Darko (US) - Darko
Band: Darko (US)
FFO: To The Grave, Defamed, Distant
Darko is a lot of people’s favorite thing to come out of 2020. I can’t argue with that. Vocalist Tom Barber of Chelsea Grin and drummer Josh Miller from Emmure come together in a surprising combo that resulted in absolute brutality in early 2020, leaving instant fans desperate for an LP. To be completely transparent, I wasn’t the biggest fan of their debut 14 minute EP. I liked it but I thought it could use some spice. I think if you’re going to have a fun side project, stir the pot a bit, experiment and explore the sound you’re aiming for. Well, they did exactly that on this new self-titled. With the help of a crushing production and a mix that knows how to swallow you into the music, Darko unleashed a beast that brings a whole new taste to Deathcore.
The album starts almost as expected. Unknown, spooky sounds that create the atmosphere we know by now that Darko loves to give off. This is of course only a short introduction and literal “welcome”-ing before things blast off into oblivion with pounding riffs, drums, and ferocious vocals. One of the most noticeable things in this song amongst many others, is the different sounds that happen outside of the instruments themselves. From synths to modular effects and everything in between, they really utilize a lot to bring forward the most mayhem possible.
The guitars are so low at times I can’t even quite explain it. They just dominate the mix and steam roll your ears. I chose my words carefully when I said “a mix that knows how to swallow you into the music” because it’s not necessarily the best mix. It’s not clear or balancing. It’s one of those mixes that is specific to this project though. It highlights what they want it to highlight. There’s moments where they want the guitar to be overbearing, or the synth to trip you out. I don’t see their sound as something that’s supposed to have balance across all instruments or components. It’s meant to be a wavy, chaotic experience, in my opinion. That’s what I appreciate it for at least.
‘Donna’ and ‘Daniel’ are obviously songs I have to bring up not just because they are a different tone, but because it’s a place I don’t think Tom has ever gone before vocally (perhaps even lyrically). For the first time we hear cleaner vocals from him, sounding good too. By no means is this him belting out some 4 minute clean song, but there is also the extended use of fry screams that have more tone and pitch to them. It sounds good and fitting for the song at hand. Interesting enough, the songs fit in the album well too. It isn’t a complete removal from the rest of the music or experience, nor does it seem out of place.
To continue to comment on the guys themselves; Tom is sounding even more vicious than what he does in Chelsea Grin. He’s very recognizable, but with more of a bite. More twist and turns within the nuances. As for Josh, I’m a distant fan of Emmure. There’s a good amount of songs I like a lot, but I’m not a connoisseur of their music by any means. But it seems like he’s doing his thing here. I never thought of him as an insanely technical drummer but he is certainly drilling away at the kit from song to song. Almost like he’s in a fight with the guitar. They constantly are pumbeling away back and forth.
Very solid features on here as well that I can’t gloss over. Ben Duerr, one of my favorite vocalists, absolutely crushes. Courtney and Johnny make ‘Daniel’ sound so big and catchy. Then of course Nick Arthur never disappoints. He always brings the heat to anything he’s on.
The lyrics, although I have not read them myself, seem like they could be a mixed bag of serious, story telling, and maybe just for the fun of it. With song names like “Praise The Sun” and “The Last of Us” being obvious video game references (maybe not?) I’d assume, as great as they are, aren’t songs to take all that seriously lyrically. While ‘Donna’ is of course a very deep song. Then there’s ‘Mars Attacks’ that seems to be about aliens attacking or something. You get my point.
The title track is then left last as a farewell. There isn’t much to say about it besides it’s a very nice send off to wrap everything up just as brutally as they started.
The pacing is incredible through and through. At 45 minutes and 12 songs, it needed to be with how fast it seems like these songs go by because of how much goes on. Even the interlude track ‘If This Is Forever’ is almost 5 minutes of believe it or not, actual calming enjoyment. Every song is comparable but not one is a copy of another. These guys clearly put in hard, dedicated work to make this a front to back banger. Even after multiple listens, I can’t get enough of it and already am looking forward to this band's future. I hope the reception to the album is good enough to get them to take this project even more seriously than they seem to already be doing, so this doesn’t turn into a 1 project experiment.
Next to ‘END’, this has to be my favorite supergroup/side project. They take themselves and their music seriously while advancing the sound of their genre, but certainly aren’t afraid to have fun with it right down to the insane music videos. This is a very forward thinking band that seems to have all the right ideas with perfect execution.
Strongest Song: Pretenders, Praise The Sun, Mars Attacks, Pale Tongue
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/darko-us/1508828959