Artist: Craven Idol
Album: Forked Tongues
Label: Dark Descent Records
Release Date: 23/07/2021
Country: United Kingdom
Formed in London in 2005, the band didn’t release a full-length album until 2013, but that time was spent well as the band carefully crafted their particular sound, and mixed it with a definitive black metal aesthetic. Led by guitarist/vocalist Immolator Of Sadistik Wrath, the sole consistent member, the band’s current line-up is completed by guitarist Obscenitor, bassist Suspiral and drummer Heretic Blades. From a sonic perspective, Craven Idol manage to hit on a perfect blend of first, second and third wave black metal. The first wave being the darker, more evil version of thrash metal that with a slight directional adjustment can easily transform into old-school death metal. The second wave is the more distinctive and typical black metal sound, full of tri-tone melodies sprayed onto relentless walls of blast beat drumming and tremolo strumming. The third wave is the more progressive, melodic sound full of minor chords, emotive howls and deliberately atmospheric textures. Craven Idol frame this combo of sounds within a slick modern production which allows all the intensity in their playing to be heard in detail. It might lack some of the naturally dark atmospherics that can be drawn from gnarly, raw production, but Craven Idol’s music doesn’t suffer because of this.
The album kicks off with a perfect introduction in the rampaging thrash and blackened death metal riffs of Venomous Rites. The track is full of wild guitar leads and rabid drumming that switches from blast beats to solid grooves with ease. The vocals run constantly between Tom G Warrior style growls, Nergal-esque roars and Tom Araya style squeals. The Wrath Of Typhon brings some Darkthrone style melodies into the mix, using the headbanging thrash riffs as a counterbalance. The drums are more measured and groovy for the most part, but there’s still a sharp energy to them. Iron Age Of Devastation starts with a classic Norwegian black metal riff that reappears throughout the track. It also layers in some chunky death metal chugs and guitar wails before striding forth into a forceful blackened thrash movement that’s reminiscent of early Skeletonwitch.
There’s been hardly a moment to breathe thus far, so the more spacious intro to Even The Demons… offers a little relief, even if it’s quickly destroyed by the epic blend of blackened crusty d-beat and melodic black metal that follows. There’s certainly little room to gasp on the title track that comes after – it’s devastatingly fast and suffocatingly dense, with riffs that in every moment seem to cover the whole spectrum of classic black, death and thrash metal. Then, at just over halfway, it suddenly stops, and what follows is a completely unexpected mesh of slow but restless grooves ala Slayer in their heyday. It’s a signal for what is to come in the final two tracks.
Deify The Stormgod hits on that kind of mid-tempo black metal sound that Gorgoroth did so well, colouring it with more progressive details such as the atmospheric chanting and choral vocals. It’s the longest track on the album at close to ten minutes, and amazingly it keeps this fist-pumping tempo for almost the entire first six minutes before it jumps into a blindingly fast death-thrash section. It allows the track to really stand out amongst the breakneck speed of the majority of the record.
The closing track, The Gods Have Left Us For Dead, is also quite lengthy at just over nine minutes, but it approaches this longevity in a different way to Deify The Stormgod. The opening section is the most melodic and atmospheric on the entire album, sounding like a mix of Wolves In The Throne Room and Behemoth. However, it retains much of the intensity that has fuelled the record so far, and there’s a tension that makes it feel like at any point everything might just explode.
And of course, it does! Halfway through the band go full on black metal with a punishing mix of lightning fast blast beats and harsh tremolo guitar chords. It doesn’t completely forego what has come before on the track though, and actually brings that melodic sense to the foreground as it weaves its way through a maze of tempos and rhythms. Towards the end the layers begin to build, concluding in an absolutely brilliant cavernous finale.
Forked Tongues really feels like an album of two halves. The first five tracks are a brutal and intense fusion of black, thrash and death metal, evoking the primordial soup of Venom and Celtic Frost from which all these styles eventually evolved. The final two tracks are both twice as long individually as any of the previous tracks, and have a far more progressive and ambitious composition, both structurally and melodically. However, these two halves don’t feel like competitors, but more like compatriots who complement each other perfectly. The fact that Craven Idol have produced both the raging and ferocious shorter tracks and the more measured and enterprising longer tracks with such skill is a tremendous feat. It’s because of this that Forked Tongues remains completely engaging on every listen, a quality which not many albums in this style can claim.
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