Album Review: Darkest Hour’s Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora
Friends, we should probably talk about this again in a few years when we have some more distance on it, but I’m inclined to say that Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora is the best album Darkest Hour have ever made. Yes, better than Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation. Yes, better than Undoing Ruin. At the very least, it’s as good as those albums, which is to say, it’s fucking gnarly.
It’s safe to assume that the band heard the majority opinion regarding their 2014 self-titled release. “Course corrected” doesn’t begin to cover what they’ve done here. Godless Prophets is their first collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou, and the pairing is genius; Darkest Hour have never sound this huge or this nasty before. It’s like Ballou found the world’s largest, most muscular lion and installed an extra row of teeth in its mouth.
Of course, Ballou would have no foundation to build upon if the songs were neck-snappers, but the material here is top-notch. Every single section of every single song is equal parts vicious, filmic, and catchy, which makes the entire thing a roller coaster ride of emotions; you’re constantly sad a sweet riff or intense Travis Orbin drum line is making its exit, but also excited by the arrival of a new one. No amount of will power will prevent songs like “Knife in the Safe Room,” “This is the Truth,” and “Those Who Survived” from getting stuck in your head; fist-pumps during “Enter Oblivion” and “The Last of the Monuments” will be automatic (if you love the last minute of “Convalescence,” the final seventy-five seconds of “Monuments” will make you orgasm). There’s also an assload of the tastiest, most epic guitar solos imaginable, courtesy of both current guitarists Mike “Lonestar” Carrigan and Mike Schleibaum as well as guest spots by former DH member Kris Norris (album closer “Beneath it Sleeps”) and Sevendust’s John Connolly (“Timeless Numbers”). The guitar work on “Widowed,” a gorgeously depressing instrumental interlude with harmonized leads over an acoustic backdrop, especially stands out.
Also not hurting any: Godless Prophets is timely as hell. Founding guitarist Mike Schleibaum has said the album has a “storyline,” and vocalist John Henry’s lyrics are certainly open to interpretation (taken at their most literal, they seem to be relating a narrative about some sort of sci-fi apocalypse). But it’s hard not to view that that storyline as a reflection of our current tumultuous times. The album begins with its protagonist referring to himself as “an obsessive former human/the only one who tried to stop the world from consuming and devouring itself” on “Safe Room”; continues with declarations such as “we’re all being used” (“This is the Truth”), “everyone’s been bought and sold” (“Timeless Numbers”) and discussions about “the fall of the state” (“None of This is the Truth”); and ends with the protagonist announcing that “the tower once risen to power has crumbled, is dying” on “Beneath it Sleeps.” This is not to imply that the lyrics favor one political party or another — again, it’s all metaphor — but you can’t ignore the recurring themes of manipulation of power, division within the masses, civilization in peril, revolution, and, ultimately, rebuilding. These issues are every thinking human being’s mind right now, and their inclusion definitely lends the album an extra level of urgency.
Does Godless Prophets have nits to be picked? Yeah, of course. But it’s hard to care in light of the album being such a supremely pleasurable listening experience. The race for Best Metal Album of 2017 has begun. Darkest Hour have taken a strong lead. Better catch up, everyone.
Darkest Hour’s Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora comes out March 10 on Southern Lord. You can stream the track “Those Who Survived” here, pre-order physical copies here, and digital editions here or here. Dates for the band’s currently-in-progress, MetalSucks-sponsored tour with Tombs and Rivers of Nihil are here.