No matter your take on Darkest Hour, the D.C. outfit reminds us that passion is nine-tenths of metal law on its newest effort.
Darkest Hour has more than two decades behind it and yet retains the fire in the belly of an up-and-coming outfit. Fusing elements of traditional metal and hardcore, the unit returns with Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora, the fruit of some unholy stylistic alliances. The record bangs, bores, pounds, and pressures its way into the listener’s psyche with extreme force, overtaking you in less time it takes to text your dealer. Sure, it has its highs and lows, but it’s never less than true to Darkest Hour’s vision.
Former guitarist Kris Norris lends his able hands to this sonic firebomb, offering extra dimension and might. The relentlessness of the album works at the poles of strength and deficit, as does an apparent appreciation of Swedish metal. Flashes of the Haunted and At the Gates poke and prod their way into the material, yet never to the point of distraction. From that distant land, these D.C. players have gleaned the importance of dynamics, as evidenced by some stinging, soulful Euro-style lead work in “This Is the Truth”, its counterpart, “None of This is the Truth”, and “Timeless Numbers”, in particular.
Turns such as these provide temporary reprieves from the bludgeoning that soon resumes and carries us back into the harsh realities of the world Darkest Hour creates. A bit of black metal creeps into “The Flesh & The Flowers of Death”’, which begins with a chaotic, flesh-eating blast of despair that gives way to what is arguably some of the most complex and original playing across this set.
That said, a tendency to open with a catchy riff and then hop full speed into battle wears thin somewhere around the mid-album point. Though shifts in mood and tempo remain, even those apparent turns settle into a cruel familiarity that sometimes works to undermine the pleasure of the music. Just when you think that things are about to go pear-shaped, though, there is some guitar ex machina via the tender (no kidding) solo piece, “Widowed”, which is quickly followed by another surprise, “Enter Oblivion”. The latter thrives on wider and subtler turns than its counterparts while also setting the course for the record’s final moments.
Where, then, does this record ultimately reside between the pantheons of success and the catacombs of failure? Neither side, exactly. This is rugged and well-worked material that could probably be made stronger by strengthening the sense of dynamics, with a little more time spent added a bridge or verse in the pre-verse hours. As it stands, the barrage of brutality becomes overwhelming and, as noted above, wears the listener down more quickly than it has to.
There’s still plenty to like about Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora, and the group’s veteran status alone speaks volumes for its tenacious grasp of heavy music and its unquenchable thirst for powerful art. Neither of those qualities -- alone or connected -- can carry a band fully, but they both prove enough to carry Darkest Hour across the threshold and into its rightful place among America’s hardest working bands. If for no other reason, Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is recommended as a masterclass in following your beliefs no matter where they might take you.