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Killer compilation of re-recorded tracks - 95%

justinbean, May 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Witching Hour Productions

Re-recording early tracks, sometimes decades later, is always a risky business. Particularly with metal - which as a genre tends to attract fans who are deeply concerned with authenticity - a band has a lot to lose when revisiting old material. Exodus, for example, recorded an updated version of their seminal album Bonded by Blood, and it was universally panned for good reason. Youthful energy and enthusiasm is damn near impossible to replicate. And yet, not so with Dark Age.

What we have here is a re-recording of Vader's first full-length The Ultimate Incantation. The songs were recorded across different studio sessions, some in 2007, others in 2011 and 2017, and the song order is the same as is found on The Ultimate Incantation. Like I said, re-recording old material is a risky affair, but perhaps because The Ultimate Incantation doesn't have quite the same classic status as we'd find with an Entombed or Dismember this makes it easier to remain open-minded when encountering old material made new. On the same token, I don't think a re-recording of De Profundis would go over nearly as well.

On Dark Age we can hear the roots of what would spread into an entire localized genre, Polish death metal, but refracted through the sort of clean and modern production that we've heard from Vader since Impressions in Blood. Riffs that bleed from thrash into grinding, blasting death metal and back again are accompanied by Peter's unique, caveman-like growl, and as a whole the underlying and everflowing groove which accompanies the best of Vader's songwriting is on full display here in a way that was hinted at but not fully developed on The Ultimate Incantation. We also get to hear Vader's three most recent drummers on a single album, and the remarkable consistency of each player means you barely notice when you've moved onto a track from a different session. What is in the water in Poland that gives them such an abundance of insanely good drummers? Fuck.

Vader has spent years honing their ever tighter and more sophisticated brand of thrash-inflected death metal, and their musicianship has become razor sharp. This was not quite the case on The Ultimate Incantation, despite the clearly talented young band having at the time written a batch of absolutely solid songs for a debut album. And so it is refreshing to hear the early tracks played by musicians now at the height of their skill and confidence, and the result is a new album of old songs that combines the best of old and new Vader.

Dan Seagrave looks to have reworked his killer artwork from The Ultimate Incantation for Dark Age, released, I should note, by Witching Hour Productions, which always means a quality product in terms of packaging and aesthetics. That may also have the unfortunate side effect of making the CD hard to come by in the United States, but the tracks can be found on Witching Hour's bandcamp page, and the purchase is completely worth it for fans of Vader at essentially any stage in the band's long career.