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I'm not a fan of metalcore, as you'll probably be aware if you've ever read another of my reviews. Basically it just sounds like shit to me. A couple bands manage to somehow avoid becoming a part of that though, namely Karkaos and to some extent Lamb of God, but for the most part I could never understand the enjoyment to be found within metalcore. And that's where Darkest Hour come in, because they're actually pretty good despite all of the typical metalcore flaws.
Yeah, even a decently enjoyable metalcore/melodeath hybrid like this one has sucky things about it. Take the vocals, for example. Who can listen to a guy screaming like that for the entirety of an album? It really detracts from the good stuff when you have to put up with that awful noise. And then there's the fact that the whole thing is just a little watery and never gives the listener the impression of power that they're trying to give. I'd prefer it if they hid the gaps in the guitar riffs just that little bit more and put some extra force into the guitars, possibly by not jumping all over the place when it really isn't necessary.
That being said, Darkest Hour do those things a lot better than so many other mediocre metalcore bands. Like Karkaos there's a clear melodeath-based approach to the music, with stronger sounds coming from the guitars and generally more force behind the music, but Darkest Hour seem to be more metalcore based than their Canadian counterparts. As a direct result of this the music isn't as enjoyable and ever member of the band just seems to be that step lower than Karkaos's musicians. The vocals are one screaming tone the whole way through, not varied from growls to gritty cleans to singing like you'd get from Veronica Rodriguez. The guitars, while admittedly the best part and more often than not rather interesting, never create anything as unique and inspiring as the guys in Karkaos. The drumming here is okay, but nowhere near the technical standard that the other band sets. Even the fact that there isn't a keyboardist here swings the balance in favour of the Canadians. Yeah, I'm pretty biased in favour of Karkaos, but they're the better band.
Something that really puts me off here is the way that Darkest Hour start every song. Seriously, every single one starts with high-speed drum bashing followed up with metalcore screams and fast guitars playing what sounds relatively complex but not very interesting. It gets unoriginal very quickly and to be honest I would have been happier if they'd never done that at all. The chorus always seems to be pretty epic with blazing guitars and some really captivating hooks, which is what I'd like to hear throughout rather than the boring repetition that goes on through the verses.
It might sound like I'm having a go at the band as well as the actual genre of metalcore, but Undoing Ruin is an enjoyable album. Not without its flaws, but the melodic death influences throughout are very good and I just wish that they'd throw away the core that is clearly holding the band back.
I've noticed two recent trends in death metal. The first being deathcore, which I find, to some degree, very enjoyable. The second being the storm of criticism from "true" death metal fans on this genre. I enjoy the originality in some of the bands, namely Suicide Silence, Arsonists Get All the Girls, and Veil of Maya, while others I agree with the criticism (Job for a Cowboy is overrated and just not that good). This brings me to Darkest Hour, one of the few -core bands that cannot be cracked on. Their riffs are original and not ripped from At the Gates's masterpiece, Slaughter of the Soul, and to even note their originality they collaborated with Tomas Lindberg on occassion.
I picked up Undoing Ruin during a period of time which I was in a brief metalcore phase in 2005. I was just getting into death metal at the time, having been introduced to Cryptopsy's None So Vile, and I was eager to explore. Darkest Hour blended all that I was liking at the time with what I was exploring. I personally am not guitarist, though I greatly appreciate the talent behind using the axe, and I fell in love with riffs on Undoing Ruin. Every song flows with torrentially elegant riffs that are catchy and original. John Henry's vocals can be irritating to some, but they fit here. Not too growly or screechy and with such a light touch of his normal voice that it does not breach on pure hardcore homosexuality, they are perfect for this album. The drums I find generic but precise and fitting. The bass finds itself well with the sweeping guitars. Overall just a very solid album.
Three years later and I'm essentially a death metal affecionado, and though some might find my liking for this album blasphemy, I still listen to it a few times a week. Anything that has any -core influence should not be denounced for simply that label. Fuck labels! Enjoy the music without dissecting it. If you're a fan of good wholesome melodic death metal then I highly recommend Darkest Hour's Undoing Ruin.
This is the first Darkest Hour album I picked up, and I thought it to be very enjoyable. The band seems to be gelling quite well and the songs are very well crafted.
The production here is awesome, courtesy of Devin Townsend. Everyone in the band gets a chance to shine as all the instruments are crystal clear and the vocals come on top rather nicely.
The vocals however are the only reason i haven't given this record a higher grade. They aren't terrible, but I personally prefer harsh vocals with a little more power, which is simply not the case here.
The guitars are definitely the "it" factor of the record. Kris Norris and Mike Schleibaum complement each other perfectly, fusing groovy riffs with interesting and catchy melodies. There are also a few guitar solos worthy of mention, my personal favorite being on "Sound the Surrender", where some intense swweps and string skipping are happening and the band is very tight on the time changes.
