Label: Ulterium Records
Genre: Melodic Progressive Metal
Release Date: March 1st, 2019
Most people who listen to progressive metal are aware of the legacy that the legendary Dream Theater has left. Many smaller bands go on to try and replicate that classic DT sound and after hearing it so many times, it just leaves you feeling empty having to hear so many renditions of DT songs over and over again; enter Darkwater. I do not doubt that Darkwater will be compared to Dream Theater as I’m doing given the nature of the music, but I personally think that Darkwater have crafted their own sound throughout their career and have made that clear with Human. It is not entirely dismissible to compare Darkwater to Dream Theater but I will get it over with and just say that Darkwater have without a doubt dropped a stellar album that is leagues beyond those several Dream Theater albums which I will leave unnamed. You know which ones I am talking about.
Dream Theater is known for their musical complexity and wankery more often than not in every instrumental department. To many listeners, it appears that DT just want to show how good they are at writing overly complex and intricate passages at the expense of good song structure at times. With Human, Darkwater have written complex and very detailed songs at the same time remaining quite straightforward and easily digestible. As Leonardo Da Vinci says, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and Darkwater have surely taken that to heart, whether they were consciously aware of that when writing this monster of an album or not. Now enough about Dream Theater, this is Darkwater’s time to shine!
Everything about this album from the vocals, to the riffs and solos, the synths, and even the drums are done so tastefully that I cannot emphasize it enough. There was never a moment when listening to Human that I thought that there was a passage that was forced or out of place. Every single note, every melody and harmony, every slight detail is absolutely essential to this album. Although the total runtime is just shy of eighty minutes in length, each full listen just flies by as I am just so immersed in the music and all the nuances left for you to find throughout each song.
The intro track, A New Beginning, throws you right into the thick of it after the brief calming and peaceful piano introduction with the sudden change to chunky riffs and entrancing synths. The following song, In Front of You, is beyond catchy in more ways than one. The vocals and the synths come together on top of the heavy rhythm to provide one of the most headbanging choruses on the album. There are many songs throughout this monster of an album in which the keys/synths stand out from the rest of the band. Keyboardist Magnus Holmberg provides the most enthralling performance on this record as his parts are so satisfying to listen to and add another layer of emotion and depth on top of the rest of the band. On one song he will float on by with the soft piano and on other songs such as Insomnia, he creates this eerie and mysterious soundscape. Many of the songs even sound to be heavily symphonic at times and that is almost always a good thing. I could very rarely predict what was coming next and I love it when music is that way.
Reflection of a Mind is the highlight of this album. The vocals of Henrik Båth are just so undeniably contagious, especially in the chorus of this song. Simon Andersson’s bass carries such a huge weight throughout the record as his performance sounds so crystal clear in the mix and is so full of emotion and dynamics contributing to music with true staying power. The guitars and the drums performed by Markus Sigfridsson and Tobias Enbert respectively are without a doubt phenomenal on this record as well. The riffs and drums complement each other so damn well, such as the little flourish in the outro of Turning Pages for example. Together, the whole band creates such an immersive musical experience that takes you through the high and the lows, the slow and the fast, and the heavy and the melodic.
There was almost nothing I disliked about the album. Of the seven songs that exceeded seven minutes in length, there were a couple that felt a little longer than they should’ve been. Other than that, I cannot remember how many times I was beyond impressed with how cohesive the music was. Quite often, prog bands will go overboard with the many ideas incorporated into the music and the transitions between these ideas and passages are lacking; that is certainly not the case on Human. In addition, the mix was crystal clear on all ends, the complex passages were very tasteful and digestible, and the slow and relaxing parts allowed me to catch my breath before I was thrown back into the deep end.
In short, Darkwater have raised the bar for progressive metal with Human. Each and every song flowed flawlessly, the passages were complex in a very appropriate and digestible way, and it was just so catchy and groovy. This was an album that was stuck in my head for days; not just the vocals or the riffs, but the keys… The keyboard passages were so infectious, and I wished this album was another eighty minutes long. This record has something for everyone, so I highly suggest that you listen to this album! I guarantee you will not regret it.
- A New Beginning
- In Front of You
- Alive (Part I)
- Alive (Part II)
- Reflection of a Mind
- The Journey
- Turning Pages
- Light of Dawn
Total Playing Time: 1:18:33