and it all makes sense. Bringing everything into focus is the poitively scintillating production job courtesy of Locicero and Tim Narducci and the eye-popping cover art takes me back to a basic truth: Nothing looks better on the cover of a metal album than a big fucking skull! Remember that “Stained Class” jacket and put this baby in heavy rotation cause Frisco is the capital of heavy music once more! A Fresh Chalice Of Blood