Review Summary: Forest of The Impaled showcases an experienced musician who knows how to deliver a refreshing take on a tried sound.
When you’ve been in the game as long as Suicide Commando, there's a level of admiration that goes with it, and equally by how he’s done it using the same one-trick-pony routine his entire career: 31 years in the game with, now, 9 LPs under the belt and very little deviation, or desire, to venture out of Suicide Commando’s typical bag of tricks. Every album released has been nestled beneath the same familiar framework and aesthetic used from day one, with varying degrees of spice added. So it brings out a level of curiosity on how Von Roy has managed to stay afloat this long; and I can tell you, it isn’t by chance. No, it is indeed for the very reason I’ve mentioned for as to how he’s stayed relevant this long. Johan knows which side his bread is buttered on, and rather than give in to the self-indulgent urges many artists feed on – fluttering from one style to another in the hope of staying fresh – he’s opted to fine-tune and master his craft in one field. And for the most part it’s worked; all you have to do is look at his discography and the results speak for themselves. Even though a handful of his records break little ground, they are still entertaining albums that have solidified a consistent level of respectability for the name. With the exclusion of some dreadful EPs and demos from the early days, Critical Stage
was an excellent debut album, and one that has never seen Suicide Commando look back – slowly cutting and polishing a sound out for himself.
This far into his career and the statement still rings true; Forest of the Impaled
is no exception to the rule of previous works, however the difference between this and, say, When Evil Speaks
is that this is a much more concise, tight-knit offering. And dare I say, one of the strongest releases to come from Suicide Commando in a long time. This is because any one of the more appealing aspects from the band’s music is heightened and focused on here; utilizing an atmosphere that is cohesive, dark and ever persistent. There’s always been a level of macabre to Suicide Commando’s EBM, industrial assault but it is magnified significantly here; so when it comes to the heavier tracks like “The Pain You Like”, “Gates of Oblivion” and “We Are Transitory”, these high-octane numbers benefit greatly from the tone provided. However, it isn’t just the dank vibe the LP gets right, there is a couple of surprises nestled away which caught me a little off guard: firstly Johan is bringing in a larger emphasis on melody and pop structure, songs like “Poison Tree” and “The Pain You Like” are catchy and contain various amounts of hook from both instrument and vocals; that’s not to say, Suicide Commando is going soft, the songs here are still very much in the roots of the band’s core sound, it’s just that elements have been subtly implemented. Further evidence of this comes from the album’s length: songs are snappier and to the point, leaving little room to drag on. This makes Forest of the Impaled
stand out from the crowd. This type of music relies on repetition, but one thing that has always perplexed me is track length, which normally sees songs averaging at 6-7 minutes; resulting in albums dragging constantly to the finish line. So it’s refreshing to see an album of this sort focusing on bringing everything it has to say in 4 minutes. The other surprise cames in the form of mood-making and texture-building: there’s less aggression and full-force energy on here, replacing this with a heightened awareness on building tracks up and setting the mood in a consistent way. “The Devil” is one of the strongest numbers here, which represents the LP perfectly: groove, melody and an infectious hook, all rolled up in broody atmosphere, and told in 4 ½ minutes.
Of course, some of the same problems are carried over and resurface here, albeit not as badly this time. Johan’s limited vocal range will come across extremely mundane to newcomers of the band, and even if you’re a fan of the band already there will still come a time where you’ll wish you got a little more from them. Also, even with the streamlined atmosphere, lean song-writing and layered instruments at Forest of the Impaled
disposal, “My New Christ” and Death Lies Waiting” are victims to dull repetition and little pay-off. Still, this 11-track offering is concise, thick with atmosphere and offers some really solid songs which will sit proudly next to Commando’s finest works. If you’re a fan, you’ll lap this up, if you’re a newcomer to the genre or the band, this could well be the best place to start.
EDITIONS: DIGITAL//C̶D̶//V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶//4̶-̶D̶I̶S̶C̶ ̶D̶E̶L̶U̶X̶E̶//2̶-̶D̶I̶S̶C̶
SPECIAL EDITION: The deluxe contains a trove of content, including remixes and "tribute" covers from other artists.