Darkfall - At The End Of Times - (8.5/10)
Published on January 12, 2018
Melodic death metal has a tendency of being dismissed as some lighter-grade offshoot of power metal that simply incorporated the death metal vocal style and proceeded to become a wholly commercial phenomenon, at least as far as the older guard purists are concerned. While there is some truth to the notion that the melodic strain has evolved into an entity unto itself that seems to bear less and less resemblance to the Florida and Stockholm scenes of the early 90s that preceded it, there are naturally several parties involved in the melodeath scene that have retained a substantial old school death and thrash remnant. Bucking trends set and popularized by the likes of Soilwork and In Flames in the 2000s, bands such as The Crown and Kataklysm have placed a far greater emphasis on aggression and speed than the Gothenburg crowd while still incorporating many of the older heavy metal melodic hooks that said bands dwell upon, and though a little younger and not as prolific as said bands, Austria’s Darkfall makes a solid addition to the same camp.
Relying upon the highly polished and powerful engineering chops of renowned producer and former Holy Moses guitarist Andy Classen, Darkfall has seen some impressive output in the mid-2010s, and their sophomore effort At The End Of Timessees an album that long and rage and generally short on balladry. Naturally there are some break points where things hit a mellower note similar to the quiet moments heard on In Flames’ Clayman, such as the dreary outro on “Deathcult Debauchery” and the Iron Maiden-tinged clean guitar drone that kicks off “Blutgott”, but there is definitely a far greater tendency towards the sort of brutality that was a staple of the pre-melodeath sound of Florida. Much of this owes to vocalist Thomas Spiwak throwing out a deeper and rawer set of grunts more indicative of Corpsegrinder’s with Cannibal Corpse and Paths Of Possession. Granted, he also makes fairly regular use of the higher end Gothenburg shrieks to throw a bit of Lindberg for good measure, but this doesn’t come off as a typical Gothenburg affair musically even when this occurs.
In keeping with the heavier and darker character of this album, the musical contents behind the voice are no slouch when it comes to hitting all the obligatory points in the OSDM playbook. Arguably the most pronounced example of things heading in a more brutal direction is “The Breed Of Death”, which is more of a raging thrasher than a melodic affair, and kicks off with a melodic guitar riff more akin to something Death would have used circa Leprosy. Things double down on the thrashing note to the point of sounding like a trip down Bay Area memory lane on “Ashes Of Dead Gods” and then shifts to blasting and noodling riff territory fairly similar to select numbers on CC’s The Bleeding. On the other hand, this band also proves to not be totally averse to being theatrical at times, as with the orchestral pomp that kicks off the almost death ‘n’ roll rocker “Welcome To The Day You Die”. Things get thrown for an even bigger loop in the case of “The Way Of Victory”, which actually functions as more of a sped up and nastier version of the power metal tendencies heard out of Children Of Bodom.
There is something to be said for the notion of settling on a specific niche and sticking to it, lest the target audience be lost. Having said that, Darkfall is one of those bands that don’t really need to even bother with such decisions given that they effectively hit every base and find their only real enemy to be the lack of eclecticism in some of their potential fan base. It’s a surefire bet that there are a couple of songs on here that will play well to the old school crowd, whereas others looking for a 90s Gothenburg might find one or two winners, but this is one of those albums that doesn’t fully commit to one discipline, and is only consistent in its commitment to blinding speed and floor-rumbling heaviness. Definitely a boon for fans of albums like Deathrace King and Epic (The Poetry Of War), yet this album should be given a chance by fans of any sub-style of melodeath.