That’s a pretty bold statement right there, but then again Darkest Hour have done nothing but prove it over and over again for about the last decade.
“The Eternal Return,” the sixth full length record for the band, is indeed one that’s not going to immediately hit with fans. After all, these guys are coming off the heels of two amazing albums in “Deliver Us” and “Undoing Ruin” (and to a lesser degree the three which preceded them, most notably “The Mark Of Judas”). It’s not going to take the title of “best album” away from any of the previously mentioned records, so it’s important to not waste time comparing it to them. But what “The Eternal Return” does do, is solidly cement Darkest Hour as one of the most reliable and otherwise outstanding bands of their respected genre. How many other metal bands can say they’ve put out 6 records in a row that were all great? Not many (if really any that I can immediately remember).
Although Kris Norris is gone, its rather untrue to argue that his replacement isn’t sufficient. In fact, though Kris may have had a distinct, melodic edge to his playing (particularly his solos), Mike Carrigan more than does the job of filling his rather large shoes. “Death Worship” and “Bitter” both rip with ferociously heavy, metallic riffs and show these guys haven’t lost a bit of their gas at this point. “No God” recalls similar feelings as larger singles the band produced like “Demons” and “Convalescence” (minus the clean singing), but still knows how to keep things heavy. There really is not a single moment for the listener to stop and catch their breath throughout the disc’s run, as even the more “epic sounding” tracks like “The Tides” and “Into The Grey” are still overtly pummeling. This album sounds a little less produced and raw, partly because of Brian McTernan’s production, and it really adds to the unrelenting and heavy nature the band seems content to stay with.
Which brings up a notable point about this album: they still have it. After “Deliver Us” most were expecting to see DH lighten their sound, get more progressive and expand into a larger audience (which even the band admits they were expected to do.) Instead these DC natives have toned down the gloss and turned up the volume. It may take a few spins to sink in, but this is equally as good as any record in the band’s discography, and a firm testament to how consistent and talented they really are. A listener never has to worry when they put on a Darkest Hour disc; it always delivers exactly what a melodic metal listener is looking for.
Although the idea of this record representing “all the best parts of all the previous Darkest Hour albums” is somewhat debatable, it’s still one of the best Melodic Metal albums to be released in all of 2009. Like stated before, it’s not easy to name many metal bands that have released three great albums in a row, let alone six. Any fan of DH should be more than pleased with this disc, though it could take some time to get into at first. The edgier production, excellent song-writing and overall unrelenting nature of this band continue to keep me coming back for more, and if this is any indication that they’re not going to let up, I’ll happily be listening to them for another six albums!