‘Forlorn Path‘ emerged from the basements of the New Brunswick metal scene in spring 2010 with their first EP, ‘Being Towards Death‘. It featured a very raw sound and combined the brutality of death metal with dissonant melodies to create an unsettling treatise on the ignorance of man.
The fan favourite “These Walls Stand No More” was the album’s magnum opus, nearly 10 minutes of heavy, evocative passages and a jazzy conclusion that set Forlorn Path apart from their strictly metal contemporaries.
2012 saw the release of their second EP, titled ‘Intifada‘, a journey through a man’s horrific coma dream.
By the time recording began again in spring 2012, the band had seen a great deal of change. It now consisted of only two founding members, Yuriy and Dave, who were now joined by guitarist / sound engineer Ivan Chernikov. With Dave taking over lead vocals and Yuriy taking full creative control of the music, a new sound began to take shape.
Clocking in at just over an hour long, the début full-length album reviewed here – ‘Man’s Last Portrait’ – is the culmination of the band’s efforts to date. The album features material both new and written over the course of many years, telling stories of loss, longing, and the gradual decay of an ignorant world.
Starting with the instrumental introduction ‘Coming of Winter’ and a series of sharp shards of icy penetrating notes, set before a thriving and ivy-strewn sandstone wall of sound, this arrangement blooms gradually into magnificent arches of bold strong power. The structure is sublime and glorious. Sumptuous chords add layers of heavy-panting and sighing sounds – and the drums race to the very edges of the delicate architecture.
‘Empire of Decadence’ rushes at you with a scream of anguish. Haunting grand piano keys sound immense, and are set in an empty room – with just a glimpse of rare light. When the ragged earthy riff steps in, and the darkness swallows you up, you will wish you had travelled the path of asceticism. The presence of the darker majesty is as unsettling as it is awe-inspiring. You get to be judged for your own foul and disgusting self-indulgence before the song is done. And for that sin, your eternal soul will be devoured, as well as your living spirit.
A delicious invocation introduces ‘Words Only Wind Can Speak’ with kingly keys and a swooning guitar. When the fury starts, it is a moody mix of splendid evil and hopeful prayer. The symphonic sounds tend to flood the consciousness and create depth and mystery.
In ‘Masquerade’ you are invited to surrender your own body – completely – and become at one with the mask. A friendly riff is gallant and pure. The tempo steps along with frank candour, as the gravelled voice gyrates and glooms in honour of the dead. It is a fitting funerary rite – and it sounds as if it was being performed by priests dressed in a mysterious light. The female voice adds spice and deep esoteric wisdom. Then a jangle of acoustic chords brings back the pale light of salvation. When the mask is set aside, will you be able to return to your living body?
It takes ‘A Moment of Silence’ for any evocation to take effect. Running water may calm you, or gently swaying palm trees might help relax and facilitate the unburdening of the unconscious mind. But when the storm clouds threaten, as they do in this song, the essence of that calm is lost, and then who can stop the onward march of the undead? Searing, boiling and steaming – this song is a riot of emotions – surmounted by cool winds and sudden harmful interruptions.
The muscular title track ‘Man’s Last Portrait’ has sinewy violin sounds that weave their way through a complex lattice-work of twisted shapes. Quite reminiscent of ‘My Dying Bride’. But the growling voice of Dave Imbriaco furrows deep into your heart and brings with it a song of damnation and remorse. This is a song about matricide-man. We ignore the killing of our natural world – and all the beautiful things around us – at our peril. “Gardens that once bore fruit, lavish no more.” All we will have left, if we are not too late, will be our memories and our pillars … and even those will fall.
‘Relics’ the last track on this album is sensual and creative. It is about observing the world around us. And to begin to realize that it is so much dust and rust. This will be our shared legacy- born out of evil and greed. “The avarice our nature holds will be our downfall…”
So as a freezing spiteful wind whips gleefully around us, and we stumble upon this desolate road of our choice, all we await is the venting flame to free us from this sin. When the overwhelming drums thunder in, as they do on this track, and the ferocious vocals fume with their vindictive hatred, we know that will be released from this mortal suffering. And set free.
The majesty of this miraculous band from New Jersey will capture your heart gently in the night. They remind us of the luxurious harmonic tranquillity of bands like ‘Swallow the Sun’, but retain an altogether more complex and subtle aura.
Forlorn Path may possess the ferocity of Kali herself if necessary, but they also retain a musical maturity, and a depth of understanding, with sincerity, that is rare and precious in these times.
The ‘journey’ you will undertake when listening to this album is full of twists and surprises. But, mostly, it is a great and eloquent statement from a truly proficient band. All the tracks will stand the test of time. And with lines like “The throes of pain are verity” you can be certain that you are in good hands.
© Neil Mach Feb 2013