When a band records a masterpiece, the following album is usually approached with careful optimism and a good load of natural scepticism, because only too often they cannot re-capture the brilliance of the previous effort. British FOREFATHER’s “Steadfast” had been such an instance back in 2008, where I pulled out the 9,5 rating without hesitation and now with “Last Of The Line” they are back to take the world by storm once more and unleash their unique brand of Anglo-Saxon Metal on the hordes of Metal fans out there.
Now when I say unique, I mean that you can fairly easily identify a FOREFATHER track out of a line-up of more or less related songs, thanks to the dynamic mix of Pagan/Viking Metal, some Heavy/Power Metal influences in the riffing and the inimitable use of excellent clear vocals that never are used as a gimmick to make the music more approachable, but are always used within the best context of the song. So to come back to “Last Of The Line”, it had been an album that was very quietly approaching, since I had not even been aware it was in the making until it hit, so the brothers of Athelstan and Wulfstan surely are not about flashy promotion and trying to have their name appear in every piece of the yellow press, just to create a hype, instead they are quietly doing their thing and even release it on their own label Seven Kingdoms, so to say that they are pulling their own thing through could not be closer to the truth.
And while my scepticism was trying to take over when I first listened to the new album, the first listen left me unsure of what to think, because while all the “ingredients” were there, only some of the tracks managed to catch fire, so I was not sure, if it was because of my expectations being too high, the songs not being as magnificent as hoped for or the beauty just laid underneath. So on to the next round and from then on with each repeated listen, the world of FOREFATHER opened up a little further again, revealing more and more details. At first I had thought that one-minute opener “Cometh The King” would be nothing but your usual intro, but no, the two young Englishmen managed to put a full, short and epic instrumental song at the prow of this longship piercing through the waves of the Northern Sea.
“Epic” is probably the adjective best describing “Last Of The Line”, and while I could have perfectly lived with a “Steadfast Part II”, I commend the two brothers for not just taking the easy way out by performing a mere repeat. Instead I find that the influence of Power/Heavy Metal seems a little higher in the riffs and also some of the melody lines, but don’t fret, they have not gone commercial on us or stepped away from their roots, we still get the fast eruptions, the fierce growls and pagan feel, together with the excellent clear vocals of Wulfstan and sweeping melodies bringing us a mix that still to this date nobody really has managed to emulate, which obviously speaks for the band’s originality.
As before, it is difficult for me to pick/point out single songs, but if I was forced to name my personal favourites, I’d have to mention the following, all for different reasons, be it the catchiness of the title track, the immediate urgency intertwined with the playful guitars of “Chorus Of Steel”, the sweeping and super-catchy chorus of “Wolves Of Prayer”, the once more soaring chorus of “Doomsday Dawns”, the sheer epic grandeur of “Spears Of Faith” or the reflective and epic calmness of “The Downfallen”, distinctly FOREFATHER yet at the same time distinctly different. The only track that fails to connect with me is “Wyrda Gesceaft”, where the kind of spoken/recited delivery of the Old English lyrics doesn’t quite mesh with the rest of the song, but that might very well just be me.
The production once more is clear and strong, letting each element of FOREFATHER’s sound shine and find its rightful place, while the artwork again is the perfect complement to the music contained.
All in all, while not being able to surpass “Steadfast”, “Last Of The Line” is a very strong album for FOREFATHER and stands in full tradition of their previous releases without resorting to copyism or forced evolution. Even with their sixth album, Athelstan and Wulfstan still stand proud in the prow of the longship that is FOREFATHER, spearheading Anglo-Saxon Metal worldwide!
(Online December 21, 2011)