Sound — 7
Darkest Hour originally formed in the mid '90s, and over time they've built up a fan base and have been moderately successful. They've survived multiple lineup changes, as well as changes in sound and style. The self-titled release, "Darkest Hour," is the eighth release by the band and was released on Sumerian Records. The album contains 13 tracks and a run time just under 50 minutes. This is the first album with Travis Orbin on drums and Aaron Deal on bass guitar. Darkest Hour is described as melodic death metal and metalcore, but basing their sound off of this self-titled release, neither label is correct - they are heavy metal with elements of several genres. They are much more upbeat than most bands in the genre, and are more commercial than their previous releases without really sacrificing any heaviness.
The album opens up with the track, "Wasteland," which opens the album up with a lot of energy, including gang vocals in the chorus. "Rapture in Exile" is a heavy track from beginning to end. "The Misery We Make" is one of the most lyrically interesting songs on the album, and actually has clean singing in the choruses by John Henry. This track has a really fun guitar solo in it, as well. "Infinite Eyes" has a really positive "major key" optimistic vibe to the intro, while also sounding very epic. "Futurist" opens up with clean vocals and musically almost sounding more like hard rock, which is really unusual for Darkest Hour, but the song isn't bad if you like that type of music. "The Great Oppressor" is a little too unfocused for me, but the chorus is fairly tame and catchy. "Anti-Axis" is a very metalcore type of song, and unfortunately sounds fairly generic in that context. "By the Starlight" features Draemings providing guest vocals on the track, and it is basically a "love" song about a fling, with the song ending on "I'm not the only one for you." "Lost for Life" has a lot of aggression in it, and also a really obnoxious pinch harmonic ringing out early in the song. Sorry, at some point of listening to Zakk Wylde I got my lifetime fill of pinch harmonics - I can't stand them in any music anymore. "The Goddess Figure" has a fairly clean opening, which builds up pretty quickly to very metalcore verses and clean melodic choruses. "Beneath The Blackening Sky" is another one of the more interesting songs, lyrically. It is also one of the heavier tracks on the album. With an acoustic intro, "Hypatia Rising" is a little bit of a change of pace for the album, but the change of pace really helped with my overall enjoyment of the album (though it definitely gets heavy for a large portion of the middle of the track). The album closes out with the track, "Departure," which takes a minute to get going, but once it does it is one of my favorite tracks from the album.
Lyrics — 7
Vocals are performed by founding member, John Henry, one of the two remaining founding members in the band (along with guitarist, Mike Schleibaum). John Henry has a pretty good growl as far as maintaining consistency. The rest of the band provides some clean backup vocals on several songs on the album, which definitely adds a different type of texture to the sound.
Here are some lyrics from the track, "Futurist": "Some fires will never die/ some will never ignite/ are you still living a lie/ or will you revel in the rest of your life/ with every blinding light/ I see the future inside/ and I feel it even when I'm away from you/ If I will you won't and if I do you don't/ and I'll do whatever you want/ whatever you want me to/ and I never listened when you told me/ that I could make everything disappear completely/ another ghost in your life/ another spirit in white/ forever wondering why/ I just wander in space and time/ some fires will never die/ some will never ignite/ are you still living a live/ or will you revel in the rest of your life/ that's when I knew/ you are the one for me/ and I'm the one for you/ I feel you right where I left you that night/ my ember lies/ separation of body and mind."
Overall Impression — 7
I think that when a band goes in a more commercial direction there is always going to be a tradeoff for what you're giving up to change your sound. I personally think the band lost a lot of their "bang" by trying to move in a more commercial direction, but I understand everybody has bills to pay. Unfortunately, Darkest Hour will almost certainly alienate some of their fans. My favorite tracks from the album are "Departure" and "The Misery We Make" and "By the Starlight." I didn't really dislike any tracks on the album, but that isn't to say they were all impressive either.