Released: 2003, Victory Records
For those of you who have pigeonholed Victory Records as only a hardcore label – here is another reason not to pass up on a band just because you see them signed to the label – Darkest Hour! The style of metal played by this US 5-piece band on HIDDEN HANDS OF A SADIST NATION is melodic death metal… Gothenburg style. Fans of the more extreme sides of bands like Soilwork, Arch Enemy and In Flames are those who will most likely love Darkest Hour. Fans of these types of bands will also be interested to know that Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates), Peter Wichers (Soilwork), Anders Bjorler (The Haunted), and Marcus Suneson (The Crown) make guest appearances on the album.
The well-known producer Fredrick Nordstrom recorded HIDDEN HANDS OF A SADIST NATION at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden. So as you can guess, the album sounds great, especially with the drums sounds and guitars. The CD opens with a dose Soilwork inspired melodic death metal entitled “The Sadist Nation”. Unlike Soilwork, well newer Soilwork anyway, there are no clean vocals or big hooks on the chorus or really in any other of the album’s tracks. There are also no keyboards worth mentioning. The vocals are 100% pure anger with little to no deviation from the brutality. The oddly titled “Pay Phones And Pills” has a much better intro riff section before the song cuts in. The vocals are the same as the first track – the vocals are not big on variation. For me the rhythm guitars make up for the lack of variation in the vocals. Great riffing can be found on all the songs. One flaw with Darkest Hour is the minimal use of lead guitar. There are some leads, or melody lines, so it is clear they can play lead but they perhaps come from the school of thought where guitar solos represents wanking. I’m not sure what their reasons are, but the little bit of leads on here are good, there’s just way too little of them on the album. That’s one thing a band like Soilwork or Arch Enemy has above Darkest Hour with both Soilwork and Arch Enemy having exceptional lead solos. The solo on Darkest Hour’s “The Misinformation Age” is an example of what they could be doing in more places on the album. This track features a well-executed solo, even though it could have been longer! Lyrically, the band makes critical comments about the society in which they live (USA). Titles like “The Misinformation Age”, “Accessible Losses”, and “The Patriot Virus” will give you a hint at what some songs are about. The gem of this CD for me was actually one with no lyrics or vocals. That is the album’s closing track entitled “Veritas, Aequitas”. This clocks in at over 10mins and it finishes off the album in fine form. On my first listen I actually went back and played the closing track 2 extra times. After hearing the album several more times it is still my favorite track on the CD. It’s not an instrumental shred-fest or anything over the top. It’s just well played, composed and musically more diverse than the rest of the album (it even has a small bit of piano).
Although Darkest Hour may not offer anything different from what we’ve heard from other Gothenburg melodic death metal bands, they do play the style very well. Their strong point is their song writing ability and rhythm guitar playing. While they don’t focus on writing catchy choruses or hooks, they music is still melodic and well played. If they would have had more variation on the vocals and a lot more to offer in the lead guitar department, I would of rated this album higher. This was an enjoyable listen and when I step back and just listen to the CD without so much of a critical ear it is clearly worth checking out.