Darkness – Blood on Canvas (Massacre Records)

Wednesday, 24th April 2024
Rating: 8 / 10

Much like the Bay Area thrash scene, Germany had its premiere breakthrough acts (Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, and Tankard) as well as the second/third tier artists who released albums to make modest inroads in the underground yet never quite hit that next level ceiling. Darkness typifies the latter category – although since their reactivation a decade ago seem motivated to make the most of their second creative burst of energy. Blood on Canvas is the group’s sixth studio album, recording as a four-piece since losing second guitarist Meik the previous year. Pure instinctual atmosphere penetrates these nine tracks as you feel the ripping guitars, pounding bass, savage kit work, as well as aggressive, raspy vocals that level the listener for incessant headbanging chaos.

Rhythmic verses often match the main musical components during early highlight “A Couple of Kills” – the ensuing riff gallops allowing Arnd ample expressiveness in his melodic lead break plus subsequent catchy circular sequence. Settling into a mid-tempo punch for the follow-up “Nights in Turmoil”, the steady double bass foundation allows the other musicians to slither at varying paces, while Lee stalks in his vocal delivery in varying shades of Teutonic rasp or forceful soldier mold depending on the feel of the verses to chorus. Transitions often appear in unexpected places where these gentlemen go from comfortable pit-moving tempos into speedier, wilder terrain – sure to excite those who look for dynamics in their thrash. Check out the work of “This and My Heart Beside” or the more Bay Area-driven “Defcon Four” (think Heathen meets Dark Angel here) as you prepare to have your limbs tear apart through a blitzkrieg musical/vocal voyage that contains all the right crunchy downpicking and energetic support to drive the hooks home. While the majority of the songs fly by in economical fashion (i.e. 3:30 to 4:57 timeframes), Darkness saves the eight-minute plus title track for a fitting conclusion – a somber, reflective opening soon picks up momentum, the stop/start rhythms fast and furious before slowing down again, only to reemerge for a groovy thrash ending.

Although the original plan was to release a full-length in 2021, we all know that the pandemic slowed things for many musicians to a halt. Blood on Canvas nonetheless achieves its intended target for those who love aggressive thrash captured in a potent manner. Maybe Darkness still has some vitality left in that tank – the proof is in this record.

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