Darkest Hour Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation

Talk about an upset victory (that'll be a great pun once the big metal labels start leering at Darkest Hour): five friendly-looking hardcore kids from DC on a hardcore label, releasing some of the best melodic thrash metal of the year. If their past releases made metalheads (grudgingly) duly note, Hidden Hands is just making them throw their hands in the air and jump into the pit. And this is just miles and miles above any other hