DarkBlack, Midnight Wraith (Stormspell)
Released on December 1st, Midnight Wraith kind of slipped through the cracks on me a little bit. December is a very slow month for metal (in fact, this may very well be my only set of reviews the entire month) and to have a 5-song EP show up in my queue to review didn’t exactly make me jump.  To me, EPs are usually a waste of time. Not only do I have to worry about 500 words on only a handful of songs, but everyone of them better be worthwhile of my time or I have to do the review on like two songs.  And besides, most of them are billed as “songs the band just couldn’t wait to get out” when in reality it’s simply that the band didn’t have enough talent to write a full album.

Without a whole lot of music in the month, it’s also given me time to recover a bit. Having listened to hundreds of albums for the last seven months or so and every piece of crap (and excellent record) that’s come to me, it kind of wore me out a little to the point where I switched to other genres for a while to give my brain a little break. I give you all this background information to make sure you understand that Midnight Wraith is the disc that brought me out of my slumber.

DarkBlack (also stylized as DARKBLACK) are a monstrous traditional heavy metal band.  This vintage metal sound seems like it’s gaining a lot of momentum with a band like Christian Mistress hopefully turning the world on its ass very soon and DarkBlack following right behind.

Midnight Wraith is early ’80s metal with a very fresh and modern touch to the music.  The riffs throughout all five songs are simply incredible and the lyrics are about death, betrayal and epic battles.  No matter how many records bands like Nickelback sell or how many thousands of metalcore bands show up on the internet the world of hard rock and metal always comes back to this type sound for me (and this is when I realize why I think rock radio is total bullshit).  Lyrically the album can be dark at times but the music is a horns up, headbanging good time. You will absolutely break out the air guitar and do some epic vocal screeches while listening to the EP.  Check out “Doom Herald” (download) for a great example. These guys would be the perfect opener for one of my favorite bands, 3 Inches of Blood. If someone can work that out for me, I may quit my job and become a groupie as if a bunch of metal dudes would love to see the fat guy sweating profusely in the front row at every show.  Someone needs to make sure these guys get heard.

Journal, Unlorja
Um. Yeah. I think I have met my match. I have listened to this album four times and I’m still relatively positive that there’s nothing I could write about it that would even remotely prepare you for what you’d hear if you get this disc. It never hurts to try though, I suppose.

So yeah. This is, shall we say, technical.  Just a little. There’s a few weird time changes here and there but nothing out of the ordinary.  Just kidding. Unlorja is a mindfuck pure and simple.

Noisecore is not my thing at all so I can’t say I’m an expert but this album is easily the fastest, most technical album I’ve ever heard that is actually listenable.  Don’t read into that thinking that I’m saying this is the best technical metal album ever released. That’s not the case, but most of the tech-metal records that move at speeds like Journal crank out are a jumbled mess.  This one could be as well for all I know, but I’m listenening to this for the 5th time as I’m typing so something is right.

Like a lot of people my tech-metal is compared to Meshuggah who sound like Richard Marx compared to this.  You can certainly hear the craziness of one of my least favorite bands as well – Dillinger Escape Plan. But the amount of ridiculous time changes and complexities on Unlorja blows these guys out of the water.

The album is structured like it’s the score to a play about good and evil (the bio for the disc says it’s kind of modeled like a role-playing game and while I was certainly a nerd in my childhood, I was never that much of nerd and thus really don’t understand how to confirm or deny this statement). But you can certainly feel the play aspect of it as the characters are broken out with different voices, a death metal growl, a screamo vocal, a spoken narrative and clean singing. In the middle of some of the tracks and as interludes there are some acoustic passages that absolutely sound like a score and the final track is over thirty minutes long, mostly acoustic with a narrative explaining the whole story.  And there’s parts in the final track that sound like some Ian Anderson shit. Let me state for the record that no one wants to hear Ian Anderson in their metal.

I will admit that on my first listen I was completely taken aback at this overwhelming chaos but as much as I didn’t like it the first time around, I popped it on a second time as if something was telling me that I needed to give it another shot. And I’m really glad I did.  For most people I think within the first two minutes you’ll know if you love it or want to throw it out the window.  But this is for those seeking an adventure and while there are quite a few moments that make me want to stop listening, there are more that make me want to keep going.  Will I listen to it after this point? I don’t really know yet, but even if I don’t, I’m very happy to have at least heard this fucking bat-shit-crazy disc. Now I need to get rid of this headache.