Review Summary: Aggressive, dark, catchy, and fun, The Eternal Return is a worthy addition to Darkest Hour's discography.
Given their release date proximity, allow me, for a moment, to compare Darkest Hour's The Eternal Return with Killswitch Engage's second self-titled album. Killswitch Engage have shown so little progression over the past few years that, with their latest album, they've started to instead regress. They sound basically the same, but somehow they've still gotten worse. At first glance, you might feel inclined to make the same judgment about Darkest Hour; The Eternal Return isn't too much different from 2007's apocalyptic-themed Deliver Us, but there are enough subtle changes to keep them from slipping into a cycle of repetition and recycling like Killswitch Engage have done.
The Eternal Return is a much more aggressive album, and although Deliver Us had themes of the apocalypse and mankind's destruction, this album manages to be even darker because it has none of the underlying hope that Deliver Us had. This is most apparent on the first song that was released, "No God." As the title suggests, the song is a bleak affair, with oppressive riffs and layered vocals from John Henry, who screams "No god to consume you...no god, it's all an illusion." Once again John Henry is the band's strongest asset, his emphatic, unapologetic vocals dominating The Eternal Return. And while there were clean vocals in a number of songs on Deliver Us, they are nowhere to be found on The Eternal Return. However, that doesn't mean this album isn't catchy; in fact, far from it. Opener "Devolution Of Flesh"'s screamed hook of "You're a plague!" on top of double bass drums and palm muting is immediately gripping.
The loss of Kris Norris led a lot of people to believe that the technical aspect of Darkest Hour's music would be diminished, but that's not what happened at all. Mike "Lonestar" Carrigan is a more than suitable replacement for Norris, and the only negative thing you could say about him is that he doesn't have much of his own identity; if you didn't know Norris had left the band beforehand, you probably would think it was him playing on The Eternal Return. Let's not split hairs though; Lonestar's riffs are solid (and typically Gothenburg) and his solos are great. His shining moment is "Tides," where he rips through a minute-long, two-part solo that is both technical and catchy as hell. And those who complained about the somewhat repetitive and pedestrian drums on Deliver Us can find some solace in the fact that the drumming is slightly better here. Instead of merely fitting the music, the drums are more varied and interesting this time around.
While Darkest Hour didn't change much on The Eternal Return, it's still a great metal album that is catchy and fun while still being dark. They've proven themselves to be masters of slight progression, keeping things interesting enough to enable their albums to have a different sound while still remaining true to their roots. John Henry's vocals are as impassioned as ever (listen to "Into The Grey," when all the instruments stop for a few seconds, leaving him on his own, similar to "Doomsayer"), and the band is tight and complex. While it might not be the best metal album released this year, The Eternal Return is a worthy addition to Darkest Hour's discography.
I'm really impressed with the album. I was hoping for an instrumental this time around like Veritas Aquetas. The only disappointment I have with the album is that it's a little short and other than that it's a fantastic album. Thinking of fiving this.
Some of Deliver Us got boring after awhile. Demons, Stand and Receive Your Judgement, Fire In the Sky, and especially the title track are all killer. This album is pretty badass. Chan hit it on the head.
On the bright side, the solos will now be played right live. Kris couldn't play them live...really. Which is odd, because I've heard him play it fine alone, but I guess the adrenaline gets him or something? Good rating, Chan.