The drums also make the record quite interesting, opting to grrove out instead of using blasts or crazy fills all the time. It helps preserve the american sound the band have.
The songwriting is very cool, it shows that Devin helped them out because the arrangements are flawless on tracks such "Sound the Surrender" and "Convalescence", these two songs being my favorite on the album.
All in all a fun record to listen to, nothing groundbreaking, but very tight arrangements and good songwriting will take the cake for me anytime.
The first Darkest Hour song I've ever heard was "The Sadist Nation." Amazing song. My favorite Darkest Hour song ever. Set the bar high for when I finally got my hands on "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation," to be sure. Alas, "Hidden Hands" was one, repetitive, LOOOOOONG song. Except for "Veritas, Aequitas" and the aforementioned "The Sadist Nation," I was bored while listening. Now, when I heard that Darkest Hour was working with Devin Townsend for "Undoing Ruin," my interest piqued; Townsend was and still is one of my favorite musicians, and I wondered what he would do with Darkest Hour. Turns out, he worked a miracle. Bar none, one of my top 5 releases of 2005.
The Townsend influence is heard immediately; "With a Thousand Words to Say But One" opens with some ambience before the main riff comes in at 40 seconds. The song is an amazing opener; technical guitars, sexy harmonies, an intelligible John Henry, Ryan Parrish's above par drumming and even a bass fill!
The riffs are memorable without simplifying them for the sake of making the memorable; in fact they are more technical than anything I've heard of from Darkest Hour before or since. There's an abundance of solos, as well; another large plus, as guitarist Kris Norris is more than capable of creating technical, melodic solos that stick in your head. Listen to the leads in "Ethos" for, in my opinion, the best example of this. As well, Ryan Parrish's drumming, a highlight of "Hidden Hands," is awesome here, too; his fills are creative and he doesn't overplay, knowing when to flash his chops and when to lay back and provide a solid background. Paul Burnette, while mostly just hanging back and providing the low end foundation, throws in a couple of fills here and there, and with some of the guitar riffs, it is a testament to his playing ability that he can keep up with Norris and Mike Schleibaum. John Henry has definitely stepped it up vocally, as Townsend said in an interview, he now pronounces his consonants; intead of going "BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA BLAAAAA BLAAAAAAAAAA" he goes "BLAAAAA BLAAAAAA BLAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRT." They are intense, emotive, and easily understood, which is always a plus when reading along.
Speaking of lyrics, the band has definitely stepped it up in the lyrics department. As pointed out by AMG's review, they have turned away from fish-in-a-barrel topics like religious and government corruption, the prescribed society, and apathy. On "Undoing Ruin," the band turns inward and introspective, and they add an element of hope to every song, a nice welcome change from the negativity of their previous albums, and metal in general.
The differences between the production of this record and "Hidden Hands" are like night and day. Where "Hidden Hands" was just a cacophony of drums and guitars and vocals all competing against each other for the listener's attention, a mindless drubbing that really grated on the listener after a while, this album's production is virtually flawless. It's crystal clear, sharp, and every instrument is given its own space. There's also an epic feel that permeates the record, which is no doubt the work of Townsend's production. It is at least three heads above all of Darkest Hour's past efforts.
In short, this album is amazing. It's too short (37:49), but this is a great thing; it makes me want more, while "Hidden Hands" was overlong and got me sick of the band. "Undoing Ruin" is by far the best Darkest Hour has ever done in every aspect, and easily one of my top 5 of 2005.
With a Thousand Words to Say But One
This Will Outlive Us
Sound the Surrender
These Fevered Times
Darkest Hour may be looked over by "true" metalheads because of the Victory Records logo on their albums. The label does not make the band. Darkest Hour seem to have poured their hearts out to create their latest effort, Undoing Ruin. This album is filled with great riffs and songs, as a whole. The band establishes more of a "Swedish" sound, as many would say, with less "hardcore" than before. This album is balls-out intensity - John Henry screams throughout the entire album - this doesn't ruin the music, it further intensifies it - over the dual guitar harmonies (in thirds, of course).
The album starts off with the thrashy "With a Thousand Words..." which will definitely catch an ear. Then, appropriately, follows to the more epic and melodic "Convalescence". I am sure that many thrash metal fans will adore "This Will Outlive Us" - the song just blasts in with one of those random-ass thrashy solos (fucking awesome). There are a few soft spots on the album, like, "Pathos", which sets a sense of equilibrium to the album.
I know for sure that I can recommend this album (or band) to any fan of the Gothenburg-style or, generally, melodic music. This release is definitely a hit. There is only one complaint: it is too short (37:45)! Cheers to Darkest Hour!