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Forwardhead - "Pieces" (CD)

Forwardhead - "Pieces" CD cover image

"Pieces" track listing:

1. Dark Curtain
2. Second Guess
3. Cycle
4. Binary
5. Dawning
6. Unrest
7. Answer
8. 11th Hour
9. Bring Me Down
10. Song for the Lost
11. Hope And Pray
12. Deliverance
13. 14 Cubed (live)

Reviewed by on May 16, 2007

"Forwardhead are to be commended for their ability to make a three piece sound like a four piece. Everyone is pulling double duty and it shows. "

At the turn of the century, popular hard rock could be fairly divided into 2 camps. Radio friendly Tool disciples and the children of the Korn. Tool worshipers were strangely (and sadly) a homogenous lot. Earshot, 10 Years and Chevelle all claim inspiration from Tool but lack the creativity and conviction to tread the murky waters of Undertow and AEnima. Meanwhile, those that followed Korn’s lead became one album wonders or Linkin Park. At some juncture certain bands saw fit to hybridize Korn and Tool. The end result sounded something like Mudvayne, Flaw, Cold and Memento. Maryland three piece Forwardhead reside comfortably within this camp but bring some interesting twists to the genre.

“Dark Curtain” sets the mood rather impressively with lagging drums, sludgey bass and a squealing lead, articulately suggesting what lies ahead. “Second Guess” has single potential all over it. Vocalist Ron Turner calls to mind Colds’ Scooter Ward at his most remorseful throughout the verses and the punchy delivery of Earshot’s Wil Martin during the choruses. In a move many would find audacious in the aftermath of nu-metal, turntable scratches zig and zag during the opening of “Binary”. “Unrest” closes with a pacing so like “46 and 2" by Tool it’s hard not to shout “Stop, Thief!!”. The vocal harmonies and jittery, screaming guitar lead harness the energy nicely all the way to the fadeout. All attempts to pull punches end with “11th Hour”. Ron Turner demonstrates a flair for both the dramatic and dynamic with an extended guitar solo that calls to mind the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci and other guitarists chronologically in between. It’s a very “Yes I can” moment and it manages to break up the nu-metal bombardment quite nicely. As the album progresses, guitar solos seem to flow freely - even when “Bring Me Down” sounds like Layne Staley fronting Staind. Fittingly, the album closes with a power ballad. All the bells and whistles are in evidence: twinkling acoustic guitars, soft, hum-worthy croons and a high energy finish bringing a welcome sense of resolution.

Forwardhead are to be commended for their ability to make a three piece sound like a four piece. Everyone is pulling double duty and it shows. However, their sound is spilling over with influences many of them peculiar, bold and remarkable. The band rely on that adoration with regularity. Production quality is clean but a little sparse. “Pieces” would benefit greatly from some over the top knob tweeking but it’s a testament to the band that these songs don’t depend on such luxury. Seperation anixiety between Forwardhead and their influences is something the band may have to face down the line but they have all the tools necessary to be thier own band.

Highs: It’s familiar with a twist. Sturdy, confident rhythms ridden by alt metal vocals and dynamic, commanding guitar solos. Fans of anything on the radio from 1991-2001 will enjoy “Pieces”.

Lows: The band mesh a unique array of sounds but too many influences lurk beneath the surface, while others stride in full view.

Bottom line: Amputation won’t be necessary to separate this band from their heroes but a trial separation may yield something truly extraordinary.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)