• Axl Rosenberg

200px-darkesthourdeliverus.jpgThere’s a reason that Darkest Hour aren’t as successful as Killswitch Engage even though they’ve been playing a like-minded brand of Swedecore just as long: they’re simply not as distinctive a band. That’s not to say they’re not good; clearly, this is a talented bunch of dudes. It’s just to say that there are no obvious stand-outs on the band’s latest album, Deliver Us, and no noticeable artistic advancements from the band’s last album, Undoing Ruin. Consequently, Deliver Us should more than satisfy the band’s fans, but it’s hard to imagine it will inspire fervor in anyone else.

Obviously, Devin Townsend’s production is top notch, but almost everything else about this recording is very by-the-numbers: John Henry’s Tomas Lindberg-like growls are fine but lack any sort of range, and his clean vox are really intoned more than sung, which means they lack the soaring passion you expect from a Howard Jones or even the choked emotion of a Anders Fridén – and that’s a real problem: when your singer sounds kind of bored, it’s a little hard not to expect that the listener will feel the same way.

Likewise, Kris Norris’ guitar solos are fun, but completely lacking in originality. Norris just hasn’t a found a style that’s his own, hasn’t found a way to make himself stand out amongst the current crop of would-be guitar heroes.

The songwriting and performances of the rest of the band are similarly completely serviceable if unspectacular. Opening track “Doomsayer (The Beginning of the End)” is probably the best song on the album (and features a pretty good soft intro), but the choruses for subsequent songs “Sanctuary” and “Demon(s)” are a little too similar (again, credit Henry’s lack of vocal range). “The Light at the Edge of the World” features the same kind of visceral, epic quality that made the conclusion of Ruin’s “Convalescence” so much fun (the “November Rain” of metalcore?), but it’s only a brief interlude before the anti-Bush anthem “Stand and Receive Your Judgment,” which is defined by yet another barely-sung chorus.

Ultimately, Deliver Us makes great background metal (for driving, working, etc.), but when we’re only halfway through the year and we’ve already had so many great releases, it’s hard to get too excited about it.

(three out of five horns)


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