Darkest Hour are on brand, bringing the mosh with excellent melodeath riffs and metalcore sensibilities. Expect a few surprises along the way.

Release date: February 23, 2024 | MNRK Heavy | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

Feels weird to think that Darkest Hour are now releasing their tenth album Perpetual | Terminal and are close to 30 years on from starting out. The band, who hail from Washington D.C., have always been a workhorse of a group and after a career of almost constant touring and recording an album every couple of years, the 7 year break between new material seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered. Perpetual | Terminal is one of their most consistent albums, both in terms of quality of sound and songwriting. This is a great example of a band who has been able to pull influence from their own back catalog, while introducing enough new elements to avoid rehashing old ideas.

Now, not only is this the first album in a good while, but it has a number of other firsts for the band, including – the first album featuring new lead guitarist Nico Santora (ex-Fallujah, ex-The Faceless, ex-Suicidal Tendencies); the first self-produced album; and first album on their new label, MNRK Heavy.

It’s hard to say what has had the biggest influence on the quality of Perpetual | Terminal, but a mix of extended writing period, injection of new blood into the group, and more control of the production seems to have worked out well for Darkest Hour. The hardcore-meets-Scandinavian melodeath foundations of the band are on full display and they have managed to mix modern metal production with their live rawness to create an album that is a pretty good summation of the groups sound that they have refined over the last three decades.

The self-titled track, “Perpetual | Terminal”, is a strong showcase of the style the band went for on this album. It’s a song that sums up, not just the overall themes of survival, death and rebirth that feature throughout the album, but also what listeners can expect in terms of the music on offer. We start off with a nice melodeath riff that has a bit of whip to it and some excellent pummeling drums from Travis Orbin before going into a very Darkest Hour-esque chorus. The dual attack of Mike Schleibaum and Santora is on full display with some strong melodic guitar work going on. John Henry sounds as good as ever, maybe even a bit more varied in his delivery of lines. Somewhere between the more hardcore vocals of Deliver Us and the more guttural stuff he did on Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora.

This first song kind of brings home the realization – this is, simply put, a Darkest Hour album. If you are a fan of the melodic death metal aspects of the band you’ll likely give this album a good few listens and like it.

An interesting way to look at this album though, isn’t through the lens of what roots they have returned to, but what the band has done differently. Throughout Perpetual | Terminal the riff is still king and it’s expected that Darkest Hour will deliver a mix of buzzsawing melodeath heaviness and mosh-inducing thrash to get your head moving and fist knocking out someone else’s teeth, figuratively speaking (hopefully).

“Amor Fati” goes completely against this though, a guitar driven instrumental track with some beautiful, modern metal solos throughout. This just speaks volumes about the addition of Santora to the group. Dude has some serious chops. What I find interesting is how well he pairs with Darkest Hour’s music and Schleibaum’s guitar playing and it’s quite apparent throughout the album that his playing has pushed the ‘melodic’ factor on this album further.

Darkest Hour also use more acoustic guitar to add some textural differences to Perpetual | Terminal. This isn’t constant balls to the wall, gnashing of teeth, visceral metal. “Mausoleum” and “Goddess of War, Give Me Something To Die For”, both start out with acoustic guitar interludes and more talked/sung vocals from Henry. In sharp contrast to 7 years ago when Darkest Hour sounded as hateful as they ever sounded on record, Perpetual | Terminal is the most melodic and mature they have ever sounded, while still being banging.

There’s a lot of nostalgia tied up in listening to Darkest Hour. While I was never super into American metalcore bands, when I first heard Deliver Us I was blown away by the sheer energy of the band and their take on the genre. That album had a bit of magic about it that, for me at least, didn’t carry over on subsequent releases to the same extent.

Perpetual | Terminal is like a reawakening of that old magic. There’s just the right amount of fast paced melodeath mixed with hardcore vim and vigor. It’s the essential essence of Darkest Hour’s best attributes all distilled into a forty minute album with the melodic elements turned up just a touch. A great addition to the discography of a band that has been grinding away at a consistent pace for such a long time.

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