Forgotten Tomb is an Italian Black and Doom Metal band that has existed for quite some time. Unfortunately, that time was well spent hidden in the shadows of the underground scenes. Under Saturn Retrograde marks the band’s fifth full-length recording since their debut EP back in 2000, and their lyrical content seems to take on something many would expect from the more artistic and depressive Black Metal acts of today, such a solitude and depression up to suicide, but this group is far from a band like that, and have been maturing and fine tuning their craft throughout the years, and it does show through much of the time on this release, Under Saturn Retrograde.
The mixture of Black Metal and Doom Metal isn’t necessarily anything new, but it’s hard to come across a band that can do it right, or at this point bring a new approach to it outside the typical slower paced performance with crushing music. Instead of that, Forgotten Tomb goes for a more atmospheric route, and tackles the Doom style between both the crushing sound and pace that slows the music down, though still retaining more of a mid-tempo to it that varies, and impliments more of a catchier Doom Metal approach that adds a little rhythm and melody to the Black Metal approach, coming off as if a Rock interpretation of Doom Metal, though this isn’t always the case for the Doom Metal style. In the end, it becomes an interesting mixture, and Under Saturn Retrograde becomes an ear-catching effort with plenty of great tracks that feel both accessible, and with a satisfying atmosphere that best suits the lyrical content and musical approach of the group. “Reject Existence” is one of the first tracks you’ll come across that has this catchy melodic aspect to it, and it’s a fantastic song that utilizes a foundation of Black Metal with Doom hook to really to grab the listener, leaving the song to sound melancholic, yet toe-tappingly tragic, though these melodic bits really seem to hit in the chorus and some bridges, to which the pace of the music generally slows down a little more, and the bass becomes a stronger force in the music, though not necessarily a dependant on the song’s success.
While “Reject Existence” is one of the many catchier songs on here, the band does incorporate a more traditional Doom Metal approach as well, which springs up right at the start of “Shutter”. though the track starts off with a hint of melody, the song focuses more on slower paced guitars that feel heavy, though really aren’t as crushing as they would be thanks to a lighter groove at the start of this song. While the song is good, it doesn’t necessarily have much of a strong Black Metal presence, and the lighter distortion and lack of really heavy riffs leaves this traditional Doom Metal inspired track to make less of an impact, but still an alright song that moves at a decent pace with enough changes to keep the listener attentive. This becomes the main idea of the tracks that do try to take on a more traditional Doom Metal concept. Luckily these tracks are nother main focus of the band, and the more melodic offerings on here actually have a wide range of variety to them.
For example, “Reject Existence” will grab you with it’s catchier approach towards Doom and Black Metal, but it’s a rather simplified concept that feels a bit more like a Melodic Black Metal song. “Joyless”, however, takes that catchy, hook driven sound and blends with solid Doom Metal that sounds like an homage to Type O Negative at times, especially with the vocal approach that is a clean singing style through deeper vocals and normal pitch with great enthusiasm at times that can reflect that of a modern Gothic Rock approach. The song is instantly catchy and has a natural aggression to it with a very simple Black Metal foundation adding a bit of aggression to the recording. This also leads to the atmospheres for these tracks to be rather varied as well. While these feel a little more upbeat, though “Reject Existence” has a bit of a melancholic feel, “Under Saturn Retrograde Part I” takes on a traditional Black Metal role for the album, which sounds heavy in it’s own right, but it does have a bit of a sinister atmosphere to it that other tracks don’t have. However, this does bleed into the following “Under Saturn Retrograde Part II”, which starts off with some acoustic guitars and lighter drumming that feels almost Progressive, even borderline Shoegaze at times throughout the whole track. While not bad, and it does kind of fit in with the song title, it feels a little long winded at best.
What it comes down to with Forgotten Tomb is that most of the songs here are simply catchy and enjoyable, but on varying levels. The more Doom Metal oriented songs are really not all that fantastic in the end, and come off rather boring due to the lack of heavy atmospheres and music in general, but the more melodic tracks do manage to be a little more accessible to listeners and some will have your head banging along with them, while others, such as “You Can’t Kill Who’s Already Dead”, are mildly enjoyable but feel more like filler. Under Saturn Retrograde shows plenty of maturity from the group, as well as of promise, and while the album is worth checking out, there’s just not enough solid material to keep the listener coming back for more outside some of the more enjoyable catchier tracks outlined in this review.