In the world of music it is truly unfortunate that some genres lack an accomplished quality of musicianship as a result of becoming diluted with bands that are ordinary, and worse yet, untalented. This seems to be the fate that has befell the metalcore genre, as it, more so than any other metal style, is overflowing with bands who have undeservingly received a record contract. Furthermore, this level of sub-mediocrity within metalcore further adds insult to injury by having the hordes of untalented bands thrust upon the listener by Headbangers Ball, which manages to dedicate a generous portion of air time to the videos of bands that are best left unsigned.
With that said, Darkest Hour is a WELCOMED exception to the preceding statement! This is a band that is not only talented, but possesses the ability to write incredible songs. “Undoing Ruin” is an album which showcases the bands proficiency for songwriting in all of its glory. Even individuals who are not fans of the metalcore genre will likely enjoy “Undoing Ruin,” as many of the songs on the album are fairly catchy and listener friendly. Make no mistake about it though, “Undoing Ruin” is an intense, aggressive, fast, and heavy album. Furthermore, it manages to be a standout album for a number of reasons.
First, the production is SOLID! For this, we must thank the great Devin Townsend (of Strapping Young Lad Fame). Devin Townsend is the consummate musician: a proficient songwriter, guitarist, and producer. Sometimes it seems that he can do no wrong. “Undoing Ruin” is yet another chapter of brilliant production added to Mr. Townsend’s impressive resume. The sound of “Undoing Ruin” is outstanding, as each of the instruments shines through with clarity. In addition, the album has a controlled-chaotic feel to it. By this I’m referring to the fact that “Undoing Ruin” has many moments where it is so aggressive that it would appear to be on the verge of spiraling out of control, but Mr. Townsend’s production abilities manages to allow this chaotic feel to be ever present while maintaining a degree of order that makes each song coherent.
Second, the songs are outstanding! With “Undoing Ruin,” Darkest Hour has managed to create an album that one could listen to from beginning to end…its that good. There are no fillers on this album, each song is an excellent composition of aggression and speed, which will no doubt appeal to fans of speed/thrash metal as well as metalcore fans. As an enormous fan of death metal (the most extreme genre of music), even my appetite for brutal music is somewhat satiated with “Undoing Ruin.”
Third, (and most important) John Henry has an outstanding voice. His vocals are fairly brutal and manage to perfectly capture the intensity of the music contained on “Undoing Ruin.” A few octaves lower and his vocals may qualify as death growls. The vocals on this album are far and away the highlight of “Undoing Ruin,” as it seems that it is the vocals which ruin most metalcore albums. Henry displays an amazing degree of control over his voice (rather than screaming forcibly and uncontrollably). Furthermore, he has a unique vocal style for this genre of music, as his vocals border on growls rather than mere screams.
Fourth, with “Undoing Ruin” Darkest Hour breaks away from the typical and predictable song arrangement that plagues most metalcore albums (i.e., aggressive verse consisting of grinding guitars and screaming vocals, followed by a more mellow chorus comprised of clean vocals). “Undoing Ruin” is intense and aggressive from beginning to end.
Though an excellent album, “Undoing Ruin” does have a flaw – a lack of breaks between many of the songs. This can be somewhat annoying, as the lack of pauses between songs create some confusion concerning where one song ends and another begins. Though each song is unique and distinct, the ending of certain songs serve as a bridge to the beginning of the next song, which manages to make the two songs sound like one long song rather than distinct entities. Given the solid production of the album, I feel as though this was intentional and meant to be a stylistic component of “Undoing Ruin.” However, this is only a minor flaw that will be remedied after only a few listens.
In conclusion, “Undoing Ruin” is an album worth owning. It is unfortunate that Darkest Hour (like Trivium) will never achieve the degree of success that they deserve. This is not due to a lack of quality of musicianship, rather it is due to the musical tastes of fans toward the mainstream. With “Undoing Ruin,” Darkest Hour has proven (at least to me) that they stand alongside Killswitch Engage, Atreyu, Lamb of God, Unearth, and All That Remains as the most elite metalcore bands. It will be interesting to see how Darkest Hour develops in the future. I have not heard any of their previous work, but if “Undoing Ruin” is any indication of what we can expect from this band, we are in for one hell of a ride!