Darkness Risng: The Tale Of Derek Blackheart
Released: 2013, Dead Alien Productions
This is the second of my three reviews this month from Florida bands, and former Florida bands (Artizan and Iced Earth are the other two). Absolon hails from my own back yard, here in Orlando, Florida and yet I had never heard of them. After listening to DARKNESS RISING, I am glad that I did. These fellas gotta work on the marketing and promotional front though, because they deserve a wide audience. Founded by Ken Pike, a former vocalist for the 80s glam metal band Malachia, which released two albums in the middle and latter 80s. His new band is a completely different direction, as Absolon draws its inspiration from worthy bands such as Queensryche, Kamelot, Iron Maiden and others.
One listen to the opening riff to the title track and I was taken back to Crimson Glory’s heyday, an unmentioned but unmistakable inspiration for much of Absolon’s sound. DARKNESS RISING is a concept album and a morality tale, featuring the not so unusual story of a musician that sells his soul for for fame and fortune. The concept is inspired by Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, where Derek Blackheart’s soul becomes the portrait of himself that ages, but he never does. There are quick narrative snippets that help propel the story along while the music is varied and changes to reflect the mood and chronology of the story line. Composed of 16 tracks, at around 50 minutes, there is much to digest and absorb. Fortunately, it is all good, this being about one of the better marriages of retro US power metal and Euro-power metal elements with modern ideas.
Pike possesses one of those unique voices that give him an immediate identity, bearing similarities to Matt Barlow, particularly in the lighter, more balladic tunes. Independently produced, the expected compression and lack of brightness are present, but it is barely noticeable as the band has done a satisfactory job in making this sound as good as possible within the budget limitations. “Devastation Suffocation” is a catchy, mid-paced tune that features some progressive keyboard work and helps lend it a Euro/US power metal feel. I consider it one of the finest moments on an album with no shortage of worthy material. While the ballads are of a high quality, there are perhaps too many of them, no doubt helping to carry the story but at times at the cost of momentum. This is a minor gripe though.
I have to say that I am impressed. A more expensive production would really have made some of these songs shine, because even as they stand, this is an album I have been listening to tons of times lately. The unwavering commitment to purity of metal, a style that no American label will touch, deserves the attention of a bigger label like Pure Steel. There are so many positives that the few negatives are easily overlooked. If you are a fan of Crimson Glory, Queensryche, Iron Maiden and melodic, tough power metal, you are gonna love Absolon.