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Dark Arena - Worlds of Horror Award winner

Dark Arena
Worlds of Horror
by Kevin Lewis at 30 August 2021, 6:21 PM

DARK ARENA is a Thrash Metal band from the United States. Adding in elements of prog and melodic metal to round out their sound, they have a lot of depth to their music. There is, unfortunately, a tragic story with this record. Guitar virtuoso Paul Konjicija passed away in 2019. This record was completed in 2018 and is finally getting the release it deserves. Worlds Of Horror was released via Pure Steel Records on August 27, 2021.

The record kicks off with the title track, “Worlds of Horror.” The first thing you hear is guitar wizardry and drumming precision. The bass was there, but there was so much more to the lead in guitar work, that it was felt more than heard. Then the main riff kicks in. Now we get the well-rounded band sound. The bass balances out with the rhythm and begins to be a larger presence. Vocals are really good so far, alternating between lower ranges and nice big belting sections. The tempo shifts for chorus and verse are really good.

The eponymous second track, “Dark Arena” is another banger. Nice chugging riff and galloping rhythm. The guitar work is again fantastic. The pacing is furiously fast. The vocals are over the top. The rhythm doesn’t lag behind or hang under the guitars, it holds the lead up on a pedestal for all to hear and see. That down-tuned riff is worthy of all the headbanging you can handle.

Jumping down to track four, “Damnation Within,” we get a slightly more melodic riff with a slower rhythm at the start of the song. Still as heavy as any of the other songs, it’s another showcase in musicianship. This song feels a little more progressive metal to me. The time and tempo shifts are more in line with DREAM THEATER than METALLICA, so a little less thrashy. The solo is more technical and precise, rather than the previous brutality exhibited. Both styles are well done and a pleasure to hear.

Kill Procedure” blazes out of the gate before settling into its’ main riff. The layered vocals shine through here. They’ve been present the whole time, but somehow feel more visible on this song, at least on this playthrough. The bass and drums are still racing. This feels like a guitar driven record at times, mostly because of the exquisite skill of the late Paul Konjicija. Make no mistake though, this is a well-rounded record with great musicians.

The final track, “Abandoned,” is that slow burner that thrash bands often do so well. At times, I get a bit of a KING DIAMOND feel from the guitar work, which I love. This song also has a bit of a “Lost Reflection” by CRIMSON GLORY feel. Those features alone make this one of my favorite tracks on the record.

DARK ARENA are three adept musicians who can all play their instruments with tremendous skill and accuracy. This is an album full of good songs. They all deliver something you want, whether that’s a desire to headbang or air guitar/drum, sing along or shout and shake your fist. This record draws the listener in. I’ve listened to it on loop for a week and love that I hear new things with each pass through. There is so much to unpack that the album just keeps evolving the more you listen.

This is one of those records that will drive new fans, like myself, crazy. While there may be more songs recorded and another possible record down the line, this is a band that will either end here, disappointing us, or will continue with a different guitarist, who will have a different style. The writing and arrangements will alter. They may be just as good, but they will be different. Fans of this iteration of the band will have to mourn its’ passing.

Whether the band calls it quits here or goes on, the metal world is better off for having had this special time with this makeup.

Songwriting:  9
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  9
Production:  9


4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Worlds of Horror
2. Dark Arena
3. Annunaki Arise
4. Damnation Within
5. Bite the Bullet
6. Kill Procedure
7. Sacred Rite
8. Destiny Bridge
9. Abandoned
Lineup:
Juan Ricardo – Vocals
Paul Konjicija – Bass/Guitar
Noah Buchanan – Drums/Keyboard
Record Label: Pure Steel Records
     


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