By Nathanas Trismegistus

Fornicus – Sulphuric Omnipotence; released June 15, 2020 by Negative Earth Records. Now for something completely different and completely out of left field. Here we have the third full-length album from a completely unknown band. I mean, seriously, have you ever heard anyone talk about this band? Not trying to sound like some hipster pioneering some obscure, uncharted musical territory or anything, but I did discover Fornicus a couple years ago when researching somewhat local acts. Can’t say I was ever a huge fan of them. Can’t say I’ve ever even seen them perform live. But I have been aware of Fornicus for some time. And my feelings towards them have always been sort of “meh” ambivalence. I can’t say that this new album has really persuaded me in their favor.

The word I would use to describe Fornicus’ music is “confused”. It seems that, in one minute, the band wants to have this vicious, aggressive Perdition Temple/Lucifyre/Teitanblood vibe, but, in the next minute, wants to have this Dark Funeral-esque aura of mystique. They seem to simultaneously want to be Profanatica and Demoncy, which simply does not work for me. I also hear some echoes of Incantation and Necros Christos. Not that I am in any position to judge, of course. Our music clearly draws influence from all over the spectrum of black and death metal. And these guys have, obviously, been writing music a lot longer than we have and, clearly, have a firmer grasp on the formula. So, not trying to throw stones in glass houses or anything. (Why am I ever here reviewing other peoples’ music?) I saw in the promotional/publicity photos for the band, one them was wearing a Hellgoat shirt. That would be a mostly apt comparison, but it’s rather difficult to stand in such an iniquitously titanic shadow.

The album does start strongly. The first three tracks are probably the best, with the first being my favorite (it has this absolutely twisted, sickening melody towards the end Before you all start claiming I’m not giving it a fair chance or I’m not listening to the album in its entirety, you’ll just have to take my word that I listen to every album I review at least three times. By the fourth or fifth track, the album has lost much of its potency as the grindy melodies become increasingly inane and derivative. To be fair, track 7 does sort of redeem it towards the end; it has a sick melodic groove to it. Conversely, I do not like Fornicus’ vocals. Sorry. Most of the time it’s seemingly stuck somewhere between worlds of extreme metal. It’s neither deep, growly and bellowing enough to be death metal, nor is it shrill, raspy and piercing enough to be black metal. I don’t mean to single Fornicus out on this, though, as there are a lot of bands that fall into this trap (the recent Bythos debut comes to mind). I realize the band only has two members. I would suggest maybe considering hiring a vocalist who could double as a bassist (a la Motörhead/Slayer/Deicide), especially for live shows.

Some positives I can definitely affirm? Well, the album does sound great. The production quality is not too weak or sterile (unlike that of their debut album). There’s definitely some grit, some space, some juice, some fuzz, some dripping dankness. Everything is mixed remarkably well. The drumwork is all very stellar and aggressive. There are some ripping solos to be found throughout this album. The artwork is great; looks like something ripped straight off of a Drawn & Quartered album cover. But that’s essentially the extent of my approbation for this album.

I saw their first album, Storming Heaven, has a 100% rating on Metal Archives, which it absolutely does not deserve. Their sophomore album, Hymns of Dominion was far better than that one. And this new one is an even greater leap towards the domains of originality and excellence. But, sadly, it falls just short for me. I want to like this band. I really do. There aren’t enough extreme metal bands to come out of Appalachia, and I certainly don’t want to discourage any fledgling, hitherto-undiscovered bands in the area. I will probably – eventually – buy this record simply to show my support for the almost non-existent Appalachian scene. Unfortunately, I cannot really recommend it, nor can I deem it essential.

Listen/buy here: https://fornicus.bandcamp.com/album/sulphuric-omnipotence