By George, they've escaped! Having spent countless phone calls and e-mails discussing with journalists how "The Eternal Return" was the last album owed to Victory Records and how in hindsight signing a multi-album deal was a mistake of youth, DARKEST HOUR respond with "The Human Romance", the veteran band's debut for E1. So the big question burning in the brains of the faithful flock surely pertains to how the Washington D.C. act's new effort matches up to its prolific catalogue of Victory releases. Anyone that has followed the group's career for more than a couple of albums will not be surprised to find out that it matches up well and in most respects is an amalgamation of sorts of the last several albums. In DARKEST HOUR's case, staying true to form is always a good thing, considering they've not released a bad album yet.Beyond the obvious, "The Human Romance" seems a fresher take on the patented style or in the way of absurd metaphor, DARKEST HOUR sounds like a house with a new coat of paint and a few energy efficiency improvements. "The Eternal Return" is an angrier, rawer and in-your-face album compared to "The Human Romance". While the former succeeded precisely because of those elements, so does the latter succeed for an approach that is more melodically-centered and emphasizes track distinction to a greater degree than was heard on past efforts. Exemplifying the album's melodic/distinct compositional approach is the fact that while "Love as a Weapon" features the most addictive chorus ("Savor the Kill" is a close second), there are several other songs that approach that same level of catchiness. In other words, it is obvious that each song was written with an ear to immediate impact and lasting impression. Even when cuts demonstrate a higher degree of — in relative terms — complexity, the compactness of approach remains intact. Such is the case on "The World Engulfed in Flames" on which melancholic tones, those classic staccato runs, and a notable, wholly impacting arrangement changeup, result in a song that offers dynamics wrapped up in a tight package. You'll almost be fooled into thinking that DARKEST HOUR resurrected the fury of "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation" when the opening section of "Man and Swine" arrives with intense Gothenburg choppiness until revealing colors of a more tuneful hue. Even the decidedly heavier "Violent By Nature" can't avoid turns toward the light. The one exception to the streamlined approach is the eight-minute "Terra Solaris", a skillfully composed instrumental and an all-around great song. "The Human Romance" is also an album that just plain sounds good. Much of that is the product of a Peter Wichers' (SOILWORK) recording that smoothes out some of the rough edges without sacrificing the highly energetic brand of Swedish-influenced melodic death metal for which DARKEST HOUR is known. Wichers also nails the recording in terms of instrument clarity, more so than any previous DARKEST HOUR release. Vocalist John Henry is probably the biggest beneficiary of Wichers' production, as his improved enunciation and tonal tinkering are brought to the fore. Some may miss the sheer aggressiveness of "The Eternal Return", but the tradeoff for more memorable songwriting is worth it. As we've established, the DARKEST HOUR paradigm never really shifts; it just shakes a little and turns different shades of red. "The Human Romance" is reinforcement of a proven methodology.
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