After such a stellar release as “Return Of The Black Death” D&Q have returned with “Hail Infernal Darkness” and I cannot help but feel utterly let down in a sort of intangible and nagging way. The album still contains a brutal and heavy as hell guitar tone which batters the listener and spits forth so many goddamn riffs I feel like I’m listening to Thrash. If I simply focus on isolated instances where the guitar rocks the fuck out I can enjoy this album, but when taken as a whole I am left with this indistinguishable feeling of emptiness and I do not know why.
I love the guitar riff/lead emphasis this band has taken. The riff emphasis was present on “Return…” but this renewed love affair with the guitar solo is goddamn titillating. The album opens with a stellar lead firing on all cylinders as Kelley Kuciemba grabs you by the scrotum and pummels you till you wish you were listening to “Maximum Violence” so that your health could be spared (you’re hearing however…). These solos pop up again and again, seeming to permeate the album like a horde of ants devouring a scorpion. This guitar emphasis coupled with the esoteric chord progressions of some of the solos hearken to NILE’s latest, as this comparison is in no way shallow. One could also thus extrapolate the fact that “Hail Infernal Darkness” also contains a plethora of similarities to BEHEMOTH’s “Demigod”, particularly during the faster blast-beat driven sections.
And that is where my praise for this album will die off like an animal struggling in a bear trap. You remember that cluster-fuck riffage of “On The Death Farm”? That signature D&Q sound which differentiated the band from their main influence, IMMOLATION, is virtually non-existent. The main riff of “Blood Of A Million Martyrs” certainly recalls a bit of the glory of the past but in no way rectifies the problem that 90% of “Hail Infernal Darkness” is derivative, stale and had already been done better prior to 2006. The riffs presented are certainly ok, but nothing grabs you or fist-fucks you like Death Metal should. Riff emphasis is what I live for, but emphasizing mediocrity will not allow you to transcend your self-imposed barriers. Ingenuity is not the name of this game and I feel ultimately disappointed as one could produce a hell of an album if they combined the solos of “Hail Infernal Darkness” with the riffing of “Return Of The Black Death”. Now that would be a force to be goddamned reckoned with.
One could fast forward to any point on this album and find that fast yet deceptively mid-paced Death Metal sound which so many bands are beginning to copy these days. If you are not going to differentiate your sound with creativity then you must hit me with great riffage and D&Q have failed to do that with this release. If you are under the false impression that NILE and BEHEMOTH’s latest albums are the best they have put out, then “Hail Infernal Darkness” will probably satisfy you…hell you may even love it. If I find myself itching for that modern Death Metal sound, however, I’ll throw in “Return Of The Black Death” which possesses at least a shred of identity and conviction. (Online April 12, 2006)