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2002 would bring about a reversion to a more atmospheric Darkane, which was both reminiscent of their Rusted Angel debut, and at the same, time, not exactly. This is a largely groove oriented disc which sees its ceaseless, muscular chugging embroidered with all manner of modern atmospherics like melodies, subtle orchestration, and it even goes as far as dabbling in some industrial machine noises. Expanded Senses was in a way symptomatic of the Swedish melodeath scene at large, in which all the major bands were attempting to strive towards modernity and stray from the formulas of the 90s. This same year, for instance, Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity hit what I'd consider to be their respective, creative summits (Natural Born Chaos and Damage Done), producing two of the finest works in this sub-genre, while In Flames was totally watering down its power-meets-death metal approach into something I could only describe as bouncy, pasteurized emo-death (Reroute to Remain)...
Compared to their more recognized countrymen, Expanded Senses was a slim evolution indeed, but it did swap some of the more acrobatic guitar work of its predecessors for thicker rhythm progressions over which Andreas Sydow's passionate vocals were better embedded than on Insanity. There are glaringly obvious throwbacks like "Violence from Within", in which the hasty, muted tremolo rhythm reeks of "July 1999" from the debut, while "Parasites of the Unexplained" might have fit snugly onto Insanity, but in general this is a lot of burgeoning, dense and simpler rhythm grooves like "Innocence Gone", "Imaginary Entity" or "Chaos vs. Order" (a personal favorite here). If you hate the overuse of the palm mute in your metal, then this is hardly an album to win you over, but to Darkane's great credit, even the most dumbed down material on this album is lent some texture by all the background happenings. Sydow's brash cleans bounce around in the mix like someone howling across a radar field, while Peter Wildoer lays down a foundation one could build a half dozen stories upon. It's very turbulent, bass-laden music which seeks to overpower the listener more than either of the earlier albums, but there's plenty enough subtlety if you're able to forgive its brickwalled crushing production and let it pummel the snot out of you.
It's certainly not all slower paced, and I'd actually estimate a good 50/50 split between its two polar tempo regions, but some of the best stuff here just lays you out with the combination of industrialized chugging and sampled symphonics. You can feel the down tuning of the guitars here so much more than the other albums, primarily because of their stalwart devotion to slugging you in the intestines and inducing a riot deep in your bowels. No acoustic choir present this time, though they do pull in Lawrence Mackrory to do a bit of a 'duet' with Sydow on "Chaos vs. Order". Always classy when a bands present and former members get along well enough to 'keep it in the family'. The leads throughout the disc serve only as impoverished hangers-on to the bludgeoning bourgeoisie of the rhythm guitar, but I found them tasteful enough to prove more memorable than any on Insanity. Sydow does a lot more melodic singing, and I'm still not positive that the right balance had been struck here for him, but certainly there is a lot more depth and weight to his performance than some of the duller lines populating the previous album.
Definitely not an album I 'loved', but I found it overall more catchy, its arrangements stronger than Insanity. As if the band took a breather, examined the direction it was headed, and decided to pull back a bit rather than letting Peter, Jorgen, Klas and Christofer just run absolutely fucking wild, a feat they are capable of at any given moment. Seriously, in terms of raw musicianship, I'd run these guys up against In Flames, At the Gates or Dark Tranquillity and feel quite confident in a huge bet. The level of ability is staggering (no wonder Wildoer recently made it so close to the Dream Theater drum seat); so it's just a matter of whether the songwriting brilliance can match the proficiency on any given day, any given album. Expanding Senses is not quite to the level of excellence of the debut, and very much overshadowed by what would follow (an album I find completely perfectly from its first to last second); but if you can, for 40 minutes, place yourself into its universe of pummeling, dynamic neo-thrash, then it's a positive experience. Also must mention that I loved the cover art on this one much more than the first two. Not sure that the music is quite so surreal or cerebral as what Thomas Ewerhard did there, but it contributes to the whole 'abused in an asylum' aesthetic the band had adopted since the turn of the century.
All great bands at some point have their true defining musical moment. That one moment when all of their musical elements and traits seem to come full circle, that special moment when everyone involved in the production of the album are at their respective peak abilities. I firmly believe Darkane had this moment back in 2002. Although some have held the following album "Layers of Lies" or the debut "Rusted Angel" in higher regard than this album. I respectively disagree and still stand here claiming this indeed WAS Darkane's defining musical moment. Here's why.
First off, let's have a look at what really sets this album apart from their other releases. You have the extremely bass-heavy low end production courtesy of Daniel Strandberg. The production on this album made sure the tone of the rhythm guitars sounded very "meaty" and apparent in the instrumental mix. The tone of the lead guitar remains as traditional sounding as it had been on previous releases. They certainly made no mistake here considering one of the main attractions found in Darkane has always been the leads and solos of Christofer Malmström. Peter Wildoer, who is now more famous and well known in the metal scene than ever due to his Dream Theater audition was one of the founding fathers of this group. His drumming is another key attraction in Darkane. I had no problem making out every single cymbal crash, double bass kick and snare hit on this album. The bass playing of Jörgen Löfberg is lo and behold - not completely inaudiable on this otherwise modernly produced metal record. I can't think of any particular moments where his bass shone through in the mix right now, but if you keep a close ear you can definitely hear him strumming beneath the rhythm guitars on certain tracks. Andreas Sydow's vocals sound absolutely majestic in the few melodic choruses scattered around this record. You will be pleasantly serenaded in the sensible yet intense main refrain found in "Submission", as well as sonically beaten into a mere pulp by his screaming on frenzied thrashers like "The Fear of One's Self" or album highlight "Violence From Within. So overall the album's production is refined into perfect symmetry between the instruments on this record. Let's delve deeper into what sets this album apart from other melodic extreme metal releases.
If you had never heard Darkane before you popped this CD into your player (or digitally pressed play). You will be in for a sonic boom as Innocence Gone kicks off in it's take-no-prisoners brutality. Indeed this track is just an ass-kicker from start to finish, wielding a main/verse riff so heavy it has probably been measured on the Richter magnitude scale. Andreas Sydow has an instantly recognizable throaty roar which he can in an amazing fashion stretch right into a melodic yell for the majestic refrains found on "Expanding Senses". But there is no melodic cheese refrain to be found in this opener. Just like the song's title suggests the song's lyrics indeed handle the topic of rape/paedophilia. It's clearly a song full of rage, evident not only in Andreas furious singing but also present in the driving rhythm guitar riffs and Malmström's distressed solo placed in the middle of the song. It's a really fucking good opener and although I firmly believe there are better Darkane songs to be found on this record. The track does it's job in making sure the listener stays put as the song ends and "Solitary Confinement" kicks in. This song is a lot busier in terms of technical riffs and vocal lines. The band also experiment with reoccurring compositional segments. What I mean by this is that there are a few times throughout the song and on the rest of the album where one segment of a song repeats perhaps two or three times before the song ends. Maximizing the effect of the well written riffs and increasing memorability. This song has not only a jaw-dropping neoclassical solo. But also steals the spotlight with what I firmly believe is one of the best refrains ever written. Although some may claim the chorus here is totally by the numbers. I beg to differ and I really think this chorus presents everything a perfect melodic extreme metal refrain should contain. This song is just damn good and it's one of the songs I never ever get tired of. This band is well known for it's unique amalgamation of the thrash and melodic death metal genres. And there is indeed quite a lot of thrashy aggression to be found here on tracks like "Imaginary Entity" and "Parasites of the Unexplained". The former is one of the best metal songs ever written, I'm not even joking. I can't describe it's brilliance in words. But if I had a gun to my face I would describe the song as a technical marvel seamlessely blending fast thrash metal riffs, amazing singing and screaming, superb and effortless drumming and some very nice electronic touches into one beast of a song. Daniel Strandberg got a hand in influencing the music through the means of programming the keyboards/synths on the record. In the previous records Darkane used to incorporate orchestral/symphonic elements in a handful of tracks. This time the symphonic touches are exchanged in favor of a larger emphasis on keyboards/synths. The keyboard programming was done by the producer Daniel Bergstand and I think they add texture to the already thick and dense instrumental barrage present on this record. The lyrics were as far as I know written by all five members of the band. The common thread explored through the lyrics of the album deal with topics such as insanity, paranoia and mental anguish. Be prepared to hear terms like "post-traumatic stress disorder" or sentences such as "the psychological result of this experiment" thrown around a lot in this release.
Since I've just mentioned solely the brilliant stuff found on this third Darkane album, I guess I'll mention some of the stuff that didn't work out so well on this album. Personally, I love every single track on this release although some songs are obviously better than others. "Fatal Impact" is the most formulaic song and although the breakdown found in the middle of the track is very fucking headbangable and the final refrain is majestic, this is one of the songs that sort of just casually fly over your head in this album. Chaos VS Order was one of the songs that first got me into this band, but strangely enough it's one of the songs I find the least captivating. The song lacks variation but does sport some sweet riffs and nicely added symphonic touches to it's flair. I guess you could also say that for the listeners that do not really care for this style of metal. They might become utterly bored after the third or fourth song. Since Darkane never really vary their style too much and generally keep inside the boundaries of their genre all the way from the opener to the album closer.
This album is a complete masterpiece and in my opinion Darkane's finest moment. This band probably never will truly receive the attention of the mainstream musical press. But rest assured that "Expanding Senses" remains a diamond in the rough and a pleasant treat for underground enthusiasts.
Darkanes third offering literally brought them out of their shell. It seems as if they finally could break off from their usual spirit in terms of song writing. While I enjoyed “Rusted Angel”, and even more “Insanity”, this was the right time for them to try something new. The same formula is still there, with melody and harshness combined, and while the basic idea remains, it’s rather the small differences (dare I say improvements?) that carries this disc.
Andreas vocals, both clean and growls, has changed dramatically for the better between “Insanity” and “Expanding Senses”. If you want proof of this, simply compare Emanation of Fear from Insanity to Imaginary Entity from this album. This is a good way to compare the vocals because of the same singing style used in both tracks. The vocals don’t sound so restricted and hollow anymore, he’s really figured out how to bring some heart into the whole thing. Music-wise it’s kind of the same riffing style, but slightly slower. Same goes for the drumming, and while Peter Wildoer does a great job behind his kit here, his talent might be better displayed on their previous records.
Darkane has always been able to pull off some stellar riffs, and this is no exception. I can’t think of a single bad riff on “Expanding Senses”. They’re often combined with eerie synth tones to make it sound even more compelling. A fun note is that their original vocalist Lawrence Mackrory appears as a guest vocalist on “Chaos Vs. Order”. Lawrence and Andreas battle out at each other, as they share the vocal duties on this track. Much to my surprise, this actually works despite of their very different vocal approaches. This is a good progress Darkane’s been taking, and “Expanding Senses” will certainly be spinning in my stereo for years to come. While it doesn’t “blow” the other records “out of the water”, it rather focuses on something new and very impressive. Classic if you’re into this kind of melodic thrash metal.
Expanding Senses is Darkane's best work to date. The songs are more consistant, the production is excellent, and the blending of genre's is so good.
In certain songs, Darkane goes from neo-thrash, to death, to progressive, even to acoustic folk on one track. Vocally, this album is very good, Andreas Syow doesn't growl, nor does he sing. He just does his own thing I guess, and it couldn't sound better.
The songs just flow one after another, each sounding excellent, not boring at all. Darkane really thrases, most notably on The Fear of One's Self. Excellent riffage and speed.
Darkane also shows they can be brutal, while still being accessible, the excellent Fatal Impact is a perfect example of this, crushing, fast, but friendly to the ears. As is the album closer Submission
Chaos Vs. Order is excellent. Guesting is Lawrence Mackrory, Darkane's original vocalist. In this song, He and current vocalist, Andreas Sydow trade off parts which is very fitting for the title. It's as if Andreas is Chaos and Lawrence is Order, but you can't really tell who is Chaos and who is Order unless you can look at the lyrics pick them apart.
Which brings me to my next point, the lyrics. Very intelligent lyrics. The songs tell tales about mental anguish, insanity, paranoia and personal trife. If it's the sort of thing you dig, you look at the lyrics sheet and go "wow". Very impressive in the lyrics department.
The albums production is excellent. It's so heavy and clear, especially the bass. Expanding Senses is best heard blasting on a good system with clear sound. The keys and sound effects are also very atmosphereic and loud. Darkane's two albums before this were a bit dodgy in the production department, however, it couldn't be any better on Expanding Senses.
Excellent, my introduction to the scandinavian scene. After two years I still listen to this album regulary, and it still kicks my ass. Highly recomended.