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Darkane from Sweden play a quite interesting mixture of modern death metal passages and pitiless thrash riffs with a dark and desperate vibe that could also please to gothic metal fans. This variety means that this kind of music may be worth your attention as it could please to fans of a bunch of very different bands such as Absu, Children Of Bodom, Communic, Meshuggah, Nevermore, The Old Dead Tree or Watch Tower. Their music has a very technical and almost progressive approach at some points. The band is able to mix technical ecstasy with atmosphere and emotions which is a thing not all of the mentioned bands are able to do. The basis of this record seems to be very promising but there is a little something that disturbs my full appreciation for this output.
The problem we have in here is that the tracks sound all quite similar and the well sought song structures get a little bit used after a while. Especially the beginning of the album kicks off on a rather low note and the band only varies significantly towards the end of the record. The last three tracks vary between profound and harmonic progressive parts as in "Maelstrom Crisis", bass orientated thrash monsters with a few doom undertones as heard in "Decadent Messiah" and very aggressive, fast and technical stuff like "Creation Insane". These tracks offer a lot to discover but need some patience until they grow as they are hard to follow and sound strangely complex and quite straight at the same time. All in all, this album is though a little bit too straight and everything is said after a while. If you have listened to previous records of the band it seems as if they haven't changed a thing in their formula to progress in any artistic way. There is no real need for a purchase of this record if you aren't a very loyal collector and true fan of the band and you might as well pick any other album of the band or wait for a compilation release.
My favourite song is though in the middle of the album. The title track has epic a very hypnotizing dark vibe, a simple but extremely catchy chorus, a pitiless and energizing middle part followed by beautiful guitar harmonies that awaken a melancholic spring in this grey winter of despair. The band is able to create a truly addicting atmosphere which is definitely one of their strongest points and this track represents the band very well and in top form. If these guys would be able to catalyse this precision between diverse technical ecstasy and addicting atmospheric hooks over the whole record, they might easily be part of the top technical death or thrash metal bands in the world but there is definitely still some way to go as they are only slightly above good average right now.
It took a few albums for Darkane to trump their excellent debut Rusted Angel, but trump it they did. Both Insanity and Expanded Senses maintained the band's use of technical precision, high velocity Swedish death/thrash, but they lacked a little of that debut's depth and biting, charismatic edge. Layers of Lies recaptures that quality and complexity, and in fact surpasses it. I was initially thrilled by the album, but it wasn't until recently that I started spinning it again and became even further enamored of its charms.
Layers of Lies, as the title might imply, is a bewildering and challenging arrangement of piston fueled Swedish thrashing the likes of which only Darkane can conjure. The composition skills of Klas Ideberg and his bandmates are stunning, and I haven't been able to appreciate thrash at this level since the late 80s; bands like Artillery or Deathrow jump to mind (in terms of their riffing skills, they sound nothing like Darkane). This isn't a wanking type of technicality though, it's a skill at creating innovative note selections and an almost constant business to the guitars. I admit, not all of the tracks here stand out right away. It's the type of album that will grow upon a listener as the boundaries of its gray matter expand to the devastation. Add to this the best vocal performance (and sad swan song) of Andreas Sydow to date and you've got a total crusher. The lyrics to the tracks are excellent explorations of violence and the social construct; the human organism and its true purpose and limitations within the confines of nature and civilization.
It begins much like Rusted Angel, with an orchestral intro. This one is known as the "Amnesia of the Wildoerian Apocalypse", named for the band's amazing drummer/composer. The end of the intro begins a slow thrashing haul, and then "Secondary Effects" explodes onto your ears with more passion than most other bands can summon throughout their entire careers. The verse riffs are absolutely fucking intense, and Sydow BEATS the lyrics into you harder than Tomas Lindberg or Anders Fridén could even dream of doing (no offense to that pair of vocalists). The bridge riff is unbelievable, and the chorus epic, as Sydow coughs up:
'Orgasmic smell of blood, a new born beast
I have become, I have arrived to join this feast
Born a beast'
Once this fantastic track ends, there is no rest for the wicked. "Organic Canvas" bewitches you with its winding chops, barbaric drumming and catchy barking. "Fading Dimensions" begins with a few doomy tones but it isn't long until you are once again pummeled with Darkane's brand of depth charge thrash metal broken up by catchy vocal hooks. The title track is immaculate; beautiful acoustic and lead tapestries part into a bludgeoning and intense mid-paced thrash hook which is so industrial in its feel that you can close your eyes and instantly summon a vision of a long forgotten, rusted but still operative factory churning out waste. The chorus here is also particularly fetching. "Godforsaken Universe" picks right back up into the faster pace, and "Vision of Degradation" works its slower voodoo upon you, picking up for some intense grooves that will probably make you at least ball up your fists, even if there is noone standing nearby to hit with them. "Contaminated" is just par for the course, but begins with a sort of bluesy entry into its sheer awesome. "Maelstrom Crisis" is a glorious instrumental piece which evokes some classical/acoustic sounds amidst its inventive thrash. "Decadent Messiah" starts with bass and then injects a little mathematical groove before it really picks up. Another killer chorus shouts:
Bow before his feet
The master of deceit
Bloodstained, raging liar
Rule with death and fire
The album offers no relief on the ending track "Creation Insane". You won't want any relief, because this is just that fucking good. Trust me, if you don't pick it up the first listen through, continue to do so. You will worship this. Hell...even if you DO pick it up the first listen through, listen to it again! The mix of the album is crushing, one of the best I've ever heard from a Swedish metal album. Every subtle note and bold crushing rhythm is balanced to perfect effect. Sydow's vocals truly stand out and it's a goddamned shame he left after this album. The following album Demonic Art is simply not this good, nor is Jens Broman (a decent vocalist in his own right). Even the cover art here is pristine.
