I think 2017 so far has represented a bit of an upturn for metal as a genre. It pains me to say this, but metal hasn’t been doing great lately. The past couple of years, at least in my opinion, have been a bit strapped for metal albums that really blew me away. While there’s definitely been heavy music that I’ve loved these past few years, they generally didn’t come from straight ahead metal bands. But that seems to be changing.
And I couldn’t be happier. Darkest Hour’s loquaciously titled Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora lands smack-dab in the middle of a little oasis in which there seems to be an outgrowth of badass metal releases from bands like Havok, Power Trip, and Code Orange, yet still stands out as probably the best heavy album I’ve heard so far this year.
People have a tendency to look at Darkest Hour as a metalcore band, and while I definitely hear some of those elements, to me, this is a goddamn heavy metal album through and through. The term “riff storm” comes to mind. If a metal band’s worth in gold is measured by the quantity and quality of its riffs, then Godless Prophets is basically Fort Knox. The riffs just never stop, from the first seconds to the last. Darkest Hour sound more savage than ever here, a pretty impressive feat for a band whose first record came out seventeen years ago. Part of this is probably due to Kurt Ballou (who I think I’ve probably mentioned more than any other single person on this blog) manning the production. The guy just knows how to make a record that sounds like a tornado whipping around inside your skull. But make no mistake, the band themselves bring it like their life depends on it.
One of the things I love most about Darkest Hour is how they take a bit of the pummeling modern hardcore sound and mix in an ounce of Gothenburg-style melodic death metal guitar harmony. These moments of tasty sweetness are strategically placed in just the right places, introducing some great melodic crescendos, but not too often as to make the songs overly saccharine. Like I mentioned earlier, the production on this is absolutely crushing. It seems like every band that goes to Kurt Ballou’s GodCity Studio for production comes out with a mind-blowing record. In the last year alone he’s produced amazing albums from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Nails, Code Orange, and Vorvan, all of which are fantastic.
Oddly enough, the two highlight tracks come right at the very end with “In The Name Of Us All” and my personal favorite, the At The Gates worshipping closer “Beneath It Sleeps”. The only real breaks from the punishment comes in the form of the more catchy and groovy “Enter Oblivion” and its accompanying acoustic interlude “Widowed”, along with a quiet moody melodic section in the final moments of the aforementioned “Beneath It Sleeps”, a good moment of reflection in the wake of the aural beating you just participated in. Make no mistake, despite how blunt and angry this may sound to a casual music fan, there’s an incredible amount of craft in the construction of this record. It’s this level of care that separates the best bands in the heavier end of the metal world from the mindless cookie monster band stereotype that people who don’t really know the genre like to perpetuate.
Like I hinted at above, Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is probably going to be my metal album of the year, and it’s going to take one hell of a record to top this for me. I welcome anyone to try, because anything even close to this level of quality would still be amazing, but it’s certainly a tall order.