Darkness Come Alive

Written by: AP on 25/10/2009 02:50:32

Doomriders, for the ignorant, is a side project supergroup masterminded by Nate Newton, whose day job consists of playing the bass guitar and providing some backup vocals for a band called Converge. Only when he lives as his alter ego in Doomriders, he switches over to guitar and delivers much less complicated, riff-driven music that you would not expect from a dude who has distinguished himself with deeds like smashing his instrument into an aggravated crowd member’s face. He has gathered for this project an impressive posse of likeminded individuals from Disappearer (that would be Jebb Riley on the bass guitar, who doubles as the second vocalist together with Nate), Cast Iron Hike (Chris Pupecki on guitar) and Cave In (John-Robert Conners behind the drumkit), and as well as released a fine debut album four years ago, contributed to various split albums with bands like Boris, Danzig and Disfear.

"Darkness Come Alive" is a crushingly beautiful, autonomous effort that reflects a desire to do something different and oddly enough; it is almost the exact expected output from the people involved. You may recall similar sentiments from me when describing the debut album by Narrows (a convergence of members from Botch, Coalesce and These Arms Are Snakes), and the conclusion that little had been achieved that one could not already find in the music of the bands implicated. Not the case here. With an iconic character like Nate captaining things, nothing sounds haphazard or recycled, and instead the carving ferocity of Converge, the colorful atmosphere of Cave In, the traditionalist hardcore of Cast Iron Hike, and the droning heft of Disappearer mutate into a raging blend of classic metal and hardcore.

Nate makes use of the individual strengths of each member without sacrificing the simplistic, yet infectious songwriting, and channels them into an evenly keeled path that yields color and depth while always retaining its immediacy. "Bear Witness", one of the standout tracks, for example, pummels forward with a fantastic, understated groove while one of the guitarists adds subtle texture in the background with what sounds like entirely improvised soloing. Such a reversal of roles goes full frontal against convention, and is one of many cues to expect the unexpected from this album; which is exactly the sort of thing that happens when a successful, influential musician like Nate gets carte blanche to do as pleases him.

Without resorting to nonsensical overindulgences, the album offers a treasure chest of stylistic nuances, from blues to stoner metal, straightforward hardcore and classic rock. And while there is a distinct feel of playfulness to the mix, the album never threatens comedy. One of the most interesting pieces on offer in fact, is the Danzig-inspired "Crooked Path", which begins with dissonant, sludgy noise and gradually emerges as a heart-wrenching, monumental progressive piece driven by fantastically melancholic, droning guitar work and Jebb's despairing vocals. "Lions" follows on similar terms, albeit with far more aggressive lyrics à la Don't let these fuckers grind you down / Don't let these leeches suck you dry.

The lyrical content might not be exactly eloquent, but when presented in the context of the album’s combination of dark low-end riffs and dense groove, it suddenly takes on a serious, urgent tone. "Jealous God" delves even further into that territory, relying on a chugging riff and emphatic chants to drive home lyrics like All your words you'll swallow / All your threats, so hollow. Granted, it is nothing next to Jacob Bannon's sophisticated lyricism, but bear in mind that the idea behind Doomriders is to create minimalist, blackened rock n' roll, and while the music and the messages within are certainly serious and heartfelt, there is an element of quirkiness present as well. Almost certainly the band performs these songs with a smirk. And rightly so, because this boozed-up, easygoing stuff smells like Lemmy from Motörhead, had he gotten into punk rock instead.

Seventeen songs later "Darkness Come Alive" leaves you at awe, admiring at the ballsy no-nonsense attitude that Kurt Ballou (also of Converge) has managed to wrap in raw, retrospective production. Where most (take that with a grain of salt) similar celebrity groups end up a well-oiled gimmick machine, Nate has been able to fully realize his vision with Doomriders. And although the band will forever stand in the shadow of Converge (and also Cave In), "Darkness Come Alive" is too striking an album to pass on. The album isn't simply a dumping ground for leftover riffs, but a mature, unified piece of music that prides itself on continuity, mood, and diverse songwriting.


Download: Bear Witness, Crooked Path, Lions, Jealous God

For the fans of: Cave In, Converge, Danzig, Saviours

Listen: Myspace

Release date 28.09.2009


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