Review Summary: Heavy and chaotic monotony
To put it plainly, Darko
succeeds in what it sets out to do, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a quality record. Darko US, a “supergroup” from deathcore creative minds Josh Miller (Emmure) and Tom Barber (Chelsea Grin), showcases their aggressive side by attempting to craft an album of sheer brutality and heaviness that remains relentless throughout its duration. However, the main issue that plagues Darko
is that there is only so much you can do with modern deathcore techniques influenced by each of the member’s former bands. Sure, extremely low tuned guitars and complex rhythms have their fair share of fun and amusement, but the novelty of the act quickly wears off when each song beats the same pattern over and over again.
From the opening of “Splinter Cell,” listeners are hit with an onslaught of technical drum grooves and down-tuned guitars following suit accompanied by dissonant leads and “glitched” production additions. The intense instrumental composition of Josh Miller is complemented by Tom Barbers ferocious vocals, effortlessly alternating between insane lows and abrasive highs that display an impressive variety of technique and skill. Although the track is nothing groundbreaking or new to the genre, it is an amusing showcase of the genre’s heaviest moments that craft an enjoyable track. This is immediately followed by “Fiend Dream” which… well, it does the same thing it seems. And such is the pattern for the majority of this record. An onslaught of heavy aggression and intense instrumentation followed by more aggression and more intensity. This is exactly where Darko
falls apart: there are very few moments on the record that feel like offensively horrible songwriting, but every track sort of bleeds together utilizing the same tools for the same product which leaves the album feeling lazy and lacking progression. Moreover, with each repeated rhythm and pattern, the instrumentation feels less and less organic and more algorithmic, feeling (and sounding) like a manufactured heaviness rather than human creativity. Yeah, it’s cool to hear the complex rhythms that Darko US has crafted and it’s impressive to hear Tom Barber’s insane vocals, but it really loses its appeal when it’s the same thing over and over again without much diversity in the construction of the record.
However, that’s not to say that all is lost with this record. The highlights of Darko
lie in the lighter moments of the record that drift away from the attempt to craft a relentless experience and focus more on the atmosphere and melodic elements of their style. After the monotony of the first two tracks, “Donna” is a pleasant break from the relentless aggression, providing room for the instrumentation to breathe with a more concentrated approach to songwriting and composition with more range in the vocals and ambiance. Likewise, “Daniel” slows the pace of the record and delves further into the melodic atmosphere that forms an open, airy feeling track. With the help of Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante and Kingdom of Giant’s Johnny Reeves, “Daniel” solidifies itself as a top track as it distances itself from the manufactured heaviness and presents itself as a fully formed, complete track. Even the ambient interlude “If This Is Forever” grants listeners with a much-needed break from the monotonous heaviness of the previous tracks and provides a breath of fresh air in the instrumentation of the record.
Despite its attempt at crafting something unique and heavy, Darko
falls short as it finds itself trapped in the cycle of monotony and repetitiveness. Yeah, Darko US succeeded in creating something that was unrelentingly heavy, but such a feat was achieved through the sacrificing of genuine songwriting and engaging progression. Aside from the few outlier highlights (“Donna”, “Daniel”), all of the tracks throughout the record sort of bleed together, sounding like the same thing for the 45-minute duration. But at the end of the day, you can’t really expect too much from a band that derives itself from Emmure and Chelsea Grin, can you?