GOD FORBID has never made the same album twice and each release shows true artistic development and musical ability without a compromise in heaviness. The band has had its share of detractors over the years, but no one can say that GOD FORBID has not always sought to improve and expand its horizons without abandoning the metallic toughness that has characterized the band's releases to date. "Earthsblood" is another mighty step forward and is hands down the best album they've recorded, not to mention one that will end up one the year's best metal albums, if not the best.On "Earthsblood", the tight nit quintet delivers the goods on every level. The guitar work of the Coyle brothers is magnificent. The riffs are ferocious, often unique, and always memorable, while the solos are phenomenal. The same goes for the crushing rhythm section of bassist John Outcalt and drummer Corey Pierce. The fact that the group has had no turnover in the membership has surely contributed to the tightness of the effort. But it is the Coyle brothers' increased use of clean singing and harmonizing — contrasting perfectly with Byron Davis' bulldog bark — that really sets this one apart from its predecessors. And we're not talking about some half-assed metalcore croon that hits in all the predictable places, but real singing with variety in the range and style, as well as being well suited to the dynamic arrangements. Though his clean singing parts are less than what was heard on "IV: Constitution of Treason", the impact Davis makes during one section of "The New Clear" is absolutely stunning; it sends a shiver down the spine every single time. The development of the vocal arrangements over the course of three albums is nothing short of amazing. Overall, the lengthy songs (often over six minutes) showcase a progressive flair in the song structuring, the vocal mix, the changeups, the stellar guitar work, you name it. The title track best exemplifies the progressive end. The nine-minute cut weaves brutality with beauty, enhanced with light picking, acoustic sections, and atmospheric keyboard touches, as well as an epic delivery that approaches OPETH in style. But more than just complex arrangements, the band still shows its knack for catchy melodies on an infectious track like "Walk Alone". Even on this six-minute number, the song is allowed to breathe and explore musical terrain just off the beaten path. But as melodic as this album gets, due mainly to the jaw-dropping vocal treatments, the metal quotient is considerably heavier than what was heard on "IV: Constitution of Treason". The quintessential case in point is "Shallow", which packs one hell of a punch in addition to being another sharply written song. "War of Attrition" — yet another outstanding cut — is close behind in the sheer aggression category even with the melodic sections. The band is truly firing on all cylinders here and moves in unison like few bands can. Eric Rachel's production (with Christian Olde Wolbers handling vocal production) and Jens Bogren's mix has the effect of a giant iron fist to the cranium. As far as New Wave of American Heavy Metal albums are concerned, "Eathsblood" is easily better than the latter day works of SHADOWS FALL, ALL THAT REMAINS, and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. The key to the band's ascension is progression that doesn't alienate the fan base or result in a product that gets tossed in the trash bin with the rest of the mall metal rubbish. Every cut is a highlight and the entire album gets better every time it is spun. "Earthsblood" is a GOD FORBID masterpiece.
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