Melodic death metal and metalcore have a lot of overlap, largely due to sharing the same parent in AT THE GATES. The band who, along with IN FLAMES and DARK TRANQUILLITY, created one of the most artistically captivating sub-genres of metal suddenly found that said sub-genre had merged with hardcore punk and the resulting offspring began to plunder AT THE GATES’ sound in a flurry of crushing riffs, smooth and screamed vocals, blast beats and endless breakdowns. Several bands straddle the divide between melodeath and metalcore (HEAVEN SHALL BURN from Iconoclast onward is a great example) but few can do it with the skill and musicianship of DARKEST HOUR.
Self-confessed proteges of all bands Scandinavian, DARKEST HOUR have always drifted closer to AT THE GATES and Swedish metal in general (against whom they are frequently compared) then most of their American melodeath and metalcore brethren, and are largely considered among the few to hold a candle to their Swedish progenitors. And on their latest album DARKEST HOUR make it clear that they more than deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as their influences. Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora sees the band combining all of their past sonic experimentation with their original sound to deliver not just one of their best albums to date, but the first serious contender for album of the year.
After the slightly softer, more metalcore-dominated detour of their self-titled, the band mostly move back to basics, and the aggression that was dialled back in favour of atmosphere on their previous album resurges with a vengeance to make up for lost time, pretty much from the first blasting notes of sledgehammer opener Knife In The Safe Room. The first half is a barrage of unadulterated hardcore certain to cause some serious chaos in the pit. Then the melodies kick in, reminding everyone that few can merge harmonious and brutal like DARKEST HOUR, and for the rest of the album, the band fires on every conceivable cylinder.
The guitar work of Mike Schleibaum and Mike “Lonestar” Carrigan, assisted by former guitarist Kris Norris making a welcome return, is nothing short of epic and simply wonderful. Their riffs are swift yet simultaneously technical and overflowing with emotion and character, which is a difficult thing to do well and yet they succeed on every track, and in terms of fantastic solos the listener is simply spoiled for choice. The rhythm section of Travis Orbin and Aaron Deal add fantastic weight to the proceedings so that the music, no matter how entrancing, is always apocalyptically heavy.
And matching the instruments perfectly, vocalist John Henry goes for broke on every single song. His voice, much like that of Tomas Lindbreg, is just the right mix of intelligible and ferocious, delivering his fantastically seething and pointed lyrics with captivating savagery in a dark reflection on the tumultuous, chaotic times we live in. He simply steals the show on Those Who Survived: the lyrics are fierce and accusatory, and Henry’s raw fury and enhanced clarity grabs the listener immediately.
The band’s diversity is on full display throughout the album. Their progressive leanings come through on the fantastic Timeless Numbers, where some of the riffs would not sound out of place on MASTODON’s Leviathan, and there are lacings of GOJIRA throughout The Flesh And The Flowers Of Death. There are so many fantastic moments when the whole band comes together on this album that is hard to pick, such as the flowing movement between hypnotic interludes and Henry rasping over a brutal musical siege on None Of This Is The Truth, and the whole of fist-pumping headbanger Enter Oblivion. Kurt Ballou of CONVERGE’s magnificent production adds a cinematic element that causes these already insanely powerful songs to transcend to a whole new level.
To summarise, DARKEST HOUR‘s latest outing rates among the best of their career, with every member bringing their A-games together in a masterpiece of vibrantly melodious and mercilessly feral musical violence.
Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is out now via Southern Lord Recordings.
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