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Review

Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora Review

Band: Darkest Hour
Album: Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora
Label: Southern Lord
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Country: United States
Release Date: March 10th, 2017

Darkest Hour is arguably one of the most underrated bands formed during the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. From Washington, D.C., they started out as a hardcore punk band in the late 90s. But, 2001’s Mark of Judas marked a dramatic shift in their sound and they became one of America’s first melodic death metal bands. While still utilizing metalcore/hardcore screams, and even occasionally flirting with metalcore (their s/t) we can tell that in 2017, Darkest Hour has gone back to what they do best, delivering crushing riff upon riff.

Darkest Hour is one of the first “heavy” metal bands I ever listened to and they will always hold a very special place in my heart. However, that is not to say that I love all of their albums unquestionably, in fact, far from it. I love Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation, Undoing Ruin, and Deliver Us, but their 2009-2014 releases did not rise up to my expectations. The greater presence of metalcore in the three albums, particularly prevalent in the vocal department, was not quite my style. Thus, when I first put on their new release, I approached it with a sense of trepidation and prayed for the best.

I am glad to say that Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is a real return to form for Darkest Hour. Out go the angsty, whiny clean vocals and lyrics of their self-titled release, and here come the visceral screams of a man filled with rage. The sound of this album appears to be a fusion of the vocals heard in Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation and the guitarwork of Deliver Us. For people unacquainted with those records, Godless Prophets, in essence, is very technically-proficient melodic death metal. Mike Schleibaum and Michael Carrigan are back at it, writing aggressive, pummeling riffs, while somehow keeping everything melodic. As the guitars deliver their fair share of heaviness, John Henry is back at it, spitting out visceral, enraged lyrics, generally about nihilism, almost getting misanthropic at times. Finally, let’s not forget the improvement in the drum department, delivered to us by the one and only Travis Orbin. While we could always tell that he was a very competent drummer in the previous records, it is only in Godless Prophets that we see the full extent of his versatility. Switching between blast beats, normal “melodic” double-bass drumming, and even giving hints of jazz techniques, Travis may be one of the leading drummers in melodic death metal.

As I said before, John Henry’s primary lyrical topics revolve around nihilism and how humanity has no hope and is beyond saving. While this may sound very angsty, almost to the point of intolerability, believe me, give these lyrics a chance. They are a profound improvement from the truly angsty metalcore lyrics found on The Human Romance and their self titled. While lyrics of those two albums dealt a lot with heartbreak, sorrow, and regret, reflecting generic metalcore, the lyrical themes found on Godless Prophets, while quite negative, have a certain sense of acceptance, and giving a sense of hope within the darkness. Not your generic metalcore message of “things will get better with time” but more akin to “we’re all going down anyways, so live your life to the fullest!” No matter how dark the lyrics may seem, the overall feeling of them remains somewhat positive.

John Henry’s powerful vocal delivery is one of the main reasons why I enjoy Darkest Hour. Like heavier metalcore-esque bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan or August Burns Red, Henry’s vocal style is not for everyone. His choice of metalcore mid and high screams work beautifully to deliver the intense feelings of anger, anguish, and even fear. It is a very aggressive vocal style, and now that Henry is able to pronounce words clearly, he can easily articulate the meaning and feelings he wants to deliver with his lyrics.

Now, I am a tremendous fan of early melodic death metal, namely In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Arch Enemy, and from that perspective, Darkest Hour does not share many similarities with the aforementioned bands. Instead, while listening to Darkest Hour, you will come to realize that they emerged in the wake of Soilwork and At The Gates. Those two bands pioneered melodic death metal with screamed vocals in the place of growled ones, and while those two may have declined in quality, Darkest Hour has made a tremendous comeback.

So much so, in fact, that I find it to be quite hard to name the “best” songs from this album. However, if I had to choose, the four must-listen-to tracks would be “Timeless Numbers,” “Another Headless Ruler of The Used,” “Enter Oblivion, and “In The Name of Us All.” All of these songs feature fantastic performances from Henry and Orbin, but what really makes them stand out to me is the guitarwork in each of them. Schleibaum and Carrigan are truly a duo to be reckoned with. Much like Jesper Strömblad and Björn Gelotte from In Flames, the two guitarists in Darkest Hour switch between rhythm and lead quite a bit, which works wonders for this band. It gives them a real sense of depth and increases the melodic aspect of the music, making their presence huge.

While every track in this album features fast and aggressive riffing, “Timeless Numbers,” “Another Headless Ruler of The Used,” “Enter Oblivion, and “In The Name of Us All,” all feature incredible solos and vocal-guitar interplay. The solos are all smooth and quite technical, staying for just long enough to get you hooked, while not overstaying their welcome either. Another fun thing with these solos is that they range across a few different styles, from blues, to shred, to technical death metal, to beautiful In Flames-esque solos. They are truly a joy to listen to, and are one of the best aspects of Darkest Hour. As for the vocal-guitar interplay, on Godless Prophets in particular, the guitars seem to fit perfectly with John Henry’s vocals. Neither of them are distracting from one another, both the vocals and the guitarwork are very high quality, and they remain quite balanced, making for a fantastic listening experience.

If you’re a fan of screamed melodic death metal in the vein of Come Clarity-era In Flames, then this is a marvelous album to add to your collection. Even though the screamed, angry nature of the metalcore vocals can be a big turnoff to some listeners, as long as you can tolerate the vocal style and appreciate melodic guitar playing, there is very little to dislike about this album. The drumming in this record is also fantastic and it really pushes the speed and drives home the aggressive nature of this album. But, I would not recommend this to fans of “pure” death metal, or those who cannot tolerate screamed vocals. However, I highly recommend this album to those looking for good, modern melodic death metal. Those looking to become fans of Darkest Hour should definitely start with Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora, as this is quite possibly their best work to date.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Knife in the Safe Room
2. This Is the Truth
3. Timeless Numbers
4. None of This Is the Truth
5. The Flesh & The Flowers of Death
6. Those Who Survived
7. Another Headless Ruler of the Used
8. Widowed
9. Enter Oblivion
10. The Last of the Monuments
11. In the Name of Us All
12. Beneath It Sleeps

Total Playing Time: 44:53

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