by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

God Forbid - IV: Constitution Of Treason
(Century Media)

God Forbid continue to make some of the best, most guitar-smoked records of the metalcore revolution, their particular forte being scintillating but captivatingly doomy twin leads, quick-picked riffs of an almost ornate nature, executed at various points on the fretboard, and impassioned melodies at just the right time, with just the right balance, depending on the track at hand. Add to that the texture-steep alchemy of myriad innovative clean vocals countering barks (actually here, they're like anybody's - no big deal), and continual percussive innovation, and you've got a band that leaves no corner of each metal sculpture unswept. Punchy yet soft production that meets me mellow at the midrange is provided by metalcore mavens Jason Suecof and Eric Rachel, who quite simply touch a wand to the heads of this often suffering New Jersey band. IV: Constitution Of Treason is also the band's most political album, with artwork matching the overall, chilling post-America concept, Byron on fire, the musical accessibility of the band's plush arrangements allowing him to finish his piece before fatigue sets in, Byron's own System and Nonpoint touchstones keeping one curious as well. And that's really the rub with God Forbid: at no point does the listener want to leave. I mean, all facets are locked down, but getting micro on it, Dallas and Doc put on such a clinic in tone and in riff-writing, their dance of death is enough to keep the fan strapped in, most of these tracks strong enough to work as instrumentals (and long instrumental passages do indeed ensue). Conversely explosive, pummeling, gauzy, psychedelic, atmospheric and at most of those points, eerily doomy (Ha! Maiden's 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' and Mastodon's Leviathan come to mind!), Constitution Of Treason is a headtrip flung at the front edge of metalcore's crowded pack, by which I'm implying it ain't worth a 10, 'cos it hasn't gone so far as rewrite any rules, as Mastodon and Dillinger recently have, Constitution just being, arguably, the very best, within brackets.
Rating 9

Stratovarius - Stratovarius

Risen - however tentatively - from the ashes of Timo Tolkki's diagnosis as a manic depressive, Stratovarius decided to attempt a reunion. Part and parcel of that was a desire from vocalist Timo Kotipelto that he like the damn direction of Tolkki's writing before signing on. He did, 'cos alas, the new songs are less power metal of nature, slower, more grinding and groovy, jes' like his solo records, oddly enough, and also mirroring what happened with Labyrinth. There are still incredibly epic moments on Stratovarius, but they are more of a Manowar nature (check out The Land Of Ice And Snow - wow), rather than double bass with dog whistle vocals. The new songs basically thump along (United sounds like Dio) - many could even be construed as blindingly produced hair metal, if not for the European flourishes, and for Jens Johansson's many, unashamedly '80s and proggy keyboard tones. The end result is a record that seems unselfconscious and unshowy, and with it, you get a performance out of Kotipelto that is clean and clear yet multi-dimensional. One gets a sense that the distinct personalities are emerging, and just in time, given the drift (marbled with impatience and dumbfoundedness) the fans had been feeling as of late.
Rating 7.5

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