The mid-to-late 1990s wasn’t a particularly interesting period in US death metal history. Old bands were busy coping with their past triumphs and the newer arrivals on the scene did what they could to recapture the magic of preceding classics, but by doing so stalled the potentials of exploration presented to them. However, there did exist a few notable exceptions, many of whom chose to peek at their European counterparts for galvanization. Among them were the Indiana-based Adversary – a much overlooked act then and now who came up with distinctive and unique approach to death metal.
Adversary came to us from the heartland of Indiana and released two solid old school death metal albums, the second of which, Forsaken, may deserve more attention. This one is misunderstood because its form is old school death metal, but its heart is in classic heavy metal with melody and groove, as well as some of the more atmospheric 1980s rock.
As a result, listening to it presents a dual experience. It sounds like Num Skull or Nunslaughter doing their version of a Possessed-Venom hybrid, but with more attention to melodic guitar hooks. Vocals take the form of barfed out gruff explosions, guiding the rough-hewn riffs like a second drum track, but the heart of each song is a 1970s heavy metal riff with a broad chord progression through which melodic lead-picked figures wind. Songs mostly follow the speed metal pattern of verse-chorus with interludes and transitions, but each song is wrapped around a presentation of dynamics to bring it to a dramatic close.
While other bands worked with this formula, none have done so with such old-school technique and so this album neatly slipped between its potential audiences. Compounding this fact was the trouble that Adversary’s first album, The Winter’s Harvest, used a drum machine and so was overlooked by many. But for those wanting the feeling of 1985 — that nexus of different influences and unresolved potentials — this album deserves a second look.