Reviewed: May, 2022
Released: 2022, Edged Circle Productions
Reviewer: Simon Wiedemann
Darkened are a death metal band on Edged Circle Productions, who will be releasing their highly anticipated sophomore album ‘The Black Winter’ on 27th May, 2022 on CD and vinyl LP formats. With their debut full length album ‘Kingdom of Decay’, the group exploded onto the scene. That was completely as expected with their lineup. Their drummer has played with Memoriam, and Bolt Thrower; the vocalist has sung with Ye Goat-Herd Gods; the guitarists have played with A Canorous Quintet and many others; and the bassist has played with Grave. Since forming, they have kept their signature sound with crushing riffs, and heavy grooves. However, they have since added more atmosphere to their style.
Those who are familiar with Bolt Thrower will know the drumming in much of their work is fairly sloppy to put it mildly. Some might say it was often rubbish. Thank God the drummer has his act together with the album being discussed, though that could be because he’s overly reliant on computers to sound ‘perfect’. I on the other hand, think he sounds beefy and exciting, yet plain dishonest. The riffs in the album aren’t tech death-styled, but they’re not always as basic as the stuff in BT either. So if you like a middle ground, these guys could be for you. Many of the riffs sound uncreative and some seem kind of recycled, however. For example, the chromatic trill style riffs that descend in ‘Black Winter’ brings to mind Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ and similar songs, only BW is faster. It’s far from a total rip off, but the musical approach is similar. There are next to no moments in the album where DM veterans would think to himself ‘Wow. That’s new’.
‘Swallowed by the World’ has some slowish neoclassical metal flavours which are perhaps the strongest moments of the LP or at least the most complex, and the way they merge with the more standard DM is impressive, but it’s a shame they don’t get much development. A fairly similar sound comes back in the final track, but arguably for not long enough. The far more common dark Arabic scales in the album bring to mind Behemoth, so it’s not as if Darkened are ripping just one band off, which would be a terrible idea, but most will know such scales are typical, too. Why not do something like Marty Friedman would do, and go Japanese? To be more positive, I always thought the solos in the Bolt sucked a little, but thankfully the lead parts are more skilled, here. They’re not THAT skilled, but they do at least add to the material rather than making it worse.
At the 2 minute 52 second mark, in the song ‘Flayed’, the singer seems to do a death metal yawn, which is a very interesting idea. Other than that however, the cookie monster style growls add almost nothing new to the genre, whatsoever. Why not have death metal sighs and sneezes? Come on, SOMEONE has to do something new, as the vocal style has barely changed at all in over 30 years! Having said that, arguably his voice is richer and more powerful than most. It may be a bit theatrical and maybe even ever so slightly cheesy for some rather than truly disturbing, but who’s to say DM can’t be fun?
In conclusion, this is heavy and exciting stuff, but there’s little else to compliment. Luckily death metal can often rely on heaviness and thrills alone, but why not be invigorating in 5/4 to the sound of Japanese war cries, for example? Arabia isn’t the only dark place in the world, you know? The relentless, low pitched power chords chugs of varying speeds perhaps couldn’t be any less unique, but higher pitched guitar melodies on top of them stop the music from being poor. There are some nice eerie atmospheres in the opening of Fearful Quandary for example, and they do get developed later on in the track, but it’s not enough. I was hoping for Fear Factory style clean singing to be mixed with the growls to add depth to the music, but they never came. On the whole, I wouldn’t say the album is disappointing, but I certainly wouldn’t say you have to get it right now. (Then again, it’s not available right now. But you know what I mean).