It's a strange phenomenon when an American band releases an album of extremely high quality that is heavily influenced by a scene that, though once consistently graced us with numerous Melodic Death/Thrash Metal masterpieces, now is unfortunately seeing more and more bands compromise their sound in an effort to appeal to the market from which the band in question originates from. While such a concept is nonetheless puzzling, do not waste your energy attempting to rationalize it, as you will undoubtedly end up wasting valuable time that could have, scratch that, should have been spent appreciating one of the best Gothenburg-influenced albums to have been released in recent years.
The album in question is none other than DARKEST HOUR's latest entitled "Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation". While the band does incorporate subtle elements of Hardcore to their overall sound, do not be deterred, as these boys from Washington D.C. thankfully never find themselves meandering among styles, unable to decide on a unified direction for their music. Instead, DARKEST HOUR fully embrace their Gothenburg Melodic Death and Thrash influences with an album that is easily heads and shoulders ahead of the pack. Add to this a Fredrik Nordstrom production job and guest appearances from past and present pioneers and icons of the Gothenburg scene and you are left with an album that is near impossible to ignore. From the opening ferocious onslaught of "The Sadist Nation", to the final chilling note of the epic, instrumental closer "Veritas, Aequitas", "Hidden Hands..." ceases to disappoint. While detractors may scoff at the bands apparent embracing of influences, those in the know will most likely be too busy head-banging and thrashing around to take notice.
While room for improvement is apparent in certain facets of this band (namely the lead guitar and vocal departments), these are but minor gripes that will no doubt be cast aside as this young band continues to head in the right direction on the road to a rewarding and fulfilling career. (Online January 13, 2004)