Layers of Lies (Nuclear Blast)
by Eric Chon
Whirlwind guitars, manic drumming, wailing vocals: This is Darkane? Here I am expecting some gritty, technical thrash, cuz that’s what their last album, Expanding Senses, prepared me for. And I loved that album. It had all the right elements for a rockin’ metal album. But then Darkane drop the bomb that is Layers of Lies, and it’s all over. How the fuck are they gonna top this?
Layers of Lies opens with an epic, stormy instrumental replete with orchestral instruments and Romanticism-inspired choral harmonies. It’s like the calm before Armageddon, the black clouds slowly advance over the horizon. When the second track, “Secondary Effects” hits, those black clouds become a raging storm. Your world is torn apart and the pure savagery of Darkane is laid bare. I physically staggered at the aural assault. There’s a hunger here that cannot be shaken. These Swedes aren’t out for the kill, they’ll only accept a complete and total slaughter of the soul.
All the elements have been ratcheted up to well past eleven. Christofer Malmström and Klas Ideberg give searing performances as their lightning-fast riffs and solos strip the flesh from your bones. Their aggression is only matched by their technicality and understanding of melody. As complex as it gets, the guitars still hook themselves into your consciousness, each song memorable on its own. There are even prog elements interwoven with all the thrashing. Of note is the instrumental, “Maelstrom Crisis,” which provides a brief glimpse at how diverse Darkane’s influences run.
But it’s not just the guitars that get star treatment here. Peter Wildoer murders the skins in an unrelenting assault that baffles the senses. The last person to impress me this much was Gene Hoglan! Wildoer steals the title of “Human Tornado” from Mick Harris and carries it to the next level. Spirited and nimble playing from bassist Jörgen Löfberg keeps the rhythms in tight and top form.
Although he was no slouch previously, singer Andreas Sydow really comes into his own. This man is literally on fire when he sings. Like a man possessed, Sydow bellows, screams, and sings with a fury born of hell and destruction. His delivery is as savage and brutal as the rest of the band, much to my surprise. His is a kind of voice that fits perfectly with the layering effects of producer Daniel Bergstrand. This gives Sydow’s voice extra dimensions, creating a unique effect.
Of course, Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Strapping Young Lad) is a pivotal player here. The production on Layers of Lies makes Expanding Senses sound muddy and dull, amazing as that seems. The sound here is sharp and piercing, allowing you to hear every little detail with alarming clarity, complimenting the futuristic sound Darkane has pioneered.
Bolstering the fantastic music are thought-provoking lyrics and intelligent themes, a rare occurrence in metal. The title track gives us a glimpse at how humanity is further sinking beneath the world’s glossy, artificial veneer with lyrics like “The presence of all and the perception of every feeling is just a dream that follows a written script” while “Vision of Degradation” confronts our zombie-like existence to work, eat, and waste away.
Technical metal is making a return to writing songs, rather than merely stringing together complex riffs, and Darkane understand this better than any. They marry unbridled complexity with catchy hooks to create an album filled with memorable tracks. Whether it’s the mind-blowing aggression of “Godforsaken Universe” or the mid-tempo groove of “Decadent Messiah,” Layers of Lies is an album you’ll not soon forget. Darkane are the Architects of Armageddon.