Released through Dead Truth Records, ‘Rotting Empire’ is the sophomore effort from blackened metal band Forty Winters. Influenced by the likes of Himsa, Darkest Hour, Cannibal Corpse and their ilk, you can imagine that this is one frantic, pissed-off beast of a record and the fact that the band have spent the last three years touring relentlessly has done nothing to dim the razor’s edge of their ire. Promising “a modern approach, better song structure, as well as more grit and tenacity” (Xavier Vicuna – vocals), if anything Forty Winters undersell the vibrant, crushing blast of ‘Rotting empire’, an album that looks set to propel them to the very forefront of the genre. With artwork courtesy of the renowned Bill Hauser (whose list of album credits looks like a who’s who of metal), this is one angry mother of a record that bristles with so much fury it’s likely you’ll have to place it on its own shelf to avoid it trying to kill any CDs placed near it.
Taking savagery to new levels, ‘Rotting empire’ clocks in at a meagre twenty-five minutes spread over just eight tracks. Of those, just two tracks clock in at over four minutes, with the remainder dispatching their toxic message of unbridled hatred with a brutal efficacy that is as admirable as it is slightly terrifying. Opening with the brief, potent ‘summoning spirits’, the band waste no time laying down the law with huge, roiling guitar riffs whipping up a storm over Scott Dotson’s nuclear-detonation percussive assault. It is Xavier however, to whom all eyes (or should that be ears?) are turned, his scarified bark a thing of throat-ripping wonder. Multi-tracked and dripping with venom, his unholy roar is relentless. It seems but a moment before the band charge head first into the no-less savage ‘choke’. Delivered with all the subtlety of a run-away freight train, this is music for the terminally pissed off and gives genre heavyweights Suicide Silence a run for their money with its mechanistic beat and grind-infused guitars. Things take a doomier turn on the nihilistic ‘Profit hostage’, a track that opens with a crawl through the sewers of humanity before raising a fist to the heavens and cursing the human race as one with blackened riffs lending an icy aspect to proceedings. ‘Empty tombs’ is another glimpse into the decaying heart that lies at the centre of humanity with the band injected hints of The Aborted’s unhinged dissonance into their filth-ridden sound.
The album’s shortest song, ‘Human sacrifice’ suggests a love of the UK grind scene with its staccato drums, Jeff Stevenson’s grinding guitars and dizzying vocals. Just shy of two minutes, the result of playing this track at high volume will leave you feeling like you’ve been put through a cement mixer and not a head will remain un-banged when the band bring this brutal baby to the mosh pit. An album highlight, ‘Looming serpent’ sounds like vintage sepultura going toe-to-toe with lamb of god in a knife-fight, Xavier snatching breaths between horrifying roars like a man possessed. Bringing the pain, ‘snuff out the light’ sees the band up the tempo once more dispatching the track with technical proficiency and deadly speed before ‘disease of time’ closes the album amidst a flurry of pummelling drums and white-hot riffs. It’s a fitting end to an album that does not once allow the listener to draw breath.
‘Rotting empire’ is exactly what you want from an extreme metal album. With not an ounce of filler, the entire disc is dispatched in a mere twenty-five minutes (making it even shorter than ‘Reign in blood) and the band make you feel every single one of those minutes. Bringing together death and black metal and injecting just a hint of punk into the mix for good measure, Forty Winters are an exercise in minimalistic brutality, and each song is unleashed with a ferocity that suggests that the blood and sweat was dripping from the walls and ceiling in the recording room. All that said if this was just a white-out of hyper speed riffing then the album would not be as memorable as it is. Forty Winters also know when to temper their assault, and when they do lock into a groove, it drives a whole new momentum in the songs and you can see immediately the impact the band will have on a mosh pit. Whilst this may not reinvent the wheel, ‘rotting empire’ is a near perfect example of extreme metal delivered with compelling passion by this devastatingly brutal three-piece and comes highly recommended.