Review Summary: Darkest Hour's self-titled is a mostly forgettable affair with some incredible highlights, proving the band still has the potential to bounce back.
After seven full-length albums of top-tier thrashy, melodic death metal, Darkest Hour
is certainly a divisive listen. For people familiar with their past works, this release is a shock to the system. Blistering solos, propulsive drums, and vocalist John Henry's trademark larynx-shredding screams are all still present, only in a much different manner. Henry blends in quite a large amount of clean vocals, and some of the songs have been toned down exponentially in terms of aggression, almost sounding like the watered-down alternative rock that dominates the mainstream. What's worse is that the chugging passages that dominate the metalcore of today have also made a noticeable appearance as well, making for an almost irrational hodgepodge of influences rearing their collective ugly head on this album.
That isn't to say that Darkest Hour have completely lost their way, however; the strong lyricism and innate songwriting capability are very much still present on Darkest Hour
. This is likely going to be the most perplexing issue for listeners; some of the experimentation is incredibly successful. "Wasteland" boasts a groove metal sound not unlike Pantera, complete with some audible bass (a first for Darkest Hour) and an incredible guitar solo. New drummer Travis Orbin makes his presence known from the beginning and impresses throughout the entirety of the record, most notably on "Rapture in Exile" with lightning-fast fills and speedy double bass. Henry sounds like a man possessed on the first two tracks, and while the sound is still vastly different that what we have heard from the band in the past, it is still a very enjoyable deviation from the status quo for Darkest Hour. It's when the first verse of "The Misery We Make" hits that a recurring problem begins to become much clearer. The song has a neutered sound to it both instrumentally and vocally, resulting in a lack of something that the band generally has in abundance: passion. "Futurist" sounds like a completely different band in the beginning, utilizing a much more mainstream metal approach that devolves into the identity crisis that Darkest Hour seem to be in currently.
The irony is that the band continues to fire on all cylinders on some songs, proving that the foray into experimenting with a more modern metalcore sound is causing the majority of the issues here. "Hypatia Rising" is not only the best song on the album, but the best song that Darkest Hour has released in years. The deliberate pacing of the track mixes perfectly with the epic sound present, and proves that the band still has it in them to be innovative. The biggest issue is that for every song that has promise, there are three that sound bland and uninspired, with the clean vocals of "Departure" being the best example of this. The band has simply lost their way on Darkest Hour
, and instead of forging on in the melodeath direction that all previous outings have been rooted in, they have explored every ill-advised nook and cranny in extreme metal on the album. It has frustratingly led this long-time fan through a sometimes enjoyable but mostly underwhelming and head-scratching experience. Given the band's track record of overcoming obstacles, it is to be expected that this is merely just Darkest Hour fine-tuning a formula that will be expounded upon in the next release. As it stands, Darkest Hour
is a mostly forgettable affair with some incredible highlights, proving the band still has the potential to bounce back.