Released: 2017, Southern Lord Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
D.C. heavyweights Darkest Hour have been around long enough to learn from their mistakes. And they made kind of a big one with their self-titled eighth album in 2014 by taking a stab at a more mainstream metal sound.
While not an epic fail by any stretch, its less aggressive, far more melodic approach was rather out of character and smacked a bit of desperation after nearly 20 years as underground stalwarts. And it no doubt left fans wondering if it marked a turn toward In Flames-like pedestrian thud – or was just a one-off aberration, an experiment.
With Godless Prophets, Darkest Hour answer that question rather emphatically right off the bat with “Knife In The Safe Room,” a rampaging ditty that recalls the “Swe-death” meets hardcore sound of 2003's breakthrough Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation. It's an abrupt and resounding punch right on the nose that wipes away whatever “modern metal” bad taste was left from last time with one swing, and the band just keep pounding away from there.
With frontman John Henry's voice back to its former full-throated roar full-time - breaking stride only momentarily on “The Last of the Monuments” - even the mid-tempo chug of, for example, “Timeless Numbers” and “Enter Oblivion” have a viciousness that cannot be denied. And when the band kick up the tempos, grab a helmet and shoulder pads. It's gonna to be a violent ride.
“This Is The Truth” and its seeming counterpart “None of This Is The Truth” race along at an At The Gates-like gait with quick, clipped riffs to boot. And where “The Flesh & The Flowers Of Death” and “Another Headless Ruler Of The Used” counter their velocity with resounding hookiness, “In The Name Of Us All” and “Those Who Survived” steamroll right along. And with producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou giving it all a good balance of abrasiveness, crunch and clarity, Godless Prophets hits that much harder.
In recapturing the manic energy of old, Darkest Hour haven't lost sight of the melodic flair they've developed over the years. Fast and furious as most of them are, the songs here are undeniably catchy, even if they might not be as accessible as they were on the previous album. But they are as focused as they are furious, and the album is anything but a mere exercise in nostalgic aggression.
Not sure if all this was all part of the bargain of the crowdfunding campaign that paid for Godless Prophets' recording, but if so, the folks who ponied up sure got their money's worth . For anyone else, the album is a reminder of just what a formidable band Darkest Hour was – and is once again. It's an ass-ripping return to form in every sense of term.