(We present DGR‘s review of the second album by the international death metal band Darkened, which will be released on May 27th by Edged Circle Productions.)
Truly, death metal knows no bounds and as the swede-death revivalist trend reaches critical mass so too do the bands reach further and further out. The last few years especially have seen more and more projects popping up as musicians found themselves locked inside, and much like many writers have one good book in them, so too does it seem that every musician has one real fuckin’ caveman hitting rock stupid style death metal disc laying in wait.
Darkened already have an impressive collection of music since their founding in 2018 – we ever premiered one! – and four years later are now on their second album after two EPs and a previous full-length. They cover some serious ground among them, uniting musicians out of the UK, Sweden, and Canada in the latest permutation of chainsaw guitar worship, and the group’s newest album – their sophomore release – The Black Winter seeks to add to that body pile.
Put simply, there’s probably no greater ‘statement of intent’ from a band than calling the opening track on your album “Blood”. Monosyllabic, five letters, and fitting for the genre they play. You know damn well what you’re in for with a song title like that.
Of course, Darkened‘s bona-fides are immensely strong and like many of these multinational groups the resumes run particularly deep. When you have guys that have run in circles that included Grave, Bolt Thrower/Memoriam, Angelblast, This Ending, and a decent collective of others courtesy of the well-traveled rhythm section and vocalist Gord Olson, it’s not shocking that there is at least some gaurantee of quality when it comes to their music.
At the very least, it could be stated that the band have certainly notched an arrow and shot that fucker right down the center of the genre. They lean a little bit more melodic and shred-favoring than some of their contemporaries but you’ll recognize a lot of what is going on within the bounds of The Black Winter from the start. Much in the same way that Kingdom Of Decay prior and its EP brethren alongside it traveled along some well-trod death metal roads, The Black Winter makes sure that the tracks left in the road remain defined well enough that the people following them have an easier time keeping traction.
There are seven other songs within The Black Winter, so once you get through the initial barrage of “Blood”, you also have “Flayed”, which serves a very similar purpose. Surprisingly enough though, it’s not the short blasters like “Swallowed By The World” or “Plague Of Despair” that prove to be the more interesting tracks within the album’s confines. It’s the combination of the “Black Winter” song and the longest track on the release, “Fearful Quandary”, where Darkened really flex their muscles.
They leap beyond just the bread-and-butter death metal ass-kicking and let a heaping helping of shred-worthy soloing and an earworm-worthy melodic line or two work their way into the fray. The latter reminds a ton of how pleasantly surprising it was when it popped up on Grand Cadaver‘s most recent release. It elevates beyond just the drool-worthy batterings and into something that keeps you coming back time and time again outside of when you just need background mood music.
Centering the combination of those two tracks like Darkened did on The Black Winter makes it so that it never seems like they’re running with any particular idea for too long. The openers hit fast and hard and the latter songs become more expansive before going back into hitting as hard as on the opening assault. “Black Winter” and “Fearful Quandary” are what the machinery of the album turns on.
If Darkened remain as punctual as their current output suggests, then its likely we’re going to get a lot of mileage out of the song just being called “Blood” over the next two years. You just don’t get more red meat than that, and in some ways Darkened are the same way. They’re adding to one hell of an active genre-storm at the moment and one where you could throw a handful of bands on shuffle and walk away with the only thing remaining in your brain being the primal thunder of the snare drum and bass drum rotation.
This is one of the few albums where it feels like we could get away with a review that just points at the album art and going ‘c’mon! c’mon! you now what this is! you’re reading No Clean Singing right now!’, and if we haven’t fallen completely up our own assholes and premiered something like a tuba player ripping a massive solo over the sound of a train passing by their window then you can be safely assured this is some solid death metal. World shattering? Nope. Good time following a well written blueprint? You bet.