Review Summary: And the award for 2009’s catchiest (melodic) death metal release goes to...........Dark Age
Last Wednesday, when I was quietly at home watching one of my favorite Top Gear episodes, I happened to listen to the radio for about mere 10 minutes. What is special in that, is I very rarely listen to radio, maybe like an hour a week max. During these 10, obviously well-picked minutes, there happened to be a metal program playing (not that it’s too much of a rarity down here in Estonia, where we love metal!), and what did I hear from that program? Possibly the most infectious tune I have heard all year. I just stood there, in the middle of the kitchen, with a cup of tea in my hands, mesmerized by that song I didn’t even know at the time (later turned out to be the album’s lead-single "Kingdom Nevercome"). Hell, even the commercial was over and my Top Gear went on, but I didn't give a rat’s ass about that. I just stood and listened. When the little-over-4-minutes song had ended, and I had heard the emcee spell the name "Dark Age", I knew I just had to get this album. Now I’ve listened to the whole thing many many times, and I've come to at least one conclusion: I, starting today, will definitely listen to the radio more often.
Dark Age is a melodic death metal band from Germany. They were formed quite long ago, to be precise then already 15 years ago. Due to that, they are not one of the new-wave melodic death metal bands, who infuse classic Gothenburg sound with metalcore and add some pop flavor to it, just to get some mainstream recognition. Yet, Dark Age's blend of melodeath isn't the classic, raw, melody- and aggression driven pure Gothenburg style either. Dark Age base their blend of melodic death metal on hooks and catchiness, without sounding necessarily mainstream.
is ridden with infectious, melodic, and utterly catchy tunes. From the get-go, the guitar melodies, that in some weird and fascinating way manage to stay original and unheard-of, strike the listener and enamor him. What's even more interesting is, that the guitars are actually rather simple sounding, yet they still manage to reach their goal in such easy fashion. Hell, it took about 10 seconds for me to be 100% into Dark Age’s music. If to exclude some sweeping solos and occasional fast-picked verse riffs, the majority of this album is infested with simple, two-three chord melodic riffs. Still, if they work as well as they do on Acedia
, one shouldn’t care less about the simple nature of them.
The main weight in a Dark Age song lies on the chorus’ shoulders. The chorus is frequently repeated in the song, and on Acedia
, usually there are smooth, echoing synth lines used to enhance the effect of it. In most songs, verses are largely quiescent, establishing the road for the very melodic, and often powerful chorus to kick in. That’s not to say the verses aren’t good, because they are. Just more times then not, they are like a foreplay; a mere satisfying, playful act, before the real action starts.
Another thing that separates Acedia
from most melodeath albums, is its unbelievably inoffensive sound. Of course melodeath isn’t the gruffest of genres, but it would be a novice mistake to call it soft or diffident. Acedia
though, despite it definitely being melodic death metal, is special. Sure, on it, the drums are pounding and the guitars are always present, but it all sounds kind of soft-ish, likable and amiable. Part of the reason for that can be found in the production, which is blatantly crystal clear. There isn’t a muddy or unpolished section during the whole runtime of Acedia
. On one hand, that (the soft-ish, likable sound) is Acedia
's biggest bevue, as no doubt, listeners who are used to the harsher side of melodeath (Dimension Zero, Miseration, Lay Down Rotten etc.) are going to qualify this as "too weak" or "not sturdy enough". On the other though, for some music fans (like me for example), this only increases Acedia
's value, as it makes it unique, and allows it to stand higher in comparison to its many stereotypical genre mates.
Make no mistake though – Dark Age ain’t no pussy metal band, they’re just (a tad) softer than some of their genre mates, and base their music on good, catchy hooks, rather than emphasize the "death" section. Yes, this is still melodic death metal by all counts and it’s bloody good.
What Dark Age have given us here, is a compilation of 12, well-executed melodic death metal songs, which actually sound fresh and unique. Their blend of catchy melodeath is a welcome change from the array of oh so typical metalcore/melodeath bands that have come forth during the last 5-6 years. From well-executed solos to admirably catchy choruses, this album doesn't exactly feature a weak spot, although it might sound a bit soft-ish for fans of gruffer metal styles. Still, despite that, Dark Age’s Acedia
is definitely one of the better melodic death metal albums to come out this year.