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Incomparable? - 92%

PazuzuZlave, October 26th, 2008

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.