Forbidden is one of the forgotten bands of the first wave of thrash metal, originally formed as Forbidden Evil in 1985 by Robb Flynn before changing to their current name after Flynn's departure two years later. Guitarist Craig Locicero and vocalist Russ Anderson led the band through numerous line-ups (that featured Paul Bostaph, Tim Calvert and Glen Alvelais at different times) and four albums before disbanding in 1997, disillusioned and abandoned by their record label. Now, with last year's comeback album Omega Wave getting some of their best reviews ever, Forbidden is journeying to Australia for the first time. While he is uncertain of how his band will be received by local audiences, Locicero is nonetheless excited to be making the trip.
"Everything dude!" he says, when asked what he's looking forward to about the tour. "I'm looking forward to the unknown, I'm looking forward to meeting people who've been following us for years and the kids who've just got into the band. I just don't have any preconceived notions of what it will be like, because [...] we're a cult band. I don't know to what extent our fanbase is out there. I've been told it's pretty vast, but I'll see it to believe it."
After a decade or so playing in bands like Manmade God and Spiralarms, Locicero rejoined Forbidden when the band reformed in 2007 with Gene Hoglan on drums and original guitarist Alvelais. Hoglan soon left and ex-Vio-Lence drummer Mark Hernandez joined the band, initially only for the duration of a European tour, although he has since been retained in the line-up. When it came time for the band to do a new album, they were more than ready.
"Oh, we all knew,"the guitarist says. "Everything that we'd done in retrospect, the clarity of not having done metal for a long time for me, really came into play in dividends. I just don't think we had any preconceptions except for it to be a metal record and a thrash metal record, and be the best one we could do. That's all we have."
Listening to and appraising metal from a standpoint outside the genre gave Locicero not only "a clean palette to work with", but allowed him to view the various trends within it with a critical eye.
"I listen to metal you know, and I always have," he says. "But less and less of it was really appealing to me. Not so much much because of me and my tastes, just because metal in general started to really blow. Not all of it was that great. And it could be argued that nowadays not a lot of it is still that great. A few things here and there stand out in my opinion, but most of it is really lucklustre."
Locicero puts that down to the way that music and art tends to follow the social consciousness that leads to trends set by the original innovators. "It's no one's fault," he says, "but it's everyone's fault."
"But metal has been about representing angst and anger toward society and representing things that need to be said and feelings of rebellion and stuff", he goes on, "and at its worst the subject matter has drifted into my-car-going-down-the-freeway type of stuff. In the early 90s metal just started to suck really, really badly. You look back at that era, and only a couple of bands did really well out of that era. One being Pantera, who started as a rock n roll band, and two being Slayer, who just stayed themselves the whole time. [There was] Very few things that stayed metal. Metallica, it could be argued, stayed metal, but they started listening to Garbage and bands like that and really got deluded. It's not all bad when that happens, because it clears the way for everything else."
He believes that grunge was something that had to happen. It was raw and primal but, eventually, "it started to suck too." The guitarist muses on the quandary of those bands that choose to stick it out in a genre that's become turgid and stale.
"Are they going to try and get bigger, or are they going to try and write a better record, or what's their motivation?"
Fourteen years after they originally ground to a halt following the critically-praised but widely ignored Green album, one could be left wondering what might motivate Forbidden. Having been long left behind by peers and contemporaries such as Testament and pushed aside by the likes of Flynn's Machine Head and Nevermore (which has featured both former Forbidden guitarist Tim Calvert and current member Steve Smyth), it couldn't be the hope of trying to claim the glory that came so tantalising close with 1990's Twisted Into Form.
"That idea was given up a long time ago," Locicero says sagely. "That idea was basically given up when we folded it up in 96... 97. That was the end of it. There was nothing really more to do. There was nothing really more to do to help the band. I thought it was over forever and I was quite happy to move on and experiment and find my way through other genres of music. Coming back was never about being big. It was about writing a great record, and being as metal as possible. That was something that we really didn't know how to do at the end of Forbidden. There was some cool songs in there, but I think we were kind of lost and looking for our spot."
With the passage of years, Locicero is able to accept and appreciate Forbidden's place in the world of metal and is philosophical both about what happened the first time around and about how they might fare this time, considering the change that downloading has made to the recording industry as a whole.
"This time we know we're a cult band, we're not going to be any bigger than a cult band, I don't expect to be a household word unless we get really lucky and some other bigger band would have to come along and pick us up and take us on the road," he says. "That's really all there is to it. You can't expect too much out of this business, especially when people aren't actually buying records, they're stealing them. You're not going to make much money from that end. You can't even prove your worth as a band, because you don't know how many people have your music."
While being dismissive of illegal downloading, Locicero accepts it as a necessary evil of the modern industry. He has nothing but praise for the way Forbidden's label has adapted to current technology, and he also sees the benefit of sites like YouTube for getting music out to people.
"We're not going to say that we're angry about the way it is. That's just the way it is. Technology has got to this point. There has to be another way to exist and to make your way through this business. And being on a label like Nuclear Blast, they've always managed to find a way to tie it all together. They're ahead of the curve, and they have a couple more ideas on how to be ahead of the curve that haven't even been implemented. There's different ways to do this now and you just have to go with it. Being a live band is the main thing."
Regardless of what the future may hold for Forbidden, right at this moment Craig Locicero is stoked that the band is back in action again.
"It's good to be back man," he says. "Lemme tell you, I'm totally happy to be here."