Published on May 12th, 2020 | by Justin G.
Forte: Stranger Than Fiction (Divebomb, 1992/2020)
Originally released in 1992, Stranger Than Fiction was the debut album from Oklahoma City-based thrash metal band Forte. The band was a force in the regional scene, and got some early attention with a track on the 1991 Metal Massacre XI compilation followed by a deal with the Massacre label. Not too far removed from bands like Forbidden, Vicious Rumors, Agent Steel and to some degree early Sanctuary, Forte’s thrash metal sound had a good measure of what you would – at the time – have called power metal.
Beyond the sheer speed and technicality on display, Stranger Than Fiction has a decidedly melodic aspect, making it more than just a shred-fest. Vocalist James Randel (previously with Oliver Magnum) has a voice that could go from the typical sharp thrash style to a powerful high-pitched wail when necessary, which helps cement the Helstar comparison. Between his vocal performance and Jeff Scott’s blistering guitar pyrotechnics (not to mention Greg Scott and Rev Jones’s very tight rhythms), Forte combined speed and power for a completely satisfying power/thrash experience. Standout tracks are “The Inner Circle,” “Mein Madness,” “Digitator” and the title track, but the whole album is really strong.
Despite a very strong sound, they emerged just as the thrash scene had hit a saturation point and mainstream attention was turning away from metal in favor of all things alternative. Forte still managed to release some killer high-speed, power-infused thrash metal albums that fans of Forbidden, Oliver Magnum, Vicious Rumors and Helstar ought to love, and thanks to reissue label Divebomb Records we get to hear this classic debut once again.
Reissue Notes: Divebomb Records first reissued Stranger Than Fiction back in 2011, giving the album remastered audio and adding the Metal Massacre XI version of “Dementia By Design.” That version has been out of print for some time, so they’ve served up a new and improved Deluxe Edition reissue. What’s different? Aside from the newly restored cover, the album has been remastered once more. To be honest, unless you’re a major audiophile, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the 2011 and 2020 versions. It also has the 1993 version of “Digitator” (from the Molten Metal Monsters Volume One compilation), which wasn’t on the 2011 version.
If you don’t have Stranger Than Fiction or you’re looking for the ultimate version of the album, this is definitely something you’ll want to get your hands on. If you already have the 2011 version and are considering an upgrade, you may want to try the sample audio to see if the remastering is noticeable enough to re-buy the album.
Summary: Overlooked debut...re-reissued