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God Forbid Beneath the Scars of Glory and Progression

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, July 28, 2008 @ 9:56 PM

(Century Media DVD)

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Scars? Definitely. Glory and Progression? Well, that's another story. New Jersey's God Forbid are a bit like what Testament were during the first wave of thrash metal in the late '80s - just missing out on the breaks and opportunities that brought superstardom to the "Big Four" of Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth.

Though they helped launch the current thrash/metal-core wave a decade later, God Forbid haven't attained near the glory nor the commercial progress of cohorts Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall - all of whom had opened for them early on, as had Unearth, Bleeding Through and Trivium, etc., who also have achieved a certain degree of bigger and better. That fate is a common lament for God Forbid's five members during the documentary footage of this expansive, informative and nicely put together, two-disc DVD.

"It's as if we missed some boat or something," shrugs guitarist Doc Coyle.

Frontman Byron Davis is more blunt: "I'm not gonna lie, it sucks ... but you know, shit happens, get over it."

It's that attitude and honesty that keeps Beneath the Scars from coming off as one long "woe is us" mope-o-rama. Discouraged thought they may be at times, the quintet take it all in stride and with generally good humor - such as dubbing their slot opening the inaugural Headbanger's Ball tour ahead of Lamb of God, Killswitch and Shadows Fall the "All Our Peers Have Passed Us By" tour.

And a decade's worth of van rides, club shows and living hand to mouth, all while keeping their lineup - easily the most integrated in metal with two black and two mulatto members, and just one white guy, bassist John "Beeker" Outcalt - intact despite long slogs, clashing personalities and occasional brawls, have made God Forbid an admittedly better band

"We sucked, we realized we needed to get better," offers drummer Corey Pierce. Through vintage video, old photos and deliberately cheesy re-enactments that spare no embarrassment, the unflinching, often hilarious documentary footage offers ample evidence - rigid performances, unfocused musical direction and general naivete - of what God Forbid have battled to overcome since their beginnings when just Pierce and Davis made a hideous racket on guitar and drums at a high school talent show.

The Scars documentary is an entertaining, up-close-and-personal look at the band that doesn't lay the dramatics or shenanigans on too thick, or bog down in the boring minutiae that makes up the bulk of any band's day - like, for instance, Lamb of God's tedious new DVD Walk With Me In Hell. You really feel like you get to know the fellas, warts and all - guitarist Dallas Coyle is the self-proclaimed asshole and agitator, his brother Doc the "serious musician," Pierce the comedian, Outcalt the intellectual and Davis the alpha-male frontman - and learn what makes this genuinely unique ensemble, which for a time went by the moniker Salubrious, tick.

The concert portion of the DVD is, in a word, LOUD! It boasts one of the most bombastic sound mixes I've heard, thanks to Doc Coyle and veteran metal/hardcore producer Eric Rachel. You'll feel like you're actually at the show, and there's nothing wrong with that. Recorded at the Starland Ballroom on the band's home turf of Sayreville, N.J., it shows just what a ferocious live act God Forbid have become. And with its dynamic mix of sheer brute force, the Coyle Brothers taut guitar interplay, deftly placed harmonies and melody and genuine energy, their material has grown more rock-solid with each release, giving the band even more oomph. And with a new album coming down the pike, perhaps its just a matter of time before the "glory and progression" part of the God Forbid equation catches up with the scars. We shall see.

* * * ½

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