Swedish death-thrash pounders Carnal Forge disappeared not long after they issued comeback album Testify for My Victims on Candlelight in 2007. Well, the Kuusisto brothers didn’t vanish so much as as go on metal sabbatical, issuing singles “Blood War” and “When All Else Fails” to audiences diehard and solely diehard. Carnal Forge built a small, but rabid following in the late ’90s and early ’00s with debut Who’s Gonna Burn and follow-up smasher Firedemon, but ever since, the hard-thrashin’ Swedes have suffered from their inability to reinvent the principal Carnal Forge formula. Subsequent albums (Please… Die! through Testify for My Victims) were no better than average at best and hideously trite at worst.
The band’s new LP, Gun to Mouth Salvation, returns to the spirit and viciousness of Firedemon, where aforementioned axemen Jari and Petri shred like they’ve been reconstituted into alternate universe versions of Hanneman and Amott. Opening track “Parasites” sets the bar high, where brutality, melody and energy form a formidable foundation from which Carnal Forge attack. This style runs through the cunningly fierce “Bound in Flames.” New vocalist Tommie Wahlberg ups the intensity by pitbulling his way through cliché (if still poignant) lyrics about death, war and disease—there’s a bit of previous throat-ripper Jonas Kjellgren at work here. On Carnal Forge’s older releases, the quality would drop about halfway through (or sooner), but on Gun to Mouth Salvation, some of the best tracks are in the middle and near the end. No doubt “Parasites” and “Aftermath” rule hard, but “King Chaos,” “The Order” and “The Stench” vie for top of the heap, both present and past.
While death-thrash gets earballs for its throwback style, there’s nothing quite like Carnal Forge’s modern bite. Don’t sleep on this one, folks!