posted on 1/2008 By:
When I started this job, way back last month, I went through the review queue and signed up for a few records by bands I’d heard of, bands about which I already had preconceptions and things to say. I also signed up for a few records by bands I’d never heard. I figured what’s the point of being a reviewer if not to be exposed to new bands, right? I got burned by that Incendiant record (pardon the pun), but that’s the price you pay. When I signed up for this album, based on the band’s name, I figured it was some bullshit goth-metal, some half-hearted pompous drivel with a female singer and three cellists, and I clearly didn’t have particularly high hopes… So with a cold Yuengling in my hand and those lowered expectations, I sat down to be thoroughly and pleasantly surprised by Darkshine’s brand of blackened death.
This quartet comes from France, and if you’re an infant or you’ve been in a coma for the past few years, you might still be unaware that the French metal scene has been getting quite a bit of attention. I’ll say it up front: nothing on Ten Years will challenge the genre-expanding work of Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega or the genre-jumping excellence of Yyrkoon, but what is here is exceptionally well-done. Darkshine may never step out of the shadow of their more adventurous countrymen, but they’re certainly worthy of more attention than they’re getting.
Ten Years is a compilation of (you guessed it) ten years’ worth of material, two new tracks plus selections from two demos, 2004’s Stigma Diaboli and 2001’s Lupus Infernorum. Although this is fundamentally death metal, the more recent the recordings, the more they push further into melodic black metal—there’s plenty of dissonant mid-range riffing, and there’s a general eeriness that’s most noticeable on the Stigma Diaboli tracks. When I say death metal, this isn’t mile-a-minute Brodequin-styled nonstop blasting—this is purposefully paced classic death, a la Morbid Angel, Grave, Vader, and the like. Throughout the album, vocalist Bruno never strays from his classic death growl, so the vocals serve as a counterbalance to the increasingly black instrumentation. Darkshine also exhibits a developed sense of melody that at times reminds me strongly of Dismember’s use of catchier riffs. Since Ten Years is a compilation album arranged in reverse chronological order, the production suffers as the album progresses, but that’s to be expected. Any shortcomings in production are made more palatable by the simple fact that, conversely, many of the older songs are slightly more interesting than their more-recent, better-produced brethren.
Where Ten Years really (dark)shines is on the three songs from Stigma Diaboli. (There are four tracks from Stigma on hand, but the first entry, “We Invoke,” is just an ambient intro.) “Sanguis Christi” is an evil little piece with a haunting chanted vocal line, and “En La Cruz” follows it into the heart of darkness. (Both of them are tailor-made for the soundtrack of some religious-themed horror flick.) The instrumental “Ancestral Beliefs” is my personal favorite moment of the entire album. (No offense, Bruno.) The lack of vocals allows the guitars to step up, and it’s here that the band really shows its mettle. (It’s also the bit that reminds me most of Dismember’s recent Maiden-leaning moments like “Phantoms (Of The Oath).") The harmonized guitar lead in the first section is one of the best catchy death riffs I’ve heard in many a moon, and the song continues to build on that before it breaks down into a brief acoustic moment that’s quickly doubled by returning electric guitars, and then it’s back to that catchy-as-hell riff again… Ah, the sound of instrumental melodic death metal glory. Although not an instrumental, the following track, “Vseslav,” employs a similar and equally successful structure, with a chugging main riff and a much lengthier acoustic breakdown in the center.
The bottom line: Darkshine blends its death metal heritage with enough blackness to appeal to fans of both styles, and the band’s songwriting skills make this a disc that has already seen a few repeat visits to my player. Unfortunately, Darkshine remains unsigned, and the band members are all active in other projects, so I fear that new recordings may be some time off. Let’s hope not.
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