Finally, having sat on this for a good few months, longer in fact as I was privy to advance digital copies, let’s have a good look, at long last, at the debut album from Darkened ‘Kingdom of Decay’ !!!
Hot off on the heels of the truly stunning preceding EP ‘Into the Blackness’ the band dropped late last year via Edge Circle Productions their brand new debut LP (available on MCD/CD and Vinyl).
Why the delay – it certainly didn’t fall through the cracks, nor was it overlooked – but a culmination of circumnavigating the recent trials and tribulations life has presented us all with and moreover, texturally it’s a complex album with many layers and facets that a simple overview wouldn’t do it justice !!!
Darkened – “Kingdom of Decay” (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
It’s proved to be a compelling soundtrack to recent events, and I to this day enjoy its company either at the drawing board, to and fro on the daily commute or in general as part of my daily soundtrack – it’s that good it now proudly sits amongst many classic albums amongst my several decades long collection that get regular play !!!
The original line up returns minus the EP’s original bassist, replaced by Tobias Cristiansson.
There’s no immediate discernible difference in that the preceding bassist did an exceptionally good job beforehand, it would appear however, Tobias brings a different more organic technicality to this set of songs, an almost unprecedented warmth and groove often lacking amongst the genre.
So, without any further procrastination we’ll dive in and break it down track by track …
- Nekros Manteia the opening prelude is a short but sour sweet instrumental that atmospherically sets the tone of the album, it’s a classic thrash trope often employed to great effect during the 80’s by many bands – so well played I wish this intro had been a little longer and had a few more parts, it deftly shows a slight of hand and gives a glimpse at Darkened’s dexterity and serves as a timely juxtaposition to muscularity and heft of what’s to come … it is great idea to bookend the tracks with intro’s and outro’s respectively almost imbuing the album with a conceptual feel !!!
- Dead Body Divination powers on right from the off – this is how you open an album and it’s swirling thrash riff is virtually relentless aside from harmonies and leads peppering it throughout – the breakdown riff from 01:32 onwards could play for hours as far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely great … more of the dueling leads are back though and reminded me warmly of Rocky George’s solo work which seamlessly worked over the top of Mike Clarke’s rhythm on ‘Lights, Camera, Revolution’ !!!
- 1000 Years carries on the charge and was one of the preceding digital singles prior to the albums release – I really like this track, but it does sit far better shoulder to shoulder amongst the album complete rather than as an isolated track. Has a real bruising groove mid section before peeling away into a blistering lead solo, the drumming here too is absolutely taught precision delivered brutality and actually powers the latter half of the song with that trademark hardcore groove !!!
- Pandemonium opens with a spiraling black metal riff from the off – possibly the closest to a traditional track stylistically to the professed Black/Death Metal genre the band have camped themselves within – its more traditional gear set actually serves as a good countenance to the more experimental stylings the band explore on other tracks – that said the band, guitars, drums and bass lock in perfectly with Gord’s vocal delivery at 02:44 to power through the third verse with a confidence and power that puts far bigger established acts to shame !!! It’s from here on in Pandemonium really picks up and powers up a whole new level …
- Cage of Flesh swaggers in with its undead gasped vocal and Sabbath inflected intro before hitting the groove with a brilliantly drum and bass led riff -to define this band purely as a Death/Black metal band is to criminally under estimate their considerable ability and adventurous influences – there’s a healthy does of hardcore groove, doom and progressive thrash woven in here … it’s just good heavy music and transcends the genre !!! The anthemic outro on this would serve any horror movie exceptionally well too …
- The Burning and track which digitally served as primer before the LP’s release – this would easily of sat amongst the preceding EP’s tracks without missing a beat, has a great little sound bite in the middle before pounding out a superb beat down section again dissolving into a beautifully soulful lead and again crushing your ears with more groove laden riffs as it gallops towards the finish. I’ll admit I hugely underestimated this track on release but it’s a standout gem in the absolute crown of material on display here.
- The Old Ones drums and guitars play perfectly in countenance to one another and serve as suitably menacing score to Gord’s confident vocal lines – even a little touch of Sepultura inspired riffing and ambience spotted here and there, by no means plagiaristic – there’s just that little flavor of ‘world music’ tone the more hardcore riffs peppering the track and it serves it well.
- Kingdom of Decay is Darkened at its bristling best, whilst not overly adventurous in experimenting with the genre it’s musically solid musicianship serves the album as countenance, traditionally underpinning the collection to the groups ethos and their genre roots !!!
- Of Unsound Mind is very much a track for today’s world and perhaps really sees Darkened take off the gloves and show just how aggressive they potentially can be with its swaggering belligerent intro – it offers only moderate respite before powering out with that classic hardcore metal groove that they’ve really perfected – it’d be interesting moving on from this track how dirty and nasty they could get …
- The White Horse of Pestilence rounds out the album hurtling towards the finish line and outro with an almost rabid frenetically feverish ferocity that is perhaps thematically threaded throughout the album. It’s polish and production, and more importantly balance that’s puts this upon a pedestal above and beyond their peers who’s material is muddied by terrible production and terrible muddy mixing – Kingdom of Decay is a benchmark album and should be used as definitive benchmark in quality production values.
- Winds of Immortality bookends the LP and as the second ambient track and my only lament is that it’s bitter sweet short – I could listen to it meander through the aural darkness for hours, endlessly …
So, to summarize this is a beautifully brutal extension to that classic EP proceeding it, I’d argue that this is essential to heavy music fans, collectors and fanatics of the death and black metal genre – its accessibility and accomplished musical ability may to some be a turn off, but what do expect from such pedigree of musicianship including former members of Bolt Thrower, Memoriam, Grave, Excruciate and Angel Blast – it’s an absolute labor of love and everything I hoped it would be, a very fitting outro to the disastrous year 2020 was and will serve as an empowering soundscape to survive 2021 !!!
Get Kingdom of Decay from Edge Circle Productions now !!!