I like what DARKEST HOUR has done on "Undoing Ruin", the follow-up to the excellent "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation". The band has not abandoned its Americanized AT THE GATES-style melodic thrash 'n bash, yet there are more colors and accents in the songs, more melody as well. A slight smoothing of the jagged edges and a bigger sound are the result of a Devin Townsend production. In this instance, "smoothing" does not mean "softening;" for the most part, the album rocks as hard as "Hidden Hands". Townsend's productions have a way of filling up space, thickening the sound, and making all the parts fit together in a more cohesive manner. After Fredrik Nordström, seemingly the perfect producer for the band, did such a fine job on "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation", I was pleasantly surprised at what Townsend has attained here. I now prefer the Townsend approach.
Musically, I find "Undoing Ruin" to be a natural progression from "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation". It's also an easier listen from start to finish. The attacking, often calamitous approach that is heard on "Hidden Hands" is still present on "Undoing Ruin". In fact, aside from the acoustic interlude, "Pathos", and the brief melodic piece, "Ethos", the aggression never subsides. It's the use of certain sound effects, light keyboard parts, and changes in guitar tone, that alter the dynamic of several songs. The differences are immediately apparent from the start, as the first two songs, "With a Thousand Words to Say but One" and "Convalescence", are more accessible, the splashes of melody more obvious. Yet John Henry is still doing his impression of an American Tomas Lindberg (i.e. screaming his guts out on every track), guitarists Mike Schleibaum and Kris Norris shred like their lives depended on it, and Ryan Parrish's drum battery is merciless. In fact, Schleibaum and Norris' twin lead work is outstanding. A perfect choice for a single, "Sound the Surrender" features the album's most memorable chorus, once again sacrificing not an ounce of aggression. The sheer Gothenburg-esque ferocity of tracks like "This Will Outlive Us" and "District Divided" easily match the firepower found on "Hidden Hands".
As a particularly majestic instrumental section closes "Tranquil" (and ends the album), I can only nod my head in appreciation for the fine job the boys have done on "Undoing Ruin". No compromise of musical integrity, "Undoing Ruin" simply improves upon what the band already does so well.