REVIEW: DARKANE – “Inhuman Spirits”
When we think about music careers we tend to think about the longevity of bands and acts, often attributing success to those bands that have had a consistent outpouring of material every few years. Quite often we tend to overlook those acts that quietly go about their craft and may leave years between releases because they cant, or don’t want, to produce music as quickly as these other acts. Well, it’s been nine long years between releases for Darkane, but they are ready to once again launch new music to the world through their latest album Inhuman Spirits and to prove that this time between albums is more about quality, rather than quantity.
Opening the album with the title track Inhuman Spirits, you get a real sense of how mixed these songs are going to be. This track has a visceral nature behind it, but the melodic elements bring a real weight to the music. The aural soundscape of the chorus really envelops the listener, and the vocal performance wraps the track into a wonderful package that serves as the perfect album opener.
The subsequent track Awakening is a bit darker but plays into the transformative nature of the band’s sound. Sporting more of a black metal feel through it in sections but carried largely by its very stoic thrash vibe this track highlights the breadth of the band’s musical repertoire while also honing in on their stronger elements. The third track Embrace the Flames carries on the thrash soundscape with a blistering track that would be at home on any traditional thrash metal album, but its solo stands tall as one of the better ones on the album broadly.
Conspiracies of the Flesh follows and carries an infectious riff and a bombastic bass line. There is a very strong breakdown here leading into the solo that should make even the most reserved listener move their heads to the music, but it’s the following track, the frenetically paced Inhaling Mental Chaos, with its uniquely distinct solo that is easily a standout song on the album. Feeling like a modernised version of a track ripped from the mid-90s Swedish Melodic Death metal scene this song hits all the right notes. It is lyrically poignant beautifully delivered and would be the track to show people who haven’t heard about Darkane if you wanted to get them listening to the band.
Mansion of Torture marks the halfway point of the album and carries more of the flame of its preceding track. There is a slow build-up before a more full-throttle riff lifts the song off. The melodic elements in its chorus add an emotive element to the track and the breakdown and instrumental symphonic outro were both unexpected, yet welcomed surprises.
Delving into more experimental territory The Quintessence of Evil begins very slowly and feels quite different from everything preceding it. The soaring, almost prog-metal-sounding instrumental guitar really draws the listener in, before the track blends this heavenly tone with thrash undertones. The solo has a more upbeat nature to it but still goes as hard as all of those before it. Burying this track in the latter portion of the album definitely provides a surprise for those running through it from start to finish, but based on its overall sound this will probably be a track that people head straight to.
The penultimate track A Spiral to Nothing thrusts the band back into the faster foray again. The opening half of this song is powered by pulsating drums and a throbbing bass line before it takes a darker turn into more blast beats and breakdowns in the latter half. The closing solo reinforces the transformative nature of this song, with the closing ambience sounding starkly different from the ambience that the song began with. Finally, the album finishes with the instrumental outro Vålnader which was a nice touch to the end of the album, but at such a short duration didn’t necessarily need to be its own track.
One of the greatest strengths of this album is its versatility. It has the incredible ability to transition from a melodic aural soundscape that harkens back to the traditional melodic death metal sound of the genre’s early years, to a song carried by its pulsating and thick chugging thrash riff at the drop of a hat. This adds a deeper element to the album than most would expect. There is also a lot to be said about the instrumentation on offer here. While the general consensus with thrash-rooted bands is to ‘play fast’, Darkane has embraced a very contemporary approach to fusing melody and thrash. While being new works, all of these tracks provide the listener with a sense of familiarity, and that makes it easy for the listener to participate and jam along.
The album is very clearly a drumming masterclass with Peter Wildoer going above and beyond. The frenetic pace at which the majority of these tracks are played lends itself purely at the feet of Wildoer’s drumming, and while it might be easy to point out the blast beats, or certain nuanced fill sections as being particularly memorable, the drumming over the entirety of the alum really needs to be absorbed and appreciated. Adding to such an incredible bassline is bassist Jorgen Löfberg, who manages to not only keep up with but enhance the work of Wildoer to provide the perfect platform for the guitars, vocals and other instrumentation to excel from.
The dual guitar combo of Cristofer Malmström and Klas Ideberg also continues to work wonders for the band. These two play off the track foundations created by Wildoer and Löfberg brilliantly. While it is Malmström’s work that takes centre stage on most of these tracks through impressive harmonies and blistering solos, the interplay with Ideberg gives these tracks a vibrance that is often missed with many guitar duos these days.
As previously touched on, the album has an overall diverse feel to it, which is probably best exemplified by the alternation between harsh and clean vocals from Lawrence Mackrory. Mackrory does a brilliant job in delivering across the nine tracks he sings on and brings the lyrical nature of these songs to life through his delivery. While there may be certain tracks where listeners may be pining for the harsh vocals over some of the clean areas, the balance as a whole works perfectly.
Nine years between releases is almost unheard of these days, but Darkane have proven that when there is a desire for a band to put music out into the world that there is little in the way of stopping them. Inhuman Spirits is a visceral and rousing listen and is certain to enthrall any person lucky enough to come across these songs.