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Swedish Hyperthrash - 97%

ArnoldHablewitz, July 29th, 2013

Right from the moment the intro kicks in, you know this is going to be what you're hoping it is.

The classically-inspired intro is something that Darkane do better than most (my favorite being "Calamitas" from the amazing "Insanity" release). Once the heaviness kicks in on this new record, any doubt that was still remaining is cast aside. Throughout the record - but starting from this exact point - Darkane do what they do best, performing some of the most technically-adept, fast, intense, and extreme Swedish thrash that can exist. No lie, I feel like these guys push the melodic thrash sound to it's technical, up-tempo limit, with wild flurries of notes and drum hits in every fill. Peter Wildoer proves why he was called on to audition for Dream Theater...he is a technically gifted skinsman who beats his splash and icebell cymbal like they owe him money, and despite his proficiency at the speed aspect, he knows when to kick in the groove to mix things up and he rides that crash and half-time feel for all it's worth. Besides that, guitarists Christofer Malmstrom and Klas Ideberg blaze all over this thing. Plenty of powerful riffs that range from breakneck single-note thrash (0:09 in "Humanity Defined"), to half-time groove (the title track, 0:48 in) to near-breakdown (4:28 into "Insurrection is Imminent"). Even within the context of one song, such as "In the Absence of Pain," the Darkane guys throw everything but the kitchen sink into the song, going from ethereal arpeggios at song beginning to off-kilter prog-thrash (0:16) to Meshuggah-esque proto-djent (0:36) to open-note surf-thrash (0:48). And that's just the first minute of that track! As for the guitar solos, while no one will ever claim them to be the thrash equivalent of Neal Schon, they pummel their way through lead breaks that inspire genuine awe, with Malmstrom having decidedly more finesse and flash and Ideberg having a bit more brute power. They are the Swedish Tipton and Downing, flat out!

The elephant in the room is the returning original vocalist, Lawrence Mackrory. Despite my friends' cries of sacrilege, I have no issue stating that to my ears his vocal delivery was always inferior to his replacement, Andreas Sydow. That being said, he easily set my misgivings aside concerning his return from the very moment he opens his mouth on this disc. Aside from the extremely catchy vocal hooks, he also immediately adds a heretofore unheard tool to his workbelt: a middle-of-his-range, semi-guttural tone that does most of the heavy lifting throughout the remainder of the disc (4th track "Ostracized" is probably the single greatest example of this tone). His scream, although appropriate for the genre was always one that I felt was damn-near annoying on "Rusted Angel," so it's refreshing to hear that it has also gained more diaphragm-delivery. The best way to describe it is that if you take his voice from that first Darkane album, and then run him through a decade of smoking at least a pack a day to toughen his delivery up. Seriously.

Have Darkane done something new and different? Nope. That's what makes this such a great listen, is that this is a band that sticks to their story. Songs fly past at breakneck speed, yet retain an intense melodic sensibility, and showcase that these may be the single greatest collective of MUSICIANS in all of Swedish hyperthrash! Add to that a downright Daniel Bergstrand perfect mix that gives every element of every song it's rightful amount of space, and you may have a perfect album on your hands here.

Crank it up and get in the pit!

Completing the cycle of concussion - 80%

autothrall, July 3rd, 2013

After a lukewarm 2008 effort with Jens Broman at the helm, I was kind of on the verge of writing off Darkane for good, so their decision to reacquire Lawrence Mackrory came as somewhat of a surprise, though they've always remained pretty tight, and even had him guest on albums after he'd left the group. This reunion obviously hinted at the possibility of the Swedes returning to their Rusted Angel roots. Having now digested The Sinister Supremacy a half dozen times, I think that's only marginally the case. His vocals and the overall setting and atmosphere of the record aren't quite so caustic and abrasive as the debut, but the punchy melodic death/thrash and complicated impact of these cuts does play out like an admixture of Rusted Angel and Insanity with the clean mix of Demonic Art, but unfortunately not reaching that lofty songwriting perfection of Layers of Lies, hands down my fave of their efforts and among my favorites in all the Swedish exports of the 21st century.

It's still loaded, however, with the compact and forceful riffing progressions one would come to expect from their backlog, a violent and passionate vocal performance, and the bewildering level of musicianship that frankly has me stunned why Darkane is not held in wider regard. What I've long enjoyed about their music is how it can loosely cling to a standard rock or metal song structure but still deliver thrills through both its inherent complexity and rampant unpredictability. Unlike the lion's share of melodic death metal bands, once they start battering away at their instruments I often have no exact picture of what's coming next, and this holds true of The Sinister Supremacy. Rapid, rushed charged palm muting sequences are interspersed with dextrous grooves, gorgeous leads gleam through the driving rhythmic wasteland, and there's no end to the testosterone. This is a pretty substantial record, with 12 tracks and almost 50 minutes of material before the two bonus tracks, and something for just about any fan of the past works, or comparable acts like Carnal Forge or the first 3-4 albums of The Haunted, with the caveat that Darkane have always been more clinical, futuristic, and classically-inspired; as the intro "Sounds of Pre-Existence" and the piano/string interlude "Hate Repentance State" remind us.

To some extent, Mackrory is reliving his earlier years with the bands, the one difference being the added level of James Hetfield sneer of strained melody that he often breaks out in chorus sections, the perfect example coming right away with "The Sinister Supremacy" itself. Granted, he was meting out such lines as early as Rusted Angel, but with the further clarity of this record, it's much more pronounced, and took me some getting used to. Otherwise, the guy is snarling and growling with the celerity and fire associated with not only that first album, but also his predecessor Andreas Sydow, who in turn had carried the torch for him. Ideberg and Malmström remain fonts of ideas, patching together an aggressive, modern architecture that should sate fans of forward-thinking thrash, technical death, and even though the grooves don't quite carry that same blunt percussion of proper 'djent' bands, I feel like fans of melodic Meshuggah offspring might also really appreciate the level of concussion and finesse being contrasted here. Wildoer's drumming is, as usual, busily implemented and near perfect in its capacity to keep the music's frame compelling; and the bass guitars are pretty good, even if they often disappear into the murk below the rhythm guitar.

Not all of the songs really stuck to me, but there are a handful here which are shockingly awesome, in particular when they break out some mid-paced, mechanical riffs that remind me of the delicious dystopian landscape they have always conjured at their best. Cuts like "The Decline" and "By Darkness Designed" are brilliant amalgamations of Layers of Lies and Expanded Senses, thanks to their interesting note progressions and rhythmic diversity, but there are other spots like "Ostracized" or "Humanity Defined" where they simply tear your face off with more traditional, winding Swedish melodeath riffs redolent of a robotic, postmodern alternate universe At the Gates. Bluesy, evolved, rock & roll based grooves often break out amidst the busier, machine-like picking, and though it's quite consistent and often samey in construction, the album's brushstrokes are painted wide enough that it never suffers from monotony, unless of course you just really hate this style of harried, spastic future-thrash, in which case this is unlikely to change your opinion. Even the bonus tracks here are worth something, and in the end, even if it can't match Rusted Angel or Layers of Lies in scope or vision, and doesn't ultimately 'progress' into new territory, I'm still thoroughly enjoying it, riff after riff after bloody riff ad infinitum.

-autothrall
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