It is the end of an era for Washington, D.C.'s DARKEST HOUR and what a way to close the chapter. After around a decade with Victory Records, the band wrote and recorded its sixth album, "The Eternal Return", with an ear to its earlier sound, mainly the riotous attack of "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation" blended with the improved sense of melody heard on the Devin Townsend-produced "Undoing Ruin" and "Deliver Us"."The Eternal Return" is a concisely crafted affair that takes the band's core style and wraps it up in 35 minutes of relevant metal music with not a second wasted. Producer Brian McTernan has retained a bit of the expansive sound harnessed by Devin Townsend yet keeps the guitar layering to a minimum and brings out the live energy for which the band is known. The harmonies and solos developed over the years are still present, just delivered in a more focused manner, while the main melodies continue to make the songs memorable, especially on tracks like "Transcendence" and "No God". The songs are written in a way that keeps the momentum flowing, yet allows the arrangements to breathe and offers just enough variety to keep one's attention, whether it is the Townsend-esque, majestic guitar work heard during "Into the Grey" or the punk calamity of "Bitter", a song that clocks in at a mere one minute and nineteen seconds. Vocalist John Henry continues to belt out some very memorable, very poignant lines as well, such as this one heard on "Devolution of the Flesh", the opener: "You're a plague, and you feed off the youth but it won't keep you young." The album has a sense of urgency about it that belies the band's veteran status and the energy level remains high because of it. And yet the songs continue to benefit from years on the road and the band's continuing efforts to better its songwriting. Considering that DARKEST HOUR were part of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (though they don't always seem to get mentioned in discussions about it), it is refreshing to hear a band that has never strayed too far from its primary style, while still honing and refining it. "The Eternal Return" is proof that DARKEST HOUR has a lot of good years left.
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