posted on 12/2010 By:
Some bands are best served as a quick shot. Lancaster, PA traditionalists DarkBlack are a prime example. After a debut EP and subsequent long-player, the band is back yet again in brevity mode with Midnight Wraith, a 100% guitar-oriented trip back to the days of 70s Judas Priest and early Scorpions, filtered through the bluesy-and-bell-bottomed hard rock vibe that so benefits Witchcraft. Because of this slight stylistic duality, these songs may take time to really sink in, but the EP eventually reveals itself to be a strong example of melody-focused traditional heavy metal.
DarkBlack foregoes the massive arena atmosphere that many of their forbearers utilized, instead coming at the listener with a stripped-down sound more befitting of a small club; the live feel of the drumming best exemplifies this. This results in a sense that the band could shift gears into full jam mode at any time--a trait that may add to the learning curve for certain heavier-than-thou types--but the band doesn’t hippie out, and they wisely stay focused on concise rockin’. These five songs match NWOBHM-styled riffs with smart, sometimes off-melody twin guitar harmonies and some truly thrilling solo work. (The latter is especially nice on “Power Monger.”) The formula works well from the start but works best on later tunes that take on a slightly faster tempo, particularly the title track.
The focus of The Midnight Wraith is mainly on the axology, a wise move as vocalist (and bassist) Tim Smith suffers from a limited range, keeping choruses from reaching the memorable heights that they could and should. A strange production on the vocals--the only part of the presentation that feels processed--was undoubtedly meant to mask this limitation. Regardless, the songs are able to maintain enjoyment even when Smith finds himself in uncomfortable territory, a credit to the band’s chemistry as an instrumental unit.
One gets the impression that DarkBlack’s approach would run thin over 45 minutes as opposed to these 22, and not having heard their full-length, I’m not able to comment, but that is exactly the benefit of using the EP format. The Midnight Wraith is a quick shot that satisfies. A wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of solo-strewn heavy metal, if you will. This might not appeal to the younger generation as much as a Bible of the Devil-type act, but for the target crowd this is just pure enjoyment, no more and no less.
Special props have to be given for that cover artwork too. Bitchin’.
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