Darkest Hour

support In Name And Blood + The Abandonment
author PP date 28/04/06 venue The Espy Hotel, Melbourne, AUS

The Espy Hotel is probably my favourite venue so far in Melbourne. It’s a relatively small sized, dark room located behind the noisy front bar right at St Kilda Beach in southern Melbourne. The merch stand is nicely at the back with easy access to it, and the (cheap!) bar is situated half-way through the rectangle-shaped room. The best part of it is that there are no security barriers or security standing in between you and the band, so you’re pretty much free to lean against the stage and you have to be careful not to get the guitar slashing into your eyes during the more aggressive stage presences.

An even weirder fact was that the doors opened at 9pm, which meant that the first support wasn’t on till 22:00! Local heroes The Abandonment opened the night with ultra technical hardcore filled with breakdowns. Blast beats and Darkest-Hour style guitar scales were not spared while the band members destroyed the stage. The instrument-bearing members were everywhere while the vocalist used the all too cliché hardcore pose – the one where one of your legs is on the stage, the other one on the front amp, and you scream and growl your heart out to the fans closest to the front. At first, The Abandonment got the undersigned nodding his head quite significantly, but towards the end of their 25 minute set, it became clearer why they haven’t gotten bigger than they are yet: Their stage performance is entertaining but a bit repetitive, it’s the same jumps after each breakdown and more of less the same cycle their vocalist uses while rushing back and forth. With regards to song quality, it is always hard to judge when you hear a band live for the first time, but they’re no Norma Jean yet. What WAS clear though, was that this is a band worth following in the future.

Around 11pm was In Name And Blood’s, one of the most up and coming hardcore acts in all of Australia, turn to take the stage. From the very moment their first song blasted through the amps, they sounded like the US ‘scene’ band Fear Before The March Of Flames. The vocal delivery consisted of harsh high-tone’d screams, never falling anywhere near growling, and the music was much more riff oriented than The Abandonment, even though scales and solos were present here and there. But while their song material was far better and more enjoyable than that of The Abandonment, they lost in stage performance. There were the occasional highlights such as the vocalist hiding behind one of the side amps during the instrumental part, only to jump out with full force a moment later to make everyone near the front afraid of their lives, or later when he just collapsed to the ground still screaming and swirling like a maniac, only to slowly crawl and rise up towards the crowd, before exploding against the non-existent barrier, almost falling over the entire crowd. Despite the few highlights, their set too was slightly repetitive. I must admit that my opinion might change when I’ll see them with As I Lay Dying in a few days time. But for now, they’ll receive an average grade.

Quite suitably for their name, Darkest Hour didn’t come on until just past midnight, arguably the darkest hour of the night. Before they entered the stage, “With A Thousand Words To Say But One”’s atmospheric feedback introduction surrounded the venue, and slowly the band entered the stage and broke straight into the riffs. I made the biggest mistake of my life when I thought standing in the first row was the best idea, because it wasn’t until the last song I realized why the vocals sounded as bad they did. The instruments were crystal clear, but I had real trouble hearing John’s thrown up vocals at all. Once I took the required five-six steps back so I wasn’t actually ahead of the two-front speakers, his voice dominated over the still clear instruments like on the record.

This was the band’s first show ever in Melbourne and predictably they wanted to put on a great show. The stage show wasn’t as violent or abusive as The Abandonment earlier, but the song material was thrice of theirs. The ability to watch Kris play the amazing solos in “Sound The Surrender” and “These Fevered Times” from about 20cm away was intense and astonishing at the same time. Some relatively strange events took place during the performance like John taking over the drumming duties while their drummer found one of those portable ladders, set it up in the middle of the stage and climbed on it for no seemingly understandable reason. During “Tranquil”, John decided to steal one of the drums from Ryan, and was circling around it while the rest of the band was tearing the place apart slowly but surely. As the ‘grande finale’ during the same song, John decided to make a front flip into the crowd and surfed around for the remainder of the song.

The only criticism I have for Darkest Hour is the shortness of the set. They only played ten songs and a good 40 minutes, while they could’ve played twice as many songs by including some more material from both “Undoing Ruin” and “Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation”, or even the older albums. They did play “An Epitaph” at least, but I felt disappointed by the end of the concert. Don’t get me wrong, they were great during the set, but it was just way, way too short.

Setlist:

  • 1. With A Thousand Words To Say But One
  • 2. An Epitaph
  • 3. Sound The Surrender
  • 4. These Fevered Times
  • 5. Accessible Losses
  • 6. Convalescence
  • 7. Marching To The Killing Rhythm (?)
  • 8. District Divided
  • 9. The Sadist Nation (?)
  • --Encore--
  • 10. Tranquil

(?) = Might have mistaken them for other songs due to sound problems for me, read above

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