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Reformed, revamped and reborn - 70%

TrooperOfSteel, May 17th, 2011

Germany's gothic metal band Darkseed have been in the metal scene for quite some time now and have been slowly but surely climbing the ladder of success with every album they've released. Similar in style to fellow gothic metallers Crematory, the last few Darkseed CDs have been some of their best, particularly 'Ultimate Darkness', which I had ranked in the top five best metal albums for 2005. So five years and a few line up changes later, Darkseed have returned with their latest album (their seventh), entitled 'Poison Awaits'.

Turmoil struck the band just a year after the release of 'Ultimate Darkness', when lead vocalist Stefan Hertrich (who had been with the band from day one) decided to part ways with his fellow members. The departure sent the band into a tailspin and as a result split up, but fortunately it was only temporarily. All members returned in 2008 to reform the band, except for bassist Martin Motnik, who was eventually replaced by Michael Behnke about a year later. As for vocal duties, that honour went to former Darkseed background vocalist (and drummer) Harald Winkler. Winkler was in the band between 1992 and 1996 and played drums on Darkseed debut album 'Midnight Solemnly Dance'. The return of a past band member has given Darkseed a kind of re-birth, with new confidence and passion within. How would it translate into the new album is a different kettle of fish however.

'Poison Awaits' is the latest album and with the changes being made in the last few years, as a result Darkseed have evolved further (yet again), and are more of a typical commercialised gothic metal band. Now that Stefan Hertrich has departed, so have his aggressive but clean vocals. Winkler is a somewhat similar vocalist, quite sombre and soft, but can also become fairly strong and sharp. The style of music too has changed on the new CD. If 'Ultimate Darkness' is anything to go by (I consider it to be their heaviest album since they became a true gothic metal band), then 'Poison Awaits' no longer has that aggression which bellowed out of every track on the previous album. The gothic metal on 'Poison Awaits' is mellower but also still quite electronic, as it is usually the case with most commercial gothic rock/metal bands. There are still vast parts throughout the disc that contains heavy down-tuned guitars, atmospheric keyboards, deep bass and aggressive vocals; which should still keep the old school Darkseed fans happy.

My only gripe with the new changes of the band's sound and in particular their song-writing, is that I feel that the album is possibly 2-3 tracks too long. I say this because there a few tracks which sound quite similar and have the same core structures. So towards the end of the disc, these songs begin to all sound the same and the interest in the CD that was high at the start of the disc begins to peter out. 'Poison Awaits' contains 12 tracks, but I feel that maybe 10 would have been a perfect number.

Fortunately for Darkseed, they still know how to write some kick ass tracks, and it is that reason why 'Poison Awaits' is a very good album. Take the opener "Roads" as a prime example. "Roads" is a typically heavy gothic metal track saturated in keyboards and electronica. The track is quite catchy, due to the kick ass riffs and the creative keyboards, and is well followed up by the second track "Incinerate". Another killer track, "Incinerate" is quite speedy with a memorable chorus. Again the riffs and keyboards are the standout, while Harald Winkler puts in an excellent performance on vocals. Somewhat similar to Stefan Hertrich, Winkler's delivery is what every gothic metal fan wants to hear; soft and emotional but also gruff and menacing.

Rounding out the better tracks on the album are as follows: "All is Vanity", which is heavy and aggressive, yet also melodic (reminding me of fellow gothic metal band, Deathstars). "Black Thrones" is a darker edged slower track, which sounds very much like the Darkseed of the past from previous albums like 'Astral Adventures' or 'Diving Into Darkness'. "A Dual Pact" is another grinding heavy guitar driven slower track with melody and eeriness, while "No Promise In The Heavens" is an up-beat, eletronica filled heavy and aggressive-natured track (particularly from the vocals), which IMO is one of the best tracks on the album as it is so damn catchy and very well crafted.

Even though 'Poison Awaits' is a very good CD, I do feel that due to the line-up changes and song-writing changes which has occurred, that Darkseed have lost a fair amount of their identity. Before this released Darkseed has a quite unique sound, but now they sound like a mix of many other gothic metal bands currently out there. Maybe a bit of polish has come away from Darkseed since the changes made, but almost every gothic metal fan should find 'Poison Awaits' quite enjoyable. Fans of Charon, Poisonblack, Crematory, Entwine, To/Die/For and Deathstars should be very interested in this band if they are not already.

Originally reviewed for www.metalcdratings & www.themetalforge.com

Guyliner, not glitter - 70%

autothrall, July 27th, 2010

I've always held a fondness for the more catchy strains of Gothic metal keeping the fires lit for the genre's popularity across Europe, and Darkseed have always been an act I've kept my eyes and ears on. The band has followed a very similar course to the British gods Paradise Lost, though the Germans' origins were slightly more upbeat. Albums like Midnight Solemnly Dance, Spellcraft, and Give Me Light all featured memorable songcraft, but beyond that the band took a turn for the more accessible, radio ready fare that very much mirrored your Draconian Times or One Second. The same use of mid paced rockers, big choruses, and Hetfield-like vocals were dominant in these eras, and still...these were not bad albums.

So really, I was not taken aback when I first listened to this record and thought of Paradise Lost's 2002 album Symbol of Life, which I truly adored. Darkseed's got a new frontman here named Harald Winkler who reminds me a lot of Nick Holmes, with perhaps a touch of accent leading off as he winds through the deeper, masculine baritones and the upper range with its slightly swerving melodies. Do not mistake me, he is not a carbon copy, he just uses a similar inflection, which to be fair fits the music perfectly. The remainder of the band have returned from the previous record Ultimate Darkness, five years ago, with the exception of a new bassist, and it is just Thomas Herrmann sticking around from the band's early 90s period.

Poison Awaits does not lead off with its best piece, of that I am certain. "Roads" is a pretty standard chord progression which is merely a warm-up for far better material to come, eclipsed even by the second song "Incinerate", which weaves cutesy keyboard lines through the steady if predictable, rocking chords. If you love Paradise Lost's late 90s or 21st century material before reverting back to their heavier side in recent years, or if you fancy the Finnish male-fronted Gothic metal scene of Charon, Entwine, To/Die/For and the like, you're probably going to like this one. If you don't love that style, then you will have already have fled from the album from "Roads", so carry on. It's pretty catchy, and I'm also reminded of fellow Germans Crematory, although Darkseed does not make use of the guttural vox. Title track "Poison Awaits" is the next at bat, with waves of electro body music morphing into some desperate, melodic synthesizer lines over an even harder driving rhythm.

"Seeds of Sorrow" sees Winkler in a deeper tone not unlike Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell, but far less cryptic and far more accessible. It seems somewhat like a Dreadful Shadows track, with the slow build to the surge of power chords. "All is Vanity" ups the ante with some rasped vocals that accompany the pre-chorus lyrics, and "Black Throne" is pretty pure Paradise Lost worship with more silly putty synthesizers dreaming beneath the crushing guitar tone, but its once again very catchy. The latter half of the album features a handful of ear-catchers like "A Dual Pact" and "Striving for Fire", and I really liked the melancholic piano gone metal ballad "Torn to Shatters".

Poison Awaits is nearly an hour long, but most of the tracks deliver the mopey Gothic goods, especially if you're into their past few efforts like Diving Into Darkness or Astral Adventures. "Roads" is probably the least interesting here, so I'm curious why the band wanted to shove it up front. The mix is well done, modern and clear studio sound which hangs at the standards set by many other bands of this genre like Theater of Tragedy and Charon. There is very little ambition in the guitar playing or song structure, and in fact they are preened for verse/chorus song sensibility to a fault, rarely venturing forth beyond some slightly tasty bridge segments. But these are not common traits for the style, and thus Darkseed are preaching to the choir. If you tend to hate this genre of male-fronted, Gothic metal with deep vocals and keyboards, then I see no reason your opinion would be changed by this latest effort. But if you keep a closet full of Crematory, Dreadful Shadows, and the less doomy Paradise Lost records, this is clearly for you. It's still not a Spellcraft or a Give Me Light, but it will have to suffice.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com