Published Jun 26, 2009The Eternal Return lives up to its name. Washington, D.C.'s Darkest Hour are back with an incredibly shred-heavy album that has a wonderfully DH nostalgia to it. Any fans that were upset with the musical direction of Undoing Ruin and Deliver Us can rest their fears; The Eternal Return is a throwback to the days of The Mark of The Judas and Hidden Hands of A Sadist Nation. The all-out DH attack commences with intro "Devolution of Flesh" that relies on a tom-heavy drum rhythm and DH's trademark guitar riff massacre; conversely, "The Tides" is in the vein of The Mark of The Judas with an overall grimy sound, metal riffs and the albums first over the top, blistering guitar solo. Musically this album doesn't go outside of the box and is a DH release in every possible way, because after five albums they're only honing their sound. The kings of American melodic death metal retained the services of producer Brian Mc Ternan for The Eternal Return, and this album will be the savoir for a band who may have had their throne usurped, had things continued as they had on their prior two albums. DH fans everywhere will rejoice at the return of their riffalicious sovereign as they are now rightfully entitled to rule once again.
The Eternal Return is the band's fifth full-length record. What did you all hope to accomplish on this album?
[Guitarist, Mike Schleibaum] What we were really trying to do was make a definitive Darkest Hour record. We wanted it to be a classic metal album through and through. To do that we had to go back to the beginning and then re-invent that. We have been a band for a real long time and put out five records, so you know the sound of the band is pretty much defined. For me, this is a sound of that band but, you know, all grown up in a strange sense.
You guys worked with Devin Townsend on Undoing Ruin and Deliver Us. How come you decided not to retain his services for The Eternal Return?
Well, we loved Devin's work. Shit, he is the man! But we felt like that, although he helped us shape and redefine the sound of the band, we needed something different. We were going for a little different sound, and you don't want to make the same record over and over again. Not that we won't ever make a record again with him. Shit, I would love to with this new line up. But my point is we just needed a change, and we felt Brian [McTernan] was the perfect dude for the job. He understood the history of the DH. He has been intimately involved with the way the band operates for years and has also been producing records for longer than DH has been a band! Both Devin and Brian are great producers and I love each and every one of the DH records they did very much.
What differences does Brian McTernan offer as a producer? And how did you want to employ his ability to shape the album's sound for the new record?
Well Brian just comes at it from a different angle. You know Devin was very meticulous when it came to the playing and overall riff-age on the record. He was very concerned with getting the right performances and sounds. Brian, on the other hand, is a little more unorthodox; he approaches everything by trying to figure out what will work best for the song. He is really into working on the songs' arrangements and structures to give them the best punch. That's not to say that Devin didn't work on the songs or that Brian didn't care about the performances, but both of them did have different perspectives.
Kris Norris was in the band for seven years, how did the band deal with him leaving?
Well it was pretty mutual with Kris and us. Mike stepped in for Kris right away on our US Thrash and Burn tour. By the time that tour had ended, Mike felt like he fit in. Then you add in the fact that we spent six months working on the record together and slugging it out and, well, we put Mike through the ringer. But it always felt like he fit in right away.
You've replaced Norris with Mike Carrigan. How has the transition been? What does Carrigan bring to the band?
Carrigan has given us all fresh perspective. It's really good to have a dude like him around because he's younger, grew up with a totally different set of major musical influences than myself, always has a great positive vibe, and hasn't been grinding it out here on the road so long. Let's just say, the dude still knows how to have fun, and every once and a while we all need a good time! Carrigan or "Lonestar," as we call him, is the shit!
The Eternal Return sounds like a musical return similar to that of Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation. Would you agree?
Well it's not so much a musical return to the Hidden Hands era as it is really just a closer step to the final culmination of the overall Darkest Hour sound. I think it has influences from all the Darkest Hour records. The speed and aggression of the Hidden Hands record, song structures and melody of Undoing Ruin, and the progressiveness of Deliver Us. But I mean that's how I feel, I am sure all those things are open to debate.
Darkest Hour have been described from melodic death metal to metalcore. Does The Eternal Return help solidify what genre best describes the band's music?
I guess so, but shit, it seems like there are new genres of metal every day. Just yesterday, I learned about Pagan Metal. It's just crazy. I feel like Darkest Hour is a (Swedish) melodic death metal band done through with an American punk translation.
Darkest Hour has been on Victory Records for five albums and eight years. What's kept you guys there for so long?
Let's just say a record contract. Yep, we singed a five record deal in 2000 and, well, that's how long it took for us to do five records. Anyway, The Eternal Return marks the fifth and final Victory Record release, so we'll see where we go from here, but the contract is fulfilled.
Most of Darkest Hours' records carry a message or theme. What message or theme does The Eternal Return have?
Well it's more a theme of life while in decay, death and rebirth. You know, with a new band member comes new blood and new energy. But we exist in such a fucked up time for music and, shit, even life in general. Look how world's economies are falling apart. The world is at war with itself; it' s all in decay, yet to feel like you still love doing something artistically in the face of it all, well, it's to live a rebirth amongst death. And that's pretty much the main theme of the record, generally speaking. I think when people get the record and read the lyrics they'll understand; we like to leave a lot of the lyrics open to interpretation.
How has the new album been received thus far? Any particular praises or criticisms?
Well, everyone we've jammed it for has loved it. Ha! No, for real, we haven't seen any reviews yet; it's still early. You have to be thick skinned to that type of thing. If you make a piece of art that you love, well then you don't really need critical or even public praise, you just love it. Not that we don't want to make people happy with our tunes, but this record was really more about making a record we wanted to make. I think we did that, and the honesty of it will show through. (Victory)