Explaining the particulars between different types of heavy music is a hard task. For most people, even the most educated music listeners, if it has a guy screaming his head off, then it all sounds the same. I only wish the whole world could hear it and enjoy it the same way I do. And no, Im not a hippie.
I bring this up because Darkest Hour has managed to mature and expand their form of attack in subtle ways, while still clearly remaining the same band. 2003s Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation was a relentless pounding that boasted longer arrangements and exhausting speeds. But starting with 2005s Undoing Ruin, and now with Deliver Us, Darkest Hour is moving towards tempering their menace with melody.
And its most likely thanks to the influence of guitarist Kris Norris. Evidenced by the Dream Theater tattoo on his forearm, Norris is a classically trained player with a habit of putting solos all over the place. On Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation, there was hardly a guitar solo to be found, but nearly every song on Deliver Us has a fret-burning solo run by Norris. And in case you were confused about whos doing the soloing, Norris has made sure that the liner notes read, All solos by Norris except for a couple others by rhythm guitarist Mike Schleibaum. Something about crediting the guitar solos to a specific person seems a little ego-stroking, but I guess when youre this good, it doesnt hurt for people to know it.
Vocals were an aspect of Darkest Hour that previously had been monotonous, as John Henry mostly stuck with one tone in his scream. But like any good vocalist, Henry has found that he can do more with his voice, offering his absolute best performance yet on Deliver Us. He can be imposing with a lower tone, or he can be catchy with a melodic line, which he does more than he ever has. Henry knows that to sing like a wuss would be disastrous for his band, so he puts as much of his throat into it as he can, and gives it his all. Sometimes his inexperience with singing shows, like when Demon(s) and A Paradox of Flies have almost identical melodies. But he mostly does his job and keeps from embarrassing himself, which is really all you can ask for.
At first listen, Deliver Us hits you as important and worthy of your time, just like every other Darkest Hour release. Hearing this album feels like an event, with perfect pacing and arrangements. They dont let their songs get too long like they used to, and they know that an album needs breaks and a good sense of flow. Being a band for twelve years apparently gives you the knowledge you need to accomplish that, so hats off to Darkest Hour for bettering themselves and growing, as all bands should.
8.4 / 10
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