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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!