Darkane
Sinister Supremacy

When it comes to Swedish melodic metal excellence, Darkane are an underappreciated force with a top-notch track record. Formed in the late ‘90s, the band has never been anything less than solid. Their exceptional debut, Rusted Angel, is something of a minor classic, and their 2005 release, Layers of Lies, was another fist-pumping gem, displaying what the band are capable of when they are in peak form. Following the release of 2008’s Demonic Art, Darkane seemingly faded into the background for the next five years or so, before re-emerging with typical style and gusto in the shape of their 6th full-length album, The Sinister Supremacy.

Notably, this latest platter reunites the band with vocalist Lawrence Mackrory – who lent is considerable talents to their debut. And considering the vocalist slot has been the only area of instability in Darkane’s line-up since their formation, it’s fitting that Mackrory has returned to fill the void. Soilwork’s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid was originally tapped as their vocalist early on in their career, before clashing commitments canned the plan, and after Mackrory’s initial departure, Andreas Sydow and Jens Broman have ably handled the vocal slot. Maybe it’s the pings of nostalgia at play from his one-off performance on Rusted Angel, or the sheer fact that he is a more versatile and charismatic metal vocalist than his successors (now predecessors), but either way Mackrory’s return is an inspired move. His vocals offer greater range to compliment the band’s dynamic songwriting – bringing punky attitude, classic thrash vocal hues and a versatile range of raspy screams and deeper growls to the table.

Stylistically, the band continues to bridge the gap between aggressive modern thrash and vaguely progressive melodic death, featuring slick production and tight, proficient musicianship. Although it’s mostly business as usual for the band, there is a more pronounced emphasis on odd time signatures and chunky offbeat grooves littering the album. The songs are on the dark and aggressive side, yet the abundance of catchy choruses and sleek melodics lend the album an accessible streak. The symphonic strains of intro track, “Sounds of Pre-existence”, feeds into the blistering title track. The song makes a strong statement with lightning fast thrash tempos, aggressive verses and an incredibly catchy chorus, immediately signalling the value of Mackrory’s return.

“Mechanically Divine” showcases the band’s renowned knack for crafting hook-laden, dynamic structures without straying far from their aggressive, thrashy roots and heavier musings. And when they find that middle ground between high-speed precision, melodic breaks and chugging mid-paced heft, Darkane sound all the more exciting. After all, Darkane have always sounded at their best when pushing the throttle down and embellishing ferocious speed with strong dynamics to create a multifaceted sound that’s informed by thrash but not restricted by a one-dimensional mindset.

They shifts gears regularly during the album, employing a wide variety of chunkier mid-paced structures and complex riffs and rhythms. Case in point is the powerhouse riffing and rugged embrace of “The Decline”. The orchestral elements add an atmospheric backbone to the stuttering rhythms and muscular weight of the track. “Humanity Defined” blazes a hyper-sped thrash trail of relentless energy and aggression, segueing into a double-bass backed break, led by Mackrory’s melodic, rough strewn singing and a killer solo, before hitting the afterburners again. “In the Absence of Pain” borrows from the Meshuggah and Gojira playbooks with an off-kilter mechanical crunch, coupled with a strong melodic presence and their trademark thrashy edges. Intricate scorcher, “By Darkness Designed”, represents a wonderfully executed display of speed, aggression and catchy songwriting.

The versatile guitar work of duo Christofer Malmström and Klas Ideberg has long been one of the band’s strengths – juggling fast, intricate thrash chops with dark chugging riffs, strong lead work and a heftier death metal presence. Here they are at it again, although it would have been nice to hear a few more riffs that make you sit up and take notice. Nevertheless it’s nice to hear the band stretch their wings compositionally without straying far from the path. They apply bruising polyrhythmic force and draw from a wider sonic template, enriching their tried and true sound with promising results. Peter Wildoer’s excellent drumming hammers the songs home with a beastly array of technical, aggressive rhythms and feverish energy.

Nothing much has changed in the Darkane camp, but Mackrory’s return, and a refresher break out of the game has lit a fire under the band and resulted in an inspired collection of high quality tunes. Although it’s a handful of killer riffs short of true greatness, The Sinister Supremacy marks a welcome return from an underrated and consistently reliable band.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
July 22nd, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: Deepsend Records

    It’s funny, a recent studio vlog, Lawrence noted that he didn’t know how to scream/sing back when they recorded Rusted Angel. Well, now that he’s learned how, I hate his vocals. There was a raw emotion that is lost in his vocals now. To me it sounds like James Hetfield singing for Soilwork.


  2. Commented by: stiffy

    I like this album. Puts life back into Darkane. This is almost up there with Layers of Lies. As far as Lawrence, it’s great to hear him back. I like this guys vocals on a number of different releases. I will admit that he sounds somewhat “run of the mill” on this one but it is still a fine performance.


  3. Commented by: Staylow

    I’ve listened to this album several times now and I’m still undecided. Musically, it’s awesome, as expected. Vocally, I’m not convinced. His singing seems to be an acquired taste sort of thing, and I’m on the fence.


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