Perpetual | Terminal

MNRK Heavy
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Perpetual | Terminal
02. Societal Bile
03. A Prayer to the Holy Death
04. The Nihilist Undone
05. One With the Void
06. Amor Fati
07. Love is Fear
08. New Utopian Dream
09. Mausoleum
10. My Only Regret
11. Goddess of War, Give Me Something to Die for

Now that we live in an era where nothing matters and virtually anything can be described as "metal" — because, you know, inclusion is good, gatekeepers / elitists are bad and so on — the original wave of metalcore bands that emerged at the start of the 21st century are ripe for reassessment. DARKEST HOUR were way ahead of the curve with early records like "The Mark Of The Judas" (2000) and "So Sedated, So Secure" (2001),  and came as close as anyone to defining the genre with the seminal "Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation" (2003) and its illustrious follow-up "Undoing Ruin" (2005). Long before it was decided that metalcore should become a kind of disingenuous Trojan Horse for all manner of weak-kneed, alt-pop garbage, the Washington D.C. pioneers were a laudable benchmark for everything that made this music so invigorating and, at its best, as heavy and vital as any other authentic metal strain.

Quite how we got from KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, UNEARTH and a pre-murder plot AS I LAY DYING to some of the monstrosities operating under the metalcore banner today is anyone's guess, but "Perpetual | Terminal" sidesteps all of that cynical horseshit and delivers, with great venom, a jaw-juddering reminder of what the real thing sounds like. Seven long years have passed since DARKEST HOUR released the Kurt Ballou-produced "Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora", but the only significant change here is the arrival of guitarist Nico Santora (who replaced the departing Mike Carrigan in 2020). In every other respect, "Perpetual | Terminal" is a belligerent reassertion of first values. Still deftly balanced between metalcore's most cherished tropes and the malleable fury of melodic death metal, DARKEST HOUR know exactly who they are. Much like DEATH RAY VISION's criminally undervalued "From The Rafters" (released last year),  this is a metalcore record that celebrates the scene's original spirit without compromise.

With nearly 30 years of active service on the books, it makes sense that frontman John Henry and guitarist Mike Schleibaum should be masters of this shit, and yet "Perpetual | Terminal" still surprises. From the opening title track onwards, DARKEST HOUR sound authoritative and utterly engaged in the process of breaking necks. Always one of metalcore's most sophisticated and versatile bands, they continue to uphold standards of songwriting and delivery that few of their peers can match. Delicate, instrumental interludes aside, these songs are almost uniformly vicious and hard-hitting, but they are also free from idle cliché and, if anything, even more punishing than before. "Societal Bile" is a case in point: a super-sharp, three-minute assault, it revels in fast tempos, muscular grooves and gnarly, foreboding atmosphere. Likewise, "A Prayer to the Holy Death" snaps from textbook speed freakery to anthemic, heartfelt melody with great skill and greater conviction; "The Nihilist Undone" is a shit-kicking salute to the greats of Gothenburg, with Henry on particularly venomous form; and "One With the Void" embraces a slower, more ominous gait, wringing drops of dark dismay from crestfallen verses and a bruising, brutal chorus. Elsewhere, "New Utopian Dream" is a seething, hands-in-the-air release of tension, with some of DARKEST HOUR's gnarliest riffs to date; while the closing "Goddess Of War, Give Me Something to Die for" is simply magnificent: six minutes of grandiose perfection, it hammers home how timeless and effective metalcore can be when it hits its marks with full power and unshakeable belief.

As great as diehard fans will be expecting, and maybe even greater than that, "Perpetual | Terminal" adds yet more weight to DARKEST HOUR's unassailable reputation. Listen and learn, half-assed infidels: The experts are back.

Author: Dom Lawson
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