Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora
OK, call it a comeback. Darkest Hour feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of metalcore: they get a whole lot of love from their fans, but they “don’t get no respect” from the wider market. It’s a shame and quite surprising, considering their string of three near-perfect albums starting with Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation are basically metalcore classics. That term is funny, too, since Darkest Hour never really fit in with their mid-00s contemporaries. Their sound was more punk-inspired melodic death metal (like Heaven Shall Burn) than other groups of that era that just stole In Flames riffs and added breakdowns. Maybe it was that desire to just do what they want that led to the lack of “respect”, but whatever led to the disappointing 2014 self-titled release (with its mediocre riffs and clean vocals) is clearly in the past now.
That’s because their latest album is also Darkest Hour’s finest hour. Joining forces with the king of crusty tunes, Kurt Ballou, was a fantastic choice, as Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora is the band’s angriest, thrashiest, and most potent release yet. The punk influence is certainly there, as this thing is more energetic than a kid after drinking three Red Bulls (don’t do that, please). The accentuation of their punk and thrash roots does come with one small disadvantage, though Darkest Hour don’t let it become too big an issue. The extra seasonings dilute their now-standard issue melodic death base a bit, which is a shame, as Darkest Hour were definitely one of the best at the dual-guitar harmonies and more melodic atmosphere. That sonic base is still there, but Godless Prophets is much more feral than pretty. It makes for some songs that lack a hook or anything memorable, despite their punkish potency (opener “Knife in the Safe Room” is the clearest case).
Where this works to the band’s favor is creating a broader palate for Darkest Hour to just jam away at. The band’s DC punk roots have always manifested in John Henry’s vocal delivery and relevant lyrics, and that’s certainly the case here. The thrashier aspects give nice nods to the crossover style that has come back in style (thanks Iron Reagan!) and result in some furious numbers, “Another Headless Ruler of the Used” immediately comes to mind. That said, the melodic death metal side, when emphasized, leads to some of the record’s best tracks. “Enter Oblivion”, a song that really should have served as a closer, with its weighty finale, is delightful in its restraint. Hell, the last four songs generally show that Darkest Hour are just as potent as they were in their heyday. With the increased sonic palate, it’s possible Godless Prophets could best those albums, but the fact that a brand new record could hold its own with near-classics speaks to its effectiveness.
That’s really the name of the game here; it’s mighty impressive that Darkest Hour, after peaking so early in their career, have been able to come back so damn strong on album number nine. Whatever the Hell you want to label this record, there’s little doubt that it will go down as one of the best of 2017.