In these unusual times there comes a glimmer of hope through the iso haze like light gleaming off a polished humbucker pickup. Based in Sweden but with Finnish origins comes a Nordic onslaught of metal delivered by the five band members with the release of their 8th studio album, Forced Commandments.
The band has been around since the late ’70s sporting various band lineups with Mark Ruffneck on drums being the only OG member. What this album says is that they are hanging around and don’t dare turn the record player off.
Start the album, close your eyes, and you can imagine that perhaps there is a war about to break out on the battlefields that you have been chosen to take part in. It gives you a certain confidence that this war was meant for now and standing up for yourself will be the right way to go. Even though the first song is entitled ‘Goin down’ the aim of the album is not that. Track 2, Prison of time, aptly kicks things into high gear. It’s nothing too flashy but sounds like two Vikings bearing heavy swords having it out in a duel with some fancy footwork in between.
Vocals follow along with the gravity of the music well with that particular style of vocals that I feel Scandanavians have that incorporates the wisdom of the Nordic gods of rock along with an operatic bellowing voice. Vince Koivula has great control over his vocals with the slowest song of the album being Long and lonely road is a good example.
The artwork created by Blekkmark Design Studio, Sweden conveys a powerful image that delivers repulsive urge initially at the sight of a skeletal Death standing in your way with those bright red eyes lit up with evil. He is holding out a tablet written in a script that is incomprehensible that becomes your governing rules if you hold it. But perhaps this is just a reflection of ourselves and how we are sometimes. We are driven by the power of others and given no freedom to do what we want. It may be your boss, mortgage, or irrational fears. We have the choice of following this ominous character whose own working instrument of scythe blocks what little light we even get from the moon, or we have the option of breaking the commandments and likely face the wrath of the very the same being but we’d be free.
The music works tightly together. The bass has time to the come front on the occasional song. Predominantly the guitars are playing solid rhythmically metal licks but along comes track 6 Spiders bringing out tinny-sounding notes that creates an out of place bluegrass tone that is obscure because of the album it’s on but it works well. There is a mix of casual solos through the album but they are flashy feats of showmanship. Some of their older stuff was a lot quicker and less melodic. Guitar patterns seem to follow a similar trend but overall the riffs are interesting and invigorating.
1. Goin’ down
2. Prison of time
3. Switchblade alley
5. The ritual
7. Long and lonely road
9. Diving into the Darkness (Bonus)
10. Break out (Bonus)
11. Kingdom of war (Bonus)
Release Year: 2020
Label: Massacre Records
Reviewed by Byron Lotz