Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora (Released March 10, 2017 – Southern Lord Recordings)
The world of metal is greatly encumbered by over defining the pursuit of extremity and individuality. Everything is blackened or post-something or an unholy conglomeration of several subgenres leaving us listening to Post Progressive Jazz Fusion Blackened Death Metal… which, come to think of it, is decent characterization of what Behold… The Arctopus does. Anyway, this brings us to Darkest Hour who are simple to define; metalcore. Plain, simple American metalcore; the combination of hardcore and Gothenburg melodic death metal. I am not embarrassed to admit but, I am embarrassed that there is cause for embarrassment in saying; I like metalcore. I understand the distaste with safe for radio metal; the good cop/bad cop vocal delivery, the poorly ripped off Gothenburg riffs, and the overproduction but, what about when it is done right? I point to Trivium’s career-defining masterpiece, Shogun, when people lump all metalcore as pure trash but, yes, back to the point: I will not be pointing to Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora to argue about metalcore but it is a fine display of the genre done right.
More accustomed to Darkest Hour’s melodic side, such as 2007’s Deliver Us, Knife in the Safe Room was a surprise opening. Purest hardcore, the opening track put aside melodicism for destruction and a blistering solo. The wall of noise gave way to This is the Truth where Mike Schleibaum’s big riffs took over. Looping over the pounding drums the riffs provided a bright foil to John Henry’s hardcore delivery. In the middle, a feel solo broke free, not attacking just playing over a ringing plucked rhythm. Angular and sludgy the riffs on Timeless Numbers were Mastodon-ish in approach but, were underutilised as rests broke the track up in awkward ways. Instead of playing through, the riffs would pause and allow the vocals and drums to mix to unsatisfying results. Crashing back into hardcore, None of this is the Truth opened with windmill headbang inducing riffs but braked, allowing an atmospheric guitar to mix with cavernous drumming. The Flesh & The Flowers of Death was dark and doomy but highlighted with an exquisite harmonising solo as the two guitars traded sections back and forth and added to the other at perfect moments. The mid-album instrumental is a finicky beast to conquer yet Darkest Hour did just that with Widowed. Like clouds clearing after a rain, the track was bright and uplifting in its marrying of dual acoustic guitars and light electric soloing which approached a classical feel.
The back half of Godless Prophets did not blow away the front half but, it was decidedly better developed and left me with a good taste in my mouth. Enter Oblivion opened the ending quartet with some pomp as a synthy lead played over slow riffs before giving way to pure metalcore riffing. The drum solo to open The Last of the Monuments was a nice break from the riff driven structure and the down tuned guitars were extra noticeable. Guttural sludgy guitar drops synced with the melodic riffs and gave the track an added depth. This mix of harshness and beauty played to the end of the track as the hardcore vocals spewed atop an atmospheric outro. Sterile and machine-like, the intro to In the Name of Us All had an Autechre/Factory floor feel to it but, promptly exited the electronic music field by diving headlong into hardcore. Elephant marching riffs gave way to a spastic off-kilter solo which writhed about with no rhyme or reason. Light strumming and a groovy drum fill introduced the dirtiest riff on Godless Prophets as Beneath It Sleeps demands final attention. Attention is held for most of the track with a great breakdown and inspired soloing but, is lost in closing as the track exits with over 90 seconds of feedback.
I did not expect much going in Godless Prophets and came away pleased. The true metal solos, the shred, the blistering runs, the pure feel were all heartening to hear done well and honestly, metalcore riffing can be gorgeous and Mike Schleibaum is a master of a good metalcore riff. Some variation in the vocal delivery would have been nice as the album was lyric heavy, angsty of course, and the hardcore scream got tiresome. I enjoyed Godless Prophets as each track was an individual and the final four tracks pushed the album from average to just above.