Foretoken – Triumphs (Prosthetic Records)Wednesday, 15th March 2023
Generally speaking, symphonic death metal has had its ups and downs. The worst entries are an overreliance on the symphonic with less emphasis on the metal, leaving albums that are ultimately unbalanced and tacky. This has led to disappointment, sauna begging (in a particular case), and a sadly lackluster end product. Then, thankfully, we have Virginia’s Foretoken. Their debut album Ruin back in 2020 showed hunger and gobs of potential, being a bright spot in what was a pretty lousy year for, well, everyone. Having been incredibly curious as to what their sophomore album could bring, the wait is now over with the arrival of Triumphs. Let this writer tell you – this album isn’t lacking in any department.
Thematically, Triumphs is based on different folklore and mythology from a variety of cultures all over the world, with a theme of the sacrifice and price paid for ultimate victory. In short, there are a lot of very interesting and introspective stories throughout. One can look at how Sacroptes’ latest album (cheap plug: review here) was enhanced by intertwining historical moments into their ferocious aural attack. A similar theme is true for Foretoken, albeit with a bit of a different stylistic approach, as well as the usage of many instruments from different cultures.
A string orchestration somberly begins “Revenant of Valor,” then exploding into a slick black metal guitar lead and a hearty bellow from vocalist Dan Cooley. The guitars are fervent, layered with a symphonic undertone that enhances instead of domineering – both the mastermind of Steve Redmond. The fretboard magic that is dialed into synchronization with that higher register orchestration is tremendous, not to mention a blistering solo in the last quarter of the song. Repeated listens to the song (and album) reveal more layers to discover; never once becoming incomprehensible or overbearing. First single “Demon Queller” contains a distinctly Southeast Asian aesthetic to go along with a pacey melodic death metal approach, especially in those gorgeous harmonies.
The mythological story of La Llorona, aka “The Weeping Woman,” is told in “The Wraith that Weeps.” Tension filled symphonic elements fit the tale, while meshed guitar/drum work moves several tempo changes in perfect unison. Speaking of which, Hannes Grossmann (Triptykon/ex-Obscura) laid down all of the drums for Triumphs, showcasing a distinctive chemistry with the main duo. “Serpent King’s Venom” is based on Zahhak (an evil Persian mythological figure); a broodingly epic affair with a string section that adds gravitas to the classic Swedish death-inspired guitars, rounding out as a well-timed change of pace. Variety is a key element on Triumphs, evidenced by “The Labors” boasting a blackened thrash pacing, the death metal rumbling of “His Riastrad,” and the icy black metal riffing of “Devil O’ the Sea.” The longest and most diverse song on the album is “A Tyrant Rises as Titans Fall,” beginning with a scintillating clean guitar piece before blasting into a dynamic modern melodic death/black metal masterwork. A classy cover of Naglfar’s “I Am Vengeance” is the final offering, adding their own flavor to a classic tune.
Thus far, the year has put forth a predominant theme of realized potential by taking chances. Foretoken have done just that, with an album that is an enthralling, tantalizing tour de force of expert songwriting. Triumphs isn’t just the album title, but an apt description as to what this band has accomplished with this release. Foretoken is going to be on the lips of many, and deservedly so, as they’ve painstakingly crafted a true breakout release that’s a career high water mark.