Darkest Hour

The Human Romance

Written by: AP on 11/03/2011 00:02:18

Backtrack to 2005, the eve of release of a modern classic: "Undoing Ruin". Hailed as the decade's answer to "Slaughter of the Soul", this was Darkest Hour's definitive moment and express ticket to stardom. For two years the band toured with relentless abandon as saviours before unleashing their next opus, "Deliver Us", upon an unsuspecting fanbase. Some were baffled; others ecstatic; but it was obvious that somewhere along the line then-guitarist Kris Norris had wanted to capitalize on the band's growing popularity and written riffs of a far more compromising, media friendly nature. The official story is that shortly after, Norris left the band in order to pursue a producing career, but judging from his misfiring instrumental project the true reason was rooted in stylistic disputes - a presumption consolidated by the subsequent release of the eponymously titled "Eternal Return", which saw Darkest Hour explore their origins and influences within the melodic death- and thrash metal genres; a considerably more punishing affair than "Deliver Us".

...which brings us to "The Human Romance", the band's seventh studio album. It reflects both continuance and prospect; a rendezvous of sounds explored throughout the band's career. One wonders how an album that siphons ideas from previous efforts can not sound rehashed (indeed, "Your Everyday Disaster" is distressingly similar to "This Will Outlive Us" in both structure and choice of riff), but somehow Darkest Hour manages to form a new, brilliant tapestry of rejuvenated Gothenburg influenced fretwork and expansive, vivid songwriting. Far more vicious and impacting, part of the reason is the complete osmosis of Mike "Lonestar" Carrigan and his thrash-driven guitars: not only has he rightly filled Kris' shoes on lead guitar, he has grown out of them to craft his own sound and technique best exemplified by the shivering neo-classical guitar solo of "The Tides" from "The Eternal Return". Indeed, the neo-classical elements have been brought to the visible surface to the extent that "The World Engulfed in Flames" actually sounds delightfully reminiscent of elder In Flames.

Consistency is key; which is why "The Human Romance" initially sounds like a Hollywood reproduction of a classic film noir. But with some attention to detail the differences are neither tedious nor subtle. Lyrically, the album carries on the understated eloquence and ageless metaphors of past efforts, but this time John Henry is not merely belting them out in a monotonous, sharply honed hybrid of shouting and growling. Songs like "Savor the Kill" and "Your Everyday Disaster" feature what constitutes clean singing for this band: slight alterations in pitch that add much needed contrast and emotional strain to an otherwise characteristic hardcore influenced delivery. Ryan Parrish's pedestrian drumming (a nagging shortcoming of many a Darkest Hour song) too, has finally earned a rightful and prominent position in the mix, now often departing from rudimentary patterns and introducing inventive transitions in every crevice penetrating the generous use of double pedal.

But the profuse amount of pulsating bass pedals is a welcome blast from the past when such things were seen to distinguish what made metal and what did not (just listen to the early material of At the Gates, Children of Bodom, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames). Most bands today claiming to derive their inspiration from the Gothenburg scene have little to offer Darkest Hour by way of competition; all too often their haphazard staccato riffs become drowned in meaningless breakdowns, while Darkest Hour can almost single-handedly attest to being the only genuine melodic death metal band on their side of the Atlantic. Songs like "Purgatory", "Severed into Separates" and "Wound" are not just a beautiful tribute to one of the most celebrated genres in metal history, but also written and executed to par. As such, "The Human Romance" stands as one of the finest albums in Darkest Hour's repertoire, not to mention in the melodic death metal scene in general. I cannot remember another album - since first making my acquaintance with melodic death metal - that was able to awaken equally powerful feelings of hope, despair, catharsis and enlightenment.

Download: The World Engulfed in Flames, Savor the Kill, Your Everyday Disaster, Severed into Separates
For the fans of: At the Gates, In Flames, Unearth
Listen: Myspace

Release date 22.02.2011
E1 Music

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