Released: 2009, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Gone are the days of God Forbid wallowing in the metalcore gallows while fellow eastern seaboard-based bands like Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage steal all the thunder. GONE FOREVER was the band’s first step out of the shadows and 2005’s IV: THE CONSTITUTION OF TREASON, a bold concept record, solidified God Forbid’s move into a modern metal band with clear influences of melodic thrash. The harsh/clean vocal dynamic certainly raised the bar for all bands to reach for and the guitar-wielding brothers—Dallas and Doc Coyle—triumphantly brought guitar solos and melodic leads back to the table again.
A lot of hype has surrounded God Forbid’s latest record and even after one spin, it becomes clear that EARTHSBLOOD is a musical statement long in the works. The vocals (produced by Fear Factory’s Christian Olde Wolbers) are more expansive and far-reaching, the guitars are bigger and an absolutely crushing rhythm section holds it all together. The band has really put a lot of effort into writing, as well. Gone are the breakdowns and reliance on aggression of early material like DETERMINATION. In its place, an air of maturity and increased confidence shines through in longer songs with more complex arrangements. EARTHSBLOOD isn’t the reflection of a band going soft. Rather, this is God Forbid becoming comfortable with themselves as musicians and challenging their fans to come along for the ride.
What becomes instantly apparent on EARTHSBLOOD is that Doc and Dallas Coyle are becoming more and more of a presence in the vocal department within the band. Byron Davis’ hulking roars still dominate but the clean vocal washes of the Coyles are everywhere here. Whether leading the choruses or adding a layered heft to the verses, the harmonizing gets taken to new heights which will certainly divide some in the band’s fan camp. No one can deny, though, that the hook-filled choruses of “The Rain,” “Walk Alone” and, most notably, “Empire of The Gun”—a major stab at a commercial single—benefit from the lush melodic vocal patterns to drive home the point. Lest we forget that the Coyles’ real calling, though, is on guitar and things have really stepped up a notch, even over the monster hooks that dominated IV: THE CONSTITUTION OF TREASON. “The New Clear” is easily the standout track with its muted intro to Doc Coyle’s proggy solo to Dallas Coyle’s blazing riffs. “Walk Alone” is just as rich with a ripper of a solo and “Shallow”—don’t miss that thrash break midway through—features some of the band’s best guitar work ever including a guest solo from The Absence’s Patrick Pintaville and Peter Joseph. Speaking of heavy, “War of Attrition” is a real barn burner and Corey Pierce’s drum sound is absolutely phenomenal. But God Forbid is not content to tickle its’ fans ears with easy melodies or moshpit-ready rage. The nine-minute title track kicks off with a subdued Opeth-like intro and the comparisons do not end there. Ambitiously weaving through a volley of tempos, the progressive arrangements and epic songwriting beg for repeated listens to capture the essence of it all. Even (now ex-) Darkest Hour guitarist, Kris Norris, drops by for a guest solo. “Gaia (The Vultures)” is just as much of an evolution for God Forbid with bold ventures into moody string passages (provided by Symphony X’s Michael Pinella) and vocal layering that open up a new angle to the band’s ever-changing repertoire.
God Forbid has been on my radar since hearing DETERMINATION back in 2002 and watching this band grow has been a real treat. These guys have toured relentlessly to get their message out and have devoted endless amounts of blood, sweat and tears to make this band a success. No two albums have been the same and EARTHSBLOOD continues that tradition by feeding on the band’s thriving need to progress and challenge themselves as writers and players. Wisely, God Forbid has kept fairly close to the formula, though, and while stretching themselves musically have avoided alienating their fans or been plagued with the dreaded label of “selling out.” Sure, the band has become more melodic but the primitive ugliness of OUT OF MISERY was a place in time showcasing youthful exuberance. In 2009, God Forbid is a full-blown metal band ready to take on the world and EARTHSBLOOD is proof that they are ready to do so.
KILLER KUTS: “The Rain,” “War of Attrition,” “The New Clear,” “Shallow,” “Walk Alone,” “Earthsblood,” “Gaia (The Vultures)”