posted on 2/2009 By:
I must admit, I approached Demonic Art with some pretty hefty expectations. Darkane have become a pretty storied band over the course of their eleven-year existence; they’re easily among the leading lights of modern (read: non-retro) thrash metal, and I consider 2005’s Layers of Lies something of an unheralded masterpiece. Since then, the band’s revolving-door vocal spot has turned over yet again—Andreas Sydow, who helped propel Layers to such heights, has been replaced by soundalike Jens Broman (also of The Defaced, amongst others). Darkane seem to have reacted to their new singer by slightly adjusting the balance of their sound, pushing more soaring choruses and toning down the flensing guitar work that characterized their past few albums. This shift doesn’t work entirely in their favor; while Demonic Art constitutes a damn solid metal release, it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.
None of Darkane’s defining characteristics have disappeared in the four years since their last album. Demonic Art brings another dose of off-kilter but accessible modernist thrash featuring a seemingly bottomless battery of convoluted but melodic riffage paired with stupidly tight musicianship. Peter Wildoer continues to reign as perhaps the most versatile and compelling drummer in thrash; not only can he keep up breakneck skunk beats and dive into lockstep grooves, but he’s still capable of bouncing around time signatures with Meshuggah-like abandon on tracks like “Absolution” and “Execution 44.” As before, Darkane has more than a bit of prog rock in their sound, with plenty of keyboard textures and occasional forays into contemplative soloing and exaggerated symphonics, as seen on the introductory “Variations on an Eye Crush.” For his part, Jens Broman does an admirable job filling the departed Mr. Sydow’s shoes; he almost perfectly mimics Sydow’s tone and delivery, despite the occasional lyrical foot-in-mouth moment (do admonitions like “life’s too short to walk around pissed” really belong on a thrash album?).
Darkane’s formula mostly works, and sometimes works spectacularly—tracks like “Impetuous Constant Chaos,” with its barnstormer main riff and perfectly executed solo break, serve as reminders that this band is capable of absolutely embarrassing the rest of the thrash community with their skill. At times, though, Darkane sound like they’ve gotten a little lazy with age. “Leaving Existence,” the album’s first ‘real’ song, would be solid enough coming from Carnal Forge or Dew Scented, but I can’t help but feel like that main riff doesn’t stand up to some of the more inspired moments on Demonic Art. At the same time, the band has focused on their penchant for huge, soaring, SYL-styled choruses. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing—said choruses are one of the best parts of Darkane’s sound—their increased prominence seems to restrict the band’s songwriting to more conventional pastures, and I can’t help but think that they’re trying to compensate for the slightly diminished guitar work.
Of course, these are all fairly superficial complaints in the grand scheme of things, and those who’ve never heard Darkane or only tried out their earliest albums will probably be blown away by Demonic Art. Nevertheless, I’ve got the nagging feeling that there’s something missing from this album, and ultimately I’ve got no choice but to conclude that these guys are just a bit past their prime. Good effort, but greatness has eluded Darkane this time around.
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Layers of Lies
Rusted Angel (Remastered & Reissued)