Swedish Death Metal powerhouse Carnal Forge came back together close to six years ago. Exciting for fans, they have topped it all off with their new full-length, Gun to Mouth Salvation, due out on Friday, January 25th, through ViciSolum Productions.
Ending their three-year hiatus in 2013, the reanimated band quickly recorded a two-track mini-album, When All Else Fails, for release in 2014. Gun to Mouth Salvation marks their first full-length album since Testify for My Victims in 2007. Compounding the anticipation, founding Guitarist Jari Kuusisto is back in the fold. Though he appeared on every recording since the band formed under the name of a Carcass track – contributing equally to 1998’s Who’s Gonna Burn, 2000’s Firedemon, 2001’s Please… Die!, 2003’s The More You Suffer, 2004’s Aren’t You Dead Yet? as well as 2007’s Testify for My Victims – he left the band in 2008, a few years ahead of the complete band breakup between 2010 and 2013.
That in mind, though Jari’s time was interrupted, he is the sole founding member in the lineup joined by his brother Petri Kuusisto on lead guitar, along with Bassist Lars Linden, both veterans from before the breakup. The newest additions include vocalist Tommie Wahlberg, who replaces Jens C. Mortensen, and new Drummer Lawrence Dinamarca, replacing Chris Barkensjö, who moved on to Witchery.
Eleven songs in total, the influence of compatriots At the Gates is strong. This is particularly the case with two opening tracks “Reforged” and “Parasites.” The bounce of the mosh pit comes right through the speakers, but with a heavier sound than the pioneering act typically puts out. The band released lyric videos for each of these tracks, and while they serve as an efficient introduction to this work, the tracks improve as the album progresses.
Moving on, within “The Order,” the shuffling guitar riffs add a sense of foreboding, particularly when they are played alone for a few bars before the song moves toward its close. Then “King Chaos” features some crisp rhythm guitar that would fit alongside the latest output from Witchery. “Hellride” delivers on the promise of its title by dragging the listener on a buffeting journey through the agony and ecstasy that defines Swedish Death Metal: pounding drums lay the foundation for anguished and climbing, clean guitar licks that never seem to end. Wahlberg hits lower vocal depths than some of his Swedish contemporaries, but his sousing rasp loses its luster at points. That in mind, there are traces of harmonization that lessen the impact of his lyrics, and at points he is flat out difficult to understand, seemingly less from annunciation and more from the actual tape.
“Bound in Flames” features a haunting vocal track in parallel to the normal growl of Wahlberg, and the effect is a subtle calm stretched over the otherwise disparate brutality of the track. Vocal accompaniment is less effective on the closer, “The Stench,” where a droning voice seeks to follow the regnant vocals of Wahlberg. Contrast these vocals to those of “State of Pain,” which seem to have Wahlberg layered on top of himself in a way that works, without dulling the main vocal track nor introducing too much production magic to distract from the molten anger being cast.
Overall, there are a number of strong cuts here, but the second half of Gun to Mouth Salvation seems to be a song or two over the line, particular when “State of Pain” begins its denouement. It has a natural outro that would better serve to it being the last track of the record, rather than “The Stench,” which almost has the feel of a bonus track tacked onto the end of a completed album. Furthermore, an earlier track, “Bound in Flames,” has this same outgoing effect, as if it were meant to close an earlier portion of the vinyl or cassette version of the album.
These blemishes are small complaints, and Gun to Mouth Salvation is a worthy addition to the Carnal Forge catalog, and the Swedish Death Metal collective as a whole. Tommie Wahlberg slides in nicely on his first effort, and the few quirks of his debut will likely smooth out with time. All this said, as Carnal Forge has more time to record, tour, and gel, future recordings will better capture the already heady talent within this refreshed lineup. That is why Cryptic Rock is pleased to give Gun to Mouth Salvation 3.5 out of 5 stars.