Sure, we're all a little weary of Swedish thrash at this point, thanks to the legions of pretenders and Johnsson-come-latelies of the scene (and their sometimes identical "New Wave of American Metal" counterparts). And it's easy to overlook DARKANE if you're not careful — they rarely tour, and it's been a long three years since their last album, "Expanding Senses", came out. But these guys have enough going for them to make their infrequent trips to the studio worth waiting for, even if they don't do much to innovate in their chosen style.
DARKANE's nucleus, guitarist Christofer Malmström and drummer Peter Wildoer, both shine on "Layers of Lies". Wildoer, recently recovered from wrist problems that delayed "Layers of Lies" for a year, blazes through the material with a manic, busy percussive style that adds to the urgency of these driving raveups. Malmström has a rare combination of gifts — an ear for technical, precision brutality, and the knowledge of when to pull it back and leave room for Andreas Sydow's huge, effects-laden vocals. Sydow, while definitely a student of the Devin Townsend school of melodic, multitracked roaring, pushes the material over the top with an impassioned performance that scorches through all the studio tech. His "clean" vocals are a wall of roaring sound on their own, while his angry snarls add to the off-the-rails mania of the thrashier moments.
Songwriting wise, DARKANE keep things relatively simple in the verse-chorus-verse sense, but don't let up the intensity for any whisper/crooned verses or crossover tracks. Songs like "Fading Dimensions" and "Secondary Effects" contain blistering thrash tempos and memorable choruses, in that completely synthetic but strangely appealing melodic robot scream. Tasteful soloing really accentuates the melody here and adds depth to the chaos, and the inclusion of several short instrumental interludes provides some nice dynamic (see especially "Maelström Crisis"). The title track ratchets down to a midtempo, as close to a "single" as DARKANE seem to want to get, while "Vision of Degradation" and "Fading Dimensions" throw in the odd little bit of toying with the timing of the song, a little quasi-technicality to spice things up without undermining the overall catchiness of the thing.
Because at the end of the day, "Layers of Lies" is one catchy, infectious, irresistible, charismatic ass-kicker of a record. The band's personality shines through even in this over-glutted scene, and their attention to detail and ear for quality riffs and melodies make "Layers of Lies" rewarding from the first listen. While many modern-day thrashers render themselves increasingly redundant, DARKANE understand the fundamental truth that, if you want to stand out in any genre, it's all about the songs. And they got 'em, in spades.