Darkest Hour
So Sedated, So Secure

After enduring turbulent times at their previous label, Washington D.C.’s Darkest Hour finally find solid ground in Victory Records. What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger, so the adage goes. For Darkest Hour, adversity is the key to survival and, furthermore, the catalyst in crafting their most impressive effort to date.

Whereas The Mark of Judas displayed raw talent and youthful enthusiasm, So Sedated, So Secure features Darkest Hour as a more mature and pensive outfit. More often than not bands pairing metal and hardcore list At The Gates as their primary source of their metallic inspiration – it’s abundantly clear on Shadow’s Fall Of One Blood as it is in outfits like All That Remains and A Life Once Lost. While small traces of Slaughter of the Soul can be heard on Darkest Hour’s third full-length, the stabbing ferocity of The Mark of Judas has progressed tastefully into the wistful meanderings of Eucharist and overt melodic work driving In Flames (circa The Jester Race). The guitar work of Mark Schleibaum and Fred Ziomek is reminiscent of their Swedish peers in that they use infectious melodic lines and classic metal chugging to drive the songs. Yet, there isn’t an ounce of evidence on So Sedated, So Secure of superfluous musicianship – keyboard flourishes and blithe passages are left on the European continent. In fact, the playing here is difficult to beat in times of self-indulgence and unnecessary lead interplay.

Imagine Entombed’s “Crawl” fused with In Flames’ “Dead Eternity” but without the solos. Exactly. Nowhere on So Sedated, So Secure is there a solo, or even a hint of one. That’s hardcore. The tumbling, distortion-ridden crafting of opener “An Epitaph” and “Kick” are reminiscent of the ‘old school’ Stockholm buzz, where tension and forward momentum were interchangeable in the lead and rhythm sections. Darkest Hour’s compacted sound is indicative of this attribute. Elsewhere, the quintet’s output is equally impressive. The voracious pace of the title track “The Last Dance” and “No Closer” demonstrate a band that knows their hardcore/metal chops, and, furthermore, employs them to levels on par with their more established American and European brethren. However, ‘neath the aggressive face is a melancholic interior (think Eucharist) that surfaces at key times throughout each of the three songs. “No Closer” and “The Last Dance” are flooded with emotional charge, dispelling the myth that memorable melody lines are first and foremost cheerful. The band’s distortion also changes on “The Last Dance” – Cemetary’s An Evil Shade of Grey, with its bizarre accord, is remarkably similar.

Vocally, John Henry’s throaty rumblings are one-dimensional but sufficient. It’s heartwarming to hear a guy scream his heart out without succumbing to the urge to sing off-key like most of his compatriots. The production of McTernan’s (Cave In, Drowningman) Salad Days is suitable for Darkest Hour in its non-gloss finish. The band’s previous album’s production was dry, sucking the life out of the majority of the material. Thankfully, McTernan’s latest knob twiddling helped Darkest Hour achieve the sonic velocity needed to propel them past the second and third tier of bands they compete against.

The only misgiving with the Washington D.C.-based outfit is where do they go from here? Do they continue in the direction on So Sedated, So Secure (ala AC/DC) or pursue the greatness on tracks like “No Closer” and “The Last Dance?” Time shall tell. Darkest Hour may not be one of the most original bands in the extreme metal circuit, but then again few acts in metal/hardcore exude the passion present on So Sedated, So Secure. Metal or hardcore, Darkest Hour demands to be heard, and this is the album that is certain to signal their breakthrough.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
April 23rd, 2001

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