Review Summary: Darkest Hour make the best album that they can make without Kris Norris.
So you’re halfway into this new Darkest Hour album so far, right? The Human Romance
is going strong. It’s got most of what you want from a Darkest Hour album, minus a certain guitarist - that kick-ass vocalist in John Henry, glasses-wearing-nerd-turned-impassioned-vocal-thrasher, and the hell-raiser drummer in Ryan Parrish, who knows how to almost singlehandedly propel Henry through each chorus just on the strength of his playing style. Yeah, you punched your neighbor to the choruses of “Savor The Kill” and later on raised your hands to the anthems of "Wound'; and then you grabbed a bat and broke shi
t around your house to the thrash attack of “Man and Swine”. Okay, yeah, sure, the album’s good so far, cool. Then you hit fifth track “Love as a Weapon”.
You stop your media player to think: You know, this song is awesome, especially that riff that comes in about thirty-five seconds in but – but
, hold on here. This reminds you of something that you’ve heard before. You flip through your library of music files, various downloads you haven’t listened to just yet, or even unzipped, and you come to Darkest Hour’s career peak thus far: 2007’s Deliver Us
. You browse through the album’s highlights, compare them with those of The Human Romance
, and you conclude:
You know, Darkest sound worse now than they did back then a few years ago.
It’s a fact: without guitarist Kris Norris, Darkest Hour are just not as, well, kick-ass when it comes to crafting their songs anymore. But hold on now - this actually works in The Human Romance
’s favor, sort of. Once you come to terms with the fact that the days of popping out “Doomsayer” or “A Paradox With Flies” are over for the band, then you get to appreciate this year’s album for what it is: a step in the right direction. You see, in 2009 Darkest Hour stated that the band was having a tough time together, and that year’s effort, The Eternal Return
, definitely showed it. The album just didn’t feel like a Darkest Hour album – there was no theme, okay, the fu
cking thing just didn’t flow as one cohesive whole.
The difference here, then, and the main reason why The Human Romance
is likely to be well-received by fans, is that this album actually does
flow well. The melodic death metal songs on The Human Romance
may not be as up to par to the band’s pre-2009 work, but the whole thing is pretty damn consistent, with each song offering the listener its own varying, if small, nuances to pick out and remember.
On first single and third track “Savor The Kill”, the band pays homage to early Soilwork
with an In Flames
-like something special in the chorus before launching off into a fast-pace thrasher in “Man & Swine”. The track stays at breakneck speeds before closing with some, as odd as it may be to say it, beautiful concluding vocal harmonies. Little touches like this give the album’s individual tracks some character, say the impassioned clean-sung concluding section of “Violent by Nature” or the golden melody of “Wound”, which was lacking on many of the songs on The Eternal Return
Darkest Hour even try their hand at another instrumental epic in “Terra Solaris”, something the band hasn’t tried to do since Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation
’s “Veritas, Aequitas”. Their attempt is admirable, if unexceptional, but you have to appreciate The Human Romance
’s tracklisting as it offers album highlight “Beyond the Life You Know” to close the album off, instead of the plodding of the former. The closer is a song meant for all the fans of the band, a culmination of what makes Darkest Hour such a good band to begin with - ripping guitar riffs, a belter of a chorus - and brings to mind their mid-2000s' more melodic work.
It's safe to say that Darkest Hour are not as good as they used to be - sorry, fans, but The Eternal Return
and The Human Romance
are both indicators of that. But the band have certainly got their bearings back this year and have made the best album that they possibly could have without Kris Norris. In context of Deliver Us
, The Human Romance
is disapointing, no doubt, but that's really just something we're going to have to get used to when it comes to this band's output from now on, it seems. Unless something radically changes, the only thing that Darkest Hour can now make are mere shadows of their best past work, and every highlight on The Human Romance
just brings to mind even better songs that the band have already put to record. You can keep hoping for a full return to form one day, I know I will, but at the same time I doubt we'll ever hear it again. The best days of this band have already come and gone.