As a musician myself, this is the type of album that turns me vomit green with envy, because I know I will likely never in my life create something of this depth and complexity. It's a flawless album and the fact it's been overlooked by many aside from the usual crowd of Darkane fans or those deep into the Swedish death/thrash scene is once again a crime against humanity. What more could I possibly offer that wouldn't simply be stealing away your attention or time in tracking down this album for yourself?
Upon listening to an album for the first time, I mostly listen with an open mind and treat each listening session equally. Rare are the times that I compare the new stuff to old material, or even to other bands. I’m not the kind of guy who points out certain parts of songs and claim “it sounds exactly like – well, whatever”. I simply think it’s more honest to judge music you haven’t heard before exactly for what it is; something you aren’t familiar with. Besides, familiarity isn’t supposed to sway your judgement in any way, especially when there’s something coming through your speaker that sounds as good as this album.
I have just described why I think Darkane fans have a problem with “Layers of Lies”. Their last album with Andreas Sydow on vocals is not exactly regarded as their best amongst the listeners. Even the much lazier sounding “Expanding Senses” is considered to be better, while that was their furthest departure from their original form ever. I ask myself why this is...
The world of melody is a strange place to visit. On one side of Planet Music there’s a mass who despise when their favourite bands change their sound or style, and think best of their idols’ early works (where they sound most “pure”). On the other side is a group of people who embrace development amongst their heroes, and often think bands progress fabulously through their discography. If this was a real place, I would be president of the latter party. Although, as the imperfectly elected leader that I would be, I would most certainly object to my own rules now and then. Like right now. Layers of Lies, in my opinion, sound pretty much like Darkane’s first two albums (particularly their debut) without any added ingredients. So what? I have enjoyed this album for almost three full years and will continue to do so, regardless how much it reminds me of “Rusted Angel”. The key is that it is still better in almost every way.
This is in fact a return to form. They open with an instrumental intro which kicks you in the teeth instantly, and would work really well as an opener live too. But what would I know; I haven’t been able to enjoy Darkane live yet. The shifting from the instrumental to “Secondary effects” is really successful since right away, the controlled chaos begins. What strikes me first is that the drums have a life of their own. Peter Wildoer seriously must have four arms, because I firmly believe nobody can whip those cymbals like he can. And this, ladies and gentlemen, are the drums which generally are there for the sake of pace, the sake of holding it all together. If the technical level of the drumming can shake my emotions, what about the other elements? The riffs are really ranging, from very good to super-ultra-mega-cool. I realize now that was a stupid remark, but the child in me awakens whenever I hear such harmony, and I can’t help it. Even though the riffs themselves are to die for, it’s the whole compositions that built this monster. It’s mostly in the choruses that these orgasms explode. When all the fundamentals work together, there’s so much going on but still so many details it’s almost non-understandable. Like it wouldn’t be enough with layers (not of lies) of rhytms, blasts and tones, they still manage to add something to the mix and make it even more entertaining. Sincerely, I have never been as blown away by a single chorus that I would listen to only that part over and over again until I can understand and appreciate every instrument at every millisecond of it. And this goes for almost every song on the album.
The vocals sound great as well. Here’s a guy who really rules his own vocal chords, and can in fact both sing and shriek equally good. The thing which I find most exciting is that his singing often doesn’t seem to follow any structure, but still handles itself with style. It sounds quite a bit like... Oh no, can’t go down that road after my rant. It plainly sounds like it should, with a perfect mix of the two singing styles.
The bass is a factor I often take no notice of, regardless to what I’m listening to. Apparently, you can’t miss it here though as it’s quite high in the mix. However, I can’t really separate it from the guitars. There’s a simple explanation to that. It follows them closely and is the one instrument they’ve allowed to serve as glue: holding it all together. I can’t really imagine how Layers of Lies would have benefitted from a more complex bass structure since there’s already so much action you won’t feel the need for more sophistication.
