DARKANE “Inhuman Spirits”
Darkane is a band this reviewer has loved since the beginning, so anytime something new comes out I jump on it. Coming out at a time when the melo-death/thrash thing was really taking off into the stratosphere, what separated them from their peers at their inception was an extreme focus on musicianship. It wasn't progressive for the sake of it - albeit the band's penchant for incorporating orchestral elements was epic - it was something where it was definitely boundary-pushing for the genre! Not really anyone at the time was this consistently fast, tight, and yet still hooky.
Speaking of hooky, one could definitely attribute a more than healthy portion of that not just to the riffing genius of literally every instrumental musician of the group, but vocalist Lawrence Mackrory brought something unique to the table of that first session gig on "Rusted Angel" that carried on in the group even during his time away: a varied vocal delivery, understated-yet-hooky melodic phrasing, and a primary vocal style that seemed...I dunno, 'effortlessly forced' is probably an apt term. He sounds as if he's consistently semi-shouting in a constrained manner, ready to break out but holding back. On "Rusted Angel" and even "Sinister Supremacy" it was in a nice, dichotic contrast to what the rest of the band was doing, but on this newest record, it sounds like the band is ever-so-slightly holding back on many tunes to be a bit more in lock-step with Lawrence. It's something the band had explored previously on third opus "Expanding Senses," so it's not like longtime 'kane fans will be thrown by it. It also isn't to say the band can't break out the thrashtastic, breakneck speeds like on "Inhaling Mental Chaos," "The Great Deceiver," and the title track...or really any time they fancy doing so as it creeps up even in the band's otherwise slowest material from time-to-time.
Concerning individual performances, virtually the entirety of the record is a showcase for drummer Peter Wildoer, long-regarded as one of the finest extreme metal drummers around. An actual blast beat leads off the whole record which in and of itself is an interesting departure, but then you've got an album loaded with every trope this genre has to offer, from skank beats, d-beats, syncopated patterns, and splash-/ride-heavy stop-start fills to make Dirk Verbeuren blush. The riffage itself from guitarists Klas Ideberg and Christofer Malmström are thankfully exactly what a DARKANE fan would want from this...pretty much quintessential DARKANE riffage throughout this record! Gallops, single-note thrashing, big beefy chords, little notey interludes, and punctuated by blistering-yet-fitting solos that never go into straight-up musical masturbation. This record is extremely mosh- and headbang-heavy, but just done with more forethought and care given to note choice and composition. This is something DARKANE has always done better than most!
If anything could be called a detriment to the record, I feel like the title track "Inhuman Spirits" just isn't a fitting start to the album as it doesn't quite set the same tone as much of the rest of the material. It's easy to see why it's a single as it standouts with the melody and the epic undertones, but I kinda feel like the band's previous penchant for an epic classical intro is sorely missed here and could have given way to "Conspiracies of the Flesh" and set a much better tone from the onset. Also, as awesome as he is as a vocalist, Lawrence Mackrory as a mixing engineer is just a tad polished for my liking. This album’s tones, especially in the area of the string-slingers, are just a hair away from the perfect amount of grime. Going back to what I mentioned earlier about there being a lot of similarities with the band's third record, that is another and quite frankly one I could have done without.
That said, this DARKANE fan is glad they are back after a long absence and this record is a more than fitting new addition to their story!