For almost twenty years, Darkest Hour has been a melodic death metal institution. Through various lineup changes, three labels, and seven records, the band has been through various fads in metal and still hold the torch high above their heads weathering through it all. Now we have arrived at album #8, appropriately self-titled. Why do I say that? Well all things considering, this record sounds like not only a new era for Darkest Hour but it also sounds like a new band entirely. Far for a bad thing however, as this happens to be one of the strongest records the band has ever put out.
The record signals a new sound for the band, the tried and true melodic death sound the band is well known for is still present but the sound has noticeably changed. Taking a more metalcore focused approach, the songs are much more melodic and the clean vocals are much prominent this time around. Surprisingly, this approach works extremely well for the band, benefiting from the band's excellent musicianship.
The track Futurist lays down this approach quite well, starting off with vocalist John Henry singing over a driving drum intro before kicking into a catchy metalcore melody. The amount of clean vocals in the song is quite a departure but also welcoming at the same time, benefiting from John's strong vocal performance. In fact, this record the strongest performance of his on a record to date, no small feat considering the work he's done before. The guitars soar in this song, giving the song quite the hook. It's the closest I can see the band have a certified hit and you know what, they deserve it.
The addition of Travis Orbin really makes itself known on this record. As much as I loved the work from their former long time drummer, Ryan Parish, Travis brings much more to the table than Ryan ever could. Bringing a more technical and heavy approach, Travis' drumming elevates the record to another level. Combined with the excellent guitar attack from Mike Schleibuam and Michal "Lonestar" Carrigan with Aaron Deal's noteworthy bass playing, this is the band at it's top proficiency.
Overall, the move to a more contemporary sound was a well-executed move. It's interesting to see the band move towards this far into their career but it's one that stands to reap massive benefits if all goes to plan. Darkest Hour has always been one of those bands that deserved to be at a higher level then they've been at, exceeding their peer musically but never getting ahead of them. This is more than a new sound however, this is a new and bold era for the band. One that can elevate the band to new heights, to where they should of been after all these years. While I'll hold onto those old records that I fell in love with a teenager, this record will sit right with them as one of the band's finest work.