Song-wise, other than the choruses, it’s often very fast, thrashy and melodic. Sometimes they slow it down a little, but most often the calming breezes of slowness are washed away by waves of speed in a matter of seconds. There isn’t a weak song on here, and they all work really well together.
I still haven’t reached a conclusion as to why fans don’t like this album, and I probably never will. All I know for sure is that I enjoy the living shit out of it at least twice a week. And when that adds up to more than 300 listening sessions, be it in the car while driving, at home chilling out or anywhere else, it has got to be a moving performance. People, try this one out. If you’re anything like me, you will find a new source of happiness. No shit.
I had moderate expectations for this release after the excellent "Expanding Senses". "Layers of Lies" pretty much expands were the last release left off. The choruses have that lasting power, usually being the highlight of the song. The title track sticks in my head everytime...LIES!...Layers of Lies!! Multi-layered vocals that have a futuristic vibe to a few songs. This guy has some excellent thrash vocals too, angry and always full of energy. He definetly has a unique style and fits Darkane.
The music it self is a hybrid of metal. You have your modern thrash, progressive/melodic (see "Maelstrom Crisis" instrumental), complicated drum/guitar syncopation (sometimes sounding like a machine, see "Godforsaken Universe" or mid-section of "Contaminated"), and a touch of power/groove (see "Vision of Degradation"). I'm into all that, so its all good. This is modern metal and most bands more times than not incorporates many styles. In this case it makes for some needed variety, and most importantly the end result are some damn solid songs.
On a side note the solos are tasty, I dig the use of exotic notes over strange chords. Usually sticking to the vibe of the riff. You won't hear mindless wankery, even though they are totally capable of it.
My only real complaint is that the first half of the cd blows away the second half. I'd give the first half a 90% (tracks 1-7) and the second half a 70% (tracks 8-12). I can say there are no skipable tracks on the disc. So, I suppose if you liked "Expanding Senses" then you're probably like me and have this cranking often. If you didn't like E.S. then don't give them another chance.
At first I liked this album a lot. The album kicks off by throwing at you with two of the best things ever put out by this band, Amnesia of the Wildoerian Apocalypse, a bitchin' intro, and what has become one of my favorite Darkane songs, Secondary Effects. The sound is very very thrash/death based, with precision drumming and tight guitars, just like Rusted Angel.
This album is perfect for people to realize that Darkane is not a very creative band at all. At heart they are a thrash band with some death metal elements, some pretty standard (read: dull) drumming, and some Meshuggah-type moments where they do some pretty ecclectic drumming that's still a 4/4 time with some off time strings. It's a wonder the dudes from Meshuggah don't go knock out Peter Wildoer for copying them (and copying a fellow countryman, lol they do that a lot in Sweden it seems). Take all the Meshuggah-sounding sections out and you get an SYL ripoff. What the hell. Andreas Sydow is terrible. He yells his lungs out for a whole verse, just like Devin does for SYL, and then goes to a cleaner vocals for the chorus, just like Devin does for SYL, and without the Meshuggah type parts of the music, the riffing reminds you of SYL. Nothing but ripoffs here.
I used to think this album was good, but then I realized how much it ripped off of other bands. And then, if you strip everything down, it's nothing but an 80's rehash. Great...more 80s bullshit. Someone needs to hop on their Delorean and warp back to 1986.
Thank God they didn't continue down the path Expanding Senses was leading them. With this release, it certainly seems as though Darkane have turned back to their roots, and, while I enjoyed Insanity, it just wasn't as solid as Rusted Angel.
Then we've got Layers Of Lies.
The guitars are tight and precise which seems to be the norm for Darkane, and as usual the drums are fast, thrashy, and always on the ball with a lot of cymbal work, and the bass is just... there, doesn't really seem to make much of an appearance, although I haven't got the ears for listening for little things like bass. Solos and leads always abound, in the usual Darkane fashion, very melodic and mid paced. ..and the intro!
Yes, there actually is an intro to this album, unlike "Expanding Senses," titled "Amnesia Of The Wildoerian Apocalypse," yeah, that title deserves a hearty "wtf." And, while it's good, it doesn't seem as... as... I dunno the words to describe, 'epic'-esque would probably do the trick, as, say "Calamitas," or even "Intro," but it still gets the job done, and does it well.
All in all, it's a good album, but it gets to a point where it seems a little too much like Rusted Angel. Change is always a good thing (unless it's a change like Expanding Senses) when used the right way, but too little change can lead to something becoming repetitive.
The only things that detract the score from being an 85, perhaps even 90, is that it got to a point where, as I said, it became too much like Rusted Angel. Oh, and that 36 second instrumental didn't do much for the score.
If you're a Darkane fan, I'd recommend this one in an instant, but if you had your fill of Rusted Angel the first time around, perhaps you should skip this.