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Review: Darkane - Expanding Senses
Expanding Senses

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2002
Duration: 43:22
Tracks: 10
Genre: Thrash Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: January 7, 2003
Reviewed by: Hogworth
Readers Rating
Expanding Senses

Rated 3.11/5 (62.22%) (9 Votes)

Coming on the heels of the aptly titled "Insanity," I would have expected "Expanding Senses" to continue down the path of technical thrash metal, exploring further the well-trodden trails and byways of heavy progressive music. Instead, Darkane have elected to forego impressing their print in the already rutted grooves of the prog highway, and, instead, have chosen to reverse their way, returning to a simpler, more brutal, and evocative sound. Musically, the effect has been to crawl back into the womb of metal that birthed them: the Bay Area sound of the late 80’s.

Darkane, in their brief, but protean career, have, indeed, charted a risky course through inclement waters. Changing drastically in style and sound with each release, the band has established expectations, then, blithely, failed to meet them. The band's natal effort, "Rusted Angel" was full of symphonic posturing and pretention, cultivating a rather erudite and effete listenership, only to leave them crestfallen after the blistering wrath of "Insanity." "Expanding Senses" fails to deliver the same progressiveness and ductility as "Insanity," preferring instead a reprise of Classic thrash metal, evoking, at different moments, the grandfathers of the genre: Slayer, Testament, Forbidden, Exodus, Megadeth, Dark Angel, and Metallica.

Even as Darkane introduces echoes of these past masters, they thread through the musical weave a melodic train of catchy Gothenpop choruses, a la Soilwork or In Flames, using, alternately, scratchy thrash metal growls, woofs and yaps as well as plangent, clear, melodic vocal lines. If expectations engraved by "Insanity" are summarily dismissed as meddlesome detractions, then "Expanding Senses" can be appreciated for what it is…superbly crafted, catchy Nordic thrash metal. It has the insouciant, fire-from-the-hip applomb of the riffing of "Insanity," but the ideas are handled intelligently, and the various pieces are fitted together with jigsaw accuracy and notable craft. Less screaming has also given more room for the guitars to explore grooves, rather than madly fill all available spaces with heavy-density riffing.

The centrepiece of this vibrant and dextrous metal display is "Chaos v. Order," a ‘duet’ between current Darkane frontman Andreas Sydow and former vocalist Lawrence Mackrory. The song creeps out to a hellish Slayeresque riff, reminiscent of the ‘South of Heaven’ era, the guitars harmonizing in darksome malcontent, each echoing the other, trading the riff back and forth in antiphonal voicing. The band then slips into a more powered-up Exodus feel, chopping through tough and pugnacious bluesy riffs as Sydow and Mackrory alternate lyrics expressive of the album’s central theme, psychological dementia. The two singers’ voices are nearly the same, but Mackrory’s is somewhat more powerful, and possesses a conviction which Sydow’s lacks, a conviction which seems to border on the verge of torment. Other notable tracks are "Imaginary Entity," a decidedly Forbidden-ish tune, and "Parasites of the Unexplained," a reprise of the fast-firing riffing intensity of Dark Angel.

My only complaint about this album is that, upon repeated listens, some of the initial delight evanesces. My suspicion is that this is due to much the same pall one may experience with familiar and comfortable clothing: teasing out its stitches, we find that the whole follows a distinct pattern, and that each part is formed from the same formula. In Darkane’s case it seems to be the intent of their (current) craft to place good, intense, similar riffs together, without contrast, and to bond them to super-catchy choruses. Although memorable, and immediately accessible and delightful, it becomes cloying after a while.

Given that, this is an album which the vast majority of thrash metal bands have not the creativity to envision, let alone the technique to execute. Like Chinese Food, it is delicious stuff, but leaves one in short order with an even larger appetite. Give them credit, however, for cultivating this taste. Their mercurial nature only augments the anticipation. What will they do next? Hey, if it’s at all like "Expanding Senses" then that’s great. Besides, even though Darkane is different every time, it’s always great.

Other related information on the site
Interview with Darkane on January 2, 2004 (Interviewed by Barbara Williams (Crowley))
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