Sound — 8
For several years, metalcore has had to endure the polarizing "love it or hate it" stigma, but now, the bigger problem it faces at this point is its bubble bursting due to oversaturation (a parallel could be drawn between this and the U.S. housing crisis of 2008, but that would require a lengthy tangent that no one has time for). Because of this oversaturation, there may be no statement less stimulating than "check out this new metalcore band," and because of that, it's tough to be a new metalcore band and have anybody give a damn - knowing about this full and well, Darkness Divided still decided to go for it anyway. What simply started as three brothers and their hobby of performing contemporary Christian music would lead to them acquiring drummer Israel Hernandez and performing as a metalcore outfit in 2010. In 2012, they recorded and self-released their debut EP, "Chronicles," which successfully turned some heads towards Darkness Divided in the interest of wanting to hear more from them. Most importantly, Victory Records would take notice of the fresh young band in light of "Chronicles," and Darkness Divided would sign with the label to release their debut album, "Written in Blood."
Due to the extra oomph that "Chronicles" contained in comparison to standard metalcore releases, Darkness Divided may be better defined as a deathcore band rather than metalcore (as if deathcore doesn't have its own stigma to endure), but aside from the nuances of genre labels, the point of the matter is that Darkness Divided wield more than the run-of-the-mill metalcore bands. While of course bearing the metalcore staples of chugging sections and breakdowns, Darkness Divided make sure to add more to the fold; they spice up the chugging rhythms with fret-frenetic technical lead lines in "A Well Run Dry," "Eternal Thirst" and "Remnants," and diversify the breakdowns by pairing them with guitar solos in "Withering Kingdom," "The Will of Man" and "Divine Mercy." Lead riffs in "A Well Run Dry" and "Eternal Thirst" bear classical composition inspiration akin to Chiodos lead riffs, and you can catch a whiff of All That Remains and Killswitch Engage influences in the tracks that primarily lean towards melodic death metal, like "The Shepherd's Hands," "The Hands That Bled," "Eternal Thirst," "The Will of Man" and "Divine Mercy." And with almost every song having numerous tempo-shifts (but most admirably in "A Well Run Dry," "Remnants" and "The Will of Man"), "Written in Blood" also bears a bit of resemblance to the schizophrenic songwriting of The Fall Of Troy or Every Time I Die. Simply put, there's a lot more going on throughout "Written in Blood" than in a typical metalcore album.
Lyrics — 6
It shouldn't take more than one glance at the front-and-center stigmata on the album cover to figure out that "Written in Blood" will deal exclusively with Christian themes, and there's little to no room for anything otherwise on the album. Primarily, "Written in Blood" addresses that people's lives exist because of Jesus' sacrifice and that no matter what struggles we go through in this life, we're always eligible for salvation because of Jesus' sacrifice. Frontman Gerard Mora states his raison d'être as a Christian in "The Hands That Bled" and "Remnants," while he shares his contrary stance on the modern, this-worldly-oriented mentalities in "Withering Kingdom" and "The Will of Man," and calls for God's intervention in "A Well Run Dry" and "Divine Mercy." No matter where you turn on "Written in Blood," you'll run into Christian-fueled lyrics, and while Christian-fueled lyrics aren't the toughest and most original to write, Darkness Divided are indeed committed to the messages they want to convey, and for those that enjoy religion-based lyrics, "Written in Blood" will certainly satisfy.
Overall Impression — 8
To make a debut metalcore album in 2014 that actually matters, a band needs to make a strong impression, and the impression that Darkness Divided's "Written in Blood" makes is akin to a new outlaw in the Wild West loudly kicking the saloon doors wide open. "Written in Blood" is quick to grab the listener's attention, and in contrast to stock metalcore albums that grow stale after fifteen minutes or so, "Written in Blood" is strong enough to keep its grasp on the listener until the end; though for those that aren't into heavy Christian themes in music, the lyrics may prove to be a dealbreaker. Musically, however, "Written in Blood" not only shows Darkness Divided standing tall amongst the drove of other young metalcore bands, but it also calls out older metalcore bands that have made inferior albums to "Written in Blood." But although it may inadvertently tell older bands to step their game up, it also beckons Darkness Divided to do the same. With the release of this debut album, there will be a lot more anticipation for Darkness Divided's follow-up album and how they'll make it better, but perhaps it's best to worry about that bridge when the band actually reaches it; for now, enjoy the fact that "Written in Blood" is a metalcore album that strives beyond remedial and successfully reaches exceptional.