Victory Records - they hold host to what is, in my opinion, an abundance of overrated and bland acts. The majority of the bands that are on their roster are lacklustre and nothing new; 'Atreyu', 'The Autumn Offering', 'Aiden'... whilst this is my personal opinion I do believe a number of people, particularly members of Sputnik, would agree with me. Yet every label has standout bands and Victory Records are no exception. 'Between the Buried and Me' are one of the most impressive acts I have heard in recent times. As are this band; 'Darkest Hour'.
Whilst nothing particularly groundbreaking, this album provides enough brutality and emotion to satisfy the most avid metalhead. 'Darkest Hour' are best described as a mix of the 'Gothenburg' metal sound and metalcore yet they put their own spin on things to keep listeners interested. Each member of the band is a competent musician; nothing here is hugely mindblowing but there is a certain degree of technicality which makes the album that little more impressive. Lyrically and vocally, the band are very strong. Vocalist John Henry has a singing style reminiscent of 'Dark Tranquillity' frontman Michael Stanne in that it is very phlegmy. Whilst this may seem a bit of an unpleasant description for somebody's vocal talents, it fits the music perfectly. The lyrics in songs such as 'With A Thousand Words To Say But One', 'Convalescence' and 'This Will Outlive Us' are crammed full of emotion and are almost poetic at points. Vocally, John Henry is superb - and this could be said about the other musicians.
The guitarists craft some solid, memorable riffs throughout the album whilst never over complicating things. Riffs are more along the lines of metalcore than anything else but rather than simply chugging away at a downtuned power chord endlessly, melody and variety is experly incorporated. In terms of solos, they are used sparingly but when they are used they add to the feel of the song immensely; there is some impressive sweep picking lines in songs like album closer 'Tranquil' and the opening seconds of 'This Will Outlive Us', is utter mayhem. The bass, like in most bands of recent who play similar brands of metal, is quite hard to hear. On some tracks, the bass does actually appear inaudible but it is possible to tell that a thick low end is present making the music all the more brutal. The most memorable part of bass is in the intro to 'Convalescence' where a slide signifies the change from octave chords that could easily be from a 'Blink 182' number to unrelenting power.
The drumming is a matter of interpretation. I have heard a number of people say that the drumming is monotonous and far too simple and whilst it is true that the drummer is very fond of one particular drum pattern, it is no less impressive. The sheer intensity the drummer displays on this album is great. Double bass is used to good effect and a number of fills help to spice things up a bit. The fantastic overall production of the album cannot go unmentioned either. Thanks to 'Strapping Young Lad' frontman Devin Townsend, the band sound at their most brutal. The vocals carry enough vigour in them whilst being able to be deciphered once the listener is acquainted with Henry's vocal style.
As with pretty much any album, there are some flaws. 'Undoing Ruin' is not a long album with eleven tracks providing a runtime of just over thirty minutes or so. The phrase 'quality over quantity' may spring to mind when making such an observation but this album would have definitely benefited with being a bit longer. As mentioned before, despite the bass providing solid low end there are times when it is inaudible. However, this is nothing new considering 99% of recent metal bands have decided that bass should be practically non-existent throughout an album (God knows why). On a final note, the songs have been arranged in a way in that everything flows perfectly - the triad of 'Pathos', 'Low' and 'Ethos' is particularly amicable but the whole album has a consistency to it. In fact, the album closer's final moments are basically the same kind of ambience found in the opening of 'With A Thousand Words To Say But One', which is a nice touch. However, the tracks do sound very similar with the exception of 'Pathos' being a serene acoustic interlude that pre-empts 'Low'. The singles from the album are well chosen though, with 'Convalescence' and 'With A Thousand Words To Say But One' being on the verge of radio-friendly.
Overall, whilst Victory Records do appear to only produce a minimal amount of truly great artists, when it does happen it is a genuine gem. 'Darkest Hour' may have brought the brutality down a little from 'Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation' but 'Undoing Ruin' is a fine example of what a good band can produce. It isn't perfect but to be honest when an album is this listenable the flaws are not accounted for. A definite recommendation for any metalhead.
With A Thousand Words To Say But One
This Will Outlive Us