Darkane – Inhuman Spirits – Album Review
Album Title: Inhuman Spirits
Label: Massacre Records
Date of Release: 24 June 2022
Ever since I discovered ‘Expanding Senses’ back in 2002 or thereabouts, I have had a soft spot for Swedish band Darkane. At a time when I was still very heavily into exploring everything that the melodic death metal genre had to offer, I stumbled across their third album and never looked back. What attracted me to Darkane was the fact that they were always just a little bit different from everyone else in the densely populated scene. Whilst others were experimenting with loads of clean vocals, going ultra-melodic, or completely the opposite direction, here was a band that had a much more pronounced thrash metal element to their output, alongside some great riffs, and savagery blended with a sense of the epic and grandiose. I also liked the vaguely progressive edge that they had, meaning that you had to work a little harder to fully appreciate their output. To me, this was a great mix which led to my becoming a firm fan of the quintet.
And then, after they released album number six, ‘The Sinister Supremacy’ in 2013, everything went very quiet. And it isn’t clear why. But no matter, because 2022 is the year that Darkane have retuned, and I for one am happy about this. With one of the most stable line-ups in extreme metal, the original core quartet who came together in 1998 remain present and correct. This means that the guitars are handled by Klas Ideberg and Christofer Malmström, Jörgen Löfberg is the bassist, and Peter Wildoer remains on the drum stool. The vocalist is the only person that has changed over the years, but original singer Lawrence Mackrory fronts ‘Inhuman Spirits’, his second album appearance since his return in 2011.
After such a prolonged hiatus, their return could have gone one of several ways. The resultant album could have been a pale shadow of their past offerings, it could have seen their modus operandi change with a pronounced identity shift, or the quintet could have come back hungrier than ever, or with no real appreciable change to their core identity. Thankfully, it is the latter that has transpired, and this has made me even happier.
It takes precisely 2.5 seconds before I start to smile. The opening song is also the title track and in classic Darkane style, it comes roaring out of the blocks with intensity, heaviness, and a grandiose bombast that only they can deliver. The drums mete out a punishing beat, ably assisted by a rumbling bass and strong riffs, all coated in some excellent, rich orchestration. Darkane are back, peeps! From there, Lawrence Mackrory takes centre stage with his familiar aggressive, gritty, snarling delivery whilst the energetic hybrid of death and thrash metal alongside him cuts and scythes with precise intensity. The chorus, however, when it arrives, is a magnificent thing of thunderous and melodic beauty. It takes a few spins to fully make its mark, but when it lodges itself in your brain, it will not let go.
Up next is ‘Awakening’ and whilst it is still unmistakeably Darkane, the approach is slightly different. It’s much more death metal-centric, with Mackrory unleashing a deeper growl that is less decipherable. That is, until the chorus, which is a stomping, groove-laden beast that builds upon the far less orchestrated, and far more muscular, chunky riff-laden affair that you hear in the verses. As the song develops, there’s a return to the cleaner vocals, plus there’s a large dollop of melody within the lead guitar solos that emerge later in the track.
The more I listen to ‘Inhuman Spirits’, the more I come to the conclusion that the album could very well be neatly split into two halves. Opener aside, the first few songs feel a little more spiky, incisive, and aggressive; there is still melody and groove, of that there’s no doubt, but the songs feel a little more confrontational and extreme, if I can use that descriptor. The second half however, is markedly more catchy and more melodic overall. Unless my ears are playing tricks on me of course.
And then track five, ‘Inhaling Mental Chaos’ kicks in. It still deploys a pleasing amount of strong and tight riffs, not sacrificing the heaviness one iota, but after a frenetic introduction, the melody feels more immediate and pronounced. Those that know me will know that this is a very positive thing indeed, so the combination of memorable riffs and melodically tinged cleaner vocals of Mackrory satisfy my needs perfectly. The ensuing lead solos and harmonic leads are delicious too, bringing that wicked smile to my lips once again.
I could pick any number of songs to thrust under the spotlight, but the truth is that ‘Inhuman Spirits’ is a remarkably consistent creation, with not one of the ten songs falling short, not even the slightly strange and unexpected final instrumental that’s just piano and atmospherics to end the record in moody fashion. It won’t be everyone’s preferred way of ending the album, but thanks to the darkness and the melancholy within the central melody, I rather like it.
Back to the heavier songs though, and ‘Mansion Of Torture’ is a snarling, frothing monster of a track that blends savagery and attitude with a huge chorus that once again sees some pronounced symphonic orchestration to inject that sense of majestic opulence to the material, culminating in a full-on cinematic film score outro.
In a slight change of pace, the intro to ‘The Quintessence Of…’ is a much slower affair, that shows the way in which Darkane can, if the need arises, offer a sense of more measured drama and slow build to their material. I love the way that the music builds from all corners of the band over the course of a minute or more, taking its time to come to full fruition. Whilst the pace does quicken slightly within the verses, it is a slower-paced composition overall, revelling in a big, grandstand chorus via a wonderfully groovy riff that will test those neck muscles whether or not you want it to. Alongside the title track, this is where Darkane are at their most gloriously epic and it’s at this point that I suddenly realise how much I love this band and how much I have missed them over the past near decade.
‘A Spiral To Nothing’ is a catchy and upbeat song, whose opening riff and melody reminds me a little of Arch Enemy, albeit in their early days when they wrote their best material by a million miles. There’s also a hint of early Megadeth too, particularly in the chorus that mimics the song title by cleverly spiralling down as it goes along. But don’t be fooled, because this is still 100% Darkane.
The only disappointment that I have is that I singularly failed in my attempt to bring this review to you before the album’s release. However, being such an important band for me and many others, and with such expectation after their hiatus, I felt I owed it to Darkane to get this review right, and to give the music as much time to fully resonate as possible. Having done that, I am delighted to be able to say that ‘Inhuman Spirits’ shows that this quintet have lost none of their ability, hunger, or bite. All that remains is my now heightened ambition to see the Swedes on a stage as I’ve never had the pleasure to date. In the meantime, won’t you all please stop what you are doing and wrap your ears around ‘Inhuman Spirits’, as Darkane are well and truly back.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
Charlie Griffiths – Tiktaalika
Winds Of Tragedy – As Time Drifts Away
Denouncement Pyre – Forever Burning
Truent – Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment
Artificial Brain -Artificial Brain
Seventh Wonder – The Testament
All Things Fallen – Shadow Way
Def Leppard – Diamond Star Halos
Remains Of Destruction – New Dawn
Crematory – Inglorious Darkness
Septic Flesh – Modern Primitive
Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home
Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones
Morgue Supplier – Inevitability
Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)
Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus
I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping
Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle
LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness
Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain
Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme
Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set
Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes
Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn
Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone
Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama
Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP
Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse
Playgrounded – The Death Of Death
Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum
PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2
Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse
The Midgard Project – The Great Divide
Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light
Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts
New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods
Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation
Sabaton – The War To End All Wars
Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void
Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order
Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine
Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time
Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts
Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined
The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity
Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North
Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier
Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion
Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools
Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night
Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge
Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP
Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel
Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: