Darkness Ablaze

Shadowreign

Written by: AP on 15/04/2010 03:21:51

Moving into another niche but remaining within the realm of metal, next in line for dissection and subsequent examination are Darkness Ablaze, practitioners of more subdivisions of melodic metal than one would have thought possible, from the Southwest German state of Baden-Württemberg. Often the promotional material that accompanies these releases attempts to steer clear of categorisation so as to create the impression that the band in question is special only to be discredited once the disc slides in and the music starts; but in the case of this sextet's second full-length "Shadowreign", the statement that the band's music cannot be pigeonholed actually holds some measure of truth.

This is apparent as early as in the first song, "Enclosure No.7", which attempts to deceive the listener with a standard melodic death metal cum metalcore riff before descending into a synth-backed bridge awash with black metal vibes (its speed tempting the use of the word breakdown). What happens next is that keyboardist Jens Podzierski switches century and takes the band back to medieval times backed by a zoom of thrash influenced drumming courtesy of Sascha Beul. "Zero" then kicks in with gothic infusions before setting free a slow, muted riff in the verse, and already this band's taste for rapid direction changes is becoming apparent. The song alternates between these ominous verses, symphonic black metal style, blastbeat-fueled pummeling and high speed staccato riffs reminiscent of Swedish dark melodic death metal groups Dark Tranquillity and Dimension Zero, before concluding with a magnificent crescendo complete with guitar and keyboard solos. "The Chains of Life" adds another touch of thrash to the already eclectic blend, this time by way of guitarists Alexander Huber and Christof Lorenz, but what drives this song is an infectious dance beat. Oh, and there is also a doomy Paradise Lost feel in the whispering quietus that exists in the middle of the song. If all of this sounds far-fetched, you need not worry, because "Shadowreign" is not a case of haphazard patches of stylistic influence glued together in haste - the evolutions, devolutions and transformations have been crafted with the utmost care, and at no point is flow interrupted, nor do any of the various sections sounds misplaced.

These three songs provide an extremely strong start to the album as well as easing the listener into the band's arsenal - which is necessary, you understand, as soon as "Trail of Lies" begins. It is the blackest and most aggressive song yet, its opening riff bearing a resemblance to those heard in Immortal's music, while its verses sound like a fusion of Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Children of Bodom. "Reduced to a Beast" brings back the medieval, gothic atmosphere explored in the beginning of the album, gradually evolving into a Turisas style battle anthem (most evident in the backing organs and Theodoros Georgitsaros' vocals, which sound remarkably similar to Mathias Nygård's at times), and you can all but hear the rallying calls, onward, onward! The following "Enlightened by Shadows" continues the story, but despite its good use of clean vocals towards the end, it lacks the grandeur of "Reduced to a Beast" and sounds more like a prelude to the instrumental interlude that follows - the folkiest piece on the album, and surprisingly appropriate in the album's dynamicity. "The Might of Repression", one of the album's absolute highlights then takes over with Old Man's Child power (with hints of "Declaration" era Bleeding Through in there as well) before shifting direction again through a slow acoustic interlude to become almost upbeat, with the band's neoclassical influences shooting to the surface and some Soilwork style clean vocals leading the song into a chilling climax. Here the Children of Bodom influences are at their most potent, in the harsh, screamed vocals and in Bodom's trademark guitar-versus-keyboard duels.

"Walls" marks the beginning of the end, but unfortunately this song again fails to live up to the rest of the material on this album, coming across as almost a "Hatebreeder" era Children of Bodom rip off (save for the baritone female vocals in the middle bridge section). Whatever grievances such a song may produce for you, however, are redeemed with the enormous progressive piece, "Two Souls Marked by Sorrow", which is arguably the best song on the album, if also the most challenging. Combining inspiration from recent Opeth (in the first three minutes of the song), Dark Tranquillity at their most epic, and the profuse medieval elements in Darkness Ablaze's sound, the song is a stunning feat of contemplative, exploratory songwriting, not to mention a fantastic finale that has me in shame for doubting the merits of this album at first. So to redeem my skepticism, I offer praise for one of the best melodic metal albums I have heard in a while. Praise must in particular be offered for the most refined manner in which Darkness Ablaze incorporates their huge variety of influences into their own signature sound. Bits and pieces can be traced back to specific other bands, but as a whole, there is no single band whose influence reigns supreme. This is the band's greatest asset: in sounding like scores of bands that are all excellent in their own right, Darkness Ablaze sounds like no other.

8

Download: Zero, Trail of Lies, The Might of Repression, Two Souls Marked by Sorrow
For the fans of: Children of Bodom, Dark Tranquillity, Hypocrisy, Imperanon
Listen: Myspace

Release date 09.04.2010
Black Bards Entertainment

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