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Darkened – The Black Winter Award winner

Darkened
The Black Winter
by Thomas Kumke at 22 June 2022, 5:33 PM

DARKENED were formed in 2018 and their band members come from Sweden, UK, and Canada. They are a Death Metal band and released prior to the new album two EPs and one full-length album. “The Black Winter” was mixed and mastered by Swedish legend Dan Swanö at Unisound Studio. The album has a length of about 37 minutes and it was released via Norwegian label Edged Circle Productions which is specialized in Black and Death Metal.

“When BOLT THROWER meets Swedish Death Metal” could be a description of DARKENED and their first album “Kingdom Of Decay” (2020) indicated that this description is not far off. This perception of DARKENED is of course pretty much caused by their illustrious members namely Tobias Cristiansson (GRAVE, ex-DISMEMBER), Hempa Brynolfsson and Gord Olson (both ANGEL BLAST), Linus Nirbrant (THIS ENDING), and Andrew Whale (ex-BOLT THROWER, ex-MEMORIAM), with especially the latter one causing the BOLT THROWER impact on the sound. So, after releasing a first teaser in form of the 7´EP “Mourn The Dying Light” earlier this year, I was really excited to see in which direction the DARKENED journey would continue.

The album starts with an atmospheric/cinematic acoustic opener, before the Death Metal assault erupts into “Blood”, one of the faster songs on the album. The guitar riffing is crushing, the growling vocals are brutal and mainly at the low end of the guttural range, and there are dark melodic paths leading the track forward, including a very contributing lead guitar solo. “Flayed” and “Terminal Lucidity” among those tracks played at sluggish mid-tempo where the guitars, bass, and drums move through the track like a steamroller. While the sound of “Flayed” is pretty grim already, “Terminal Lucidity” tops the list of spine-chilling tracks. Both tracks have their moments, but “Terminal Lucidity” is more direct with more focused tempo switches and a more charismatic melodic framework. The dark melodies are perfectly suited to the vocals as well. All in all, “Terminal Lucidity” is one of the album highlights.

Black Winter” starts with a short atmospheric intro, which explodes into a faster hammering part and then switches into a stomping mid-tempo part. The riffing and the lead guitar parts have a few oriental vibes, the bass lines are crunching, and the vocals come with the brute force straight from the abyss. “Black Winter” is the official video release and the YouTube link is given below. “Fearful Quandary” is one of those songs that switch between mid-tempo and a faster pace. It starts with another atmospheric, instrumental prelude and then transitions into a mid-tempo verse part, before it becomes pacey. The rhythm switches frequently between slow tempo, mid-tempo, and up-tempo. The melodies are doom-laden in particular during the lead guitar parts and solos. “Fearful Quandary” is with almost seven minutes the longest and most complex song on the album.

Swallowed By The World” is more direct in the riffing during the verse parts. The chorus parts are more at a measured tempo with melancholic melodies. “Plague Of Despair” is another steamroller for most of the time. Highlight of the track are the riffing and the lead guitars, despite the solo being relatively short. The melancholic atmosphere and melodies continue in the album closer “Regret” and those melodies are the central theme of the track. Mostly played at a measured tempo, the lead guitars are the dominant element during the almost six minutes playing time with plenty of Doom vibes.

The Black Winter” is a very dark album and it is a very good Death Metal album. It maintains the spirits of the previous album, but also adds some new elements and gives the DARKENED sound a bit of uniqueness. However, I feel the search for a DARKENED trademark sound still continues as the second half of “The Black Winter” differs a lot from the first half. Here I would have wished a bit more directness and a bit less melancholy. The album is well produced. DARKENED are a band with a lot of potential and Death Metal fans will love “The Black Winter”.


Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Premonitions
2. Blood
3. Flayed
4. Terminal Lucidity
5. Black Winter
6. Fearful Quandary
7. Swallowed By The World
8. Plague Of Despair
9. Regret
Lineup:
Gord Olson – Vocals
Hempa Brynolfsson – Guitars
Linus Nirbrant ­ Guitars
Andrew Whale – Drums
Tobias Cristiansson – Bass
Record Label: Edged Circle Productions
     


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