My typical process in choosing albums to review: sleepily open morning emails, click, sample track, "meh," click next email, sample track, "meh," next email, press play, "daaaaayum!" That last part certainly pertains to my first listen of Forty Winters '"Summoning Spirits." This is some brutal hardcore from Florida. I suppose it makes sense that hardcore this heavy would come from one of the capitals of death metal. The band describes their sound as "somewhere between Fear Factory's Demanufacture and Slipknot's Iowa with a pinch of Hatebreed. Other influences include Cannibal Corpse, Bleeding Through, and Darkest Hour.
I say this with the utmost respect: this is muscle-bound metal. Most closely resembling Hatebreed's approach of shoot first and ask questions later, Rotting Empire is more or less a straight-forward affair that is no less likely to get the blood burning. D-beats out the wazoo on this one. The drumming is rock solid throughout the duration, surely favoring this classic punk beat, but venturing out into a number of other pummeling styles. There's a particularly enjoyable thump to the shifting pace of "Profit Hostage." This, the aforementionted title track, and "Choke" represent my personal favorites of Rotting Empire.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks here as well. Tracks really started to meld together after this point, which is the same thing that always bothered me about Hatebreed. Hardcore has always stuck to a fairly consistent formula, but I have still heard plenty of albums in the genre that manage to shake things up just enough to keep each track interesting. Following with what seems to be one of the trends this year a la Wolf King and Left Behind, Forty Winters incorporates some decidedly brutal death metal vocals on both "Human Sacrifice" and "Looming Serpent." These additions are welcome, and I'd like to see the band work to fuse these more completely into their overall presentation of future releases.
In the end, Rotting Empire is an enjoyable album that most fans of hardcore should be able to mosh to. I would like to see the group further experiment with the vocals and tighten up their guitar hooks, but these complaints are modest. Forty Winters seems to be moving in the right direction, and I am interested to hear what they do next. Furthermore, this strikes me as an album that is probably 10 times better played live with audience participation. So grab the album, and even if you don't, snatch up a ticket to their next show. It's sure to be a ripping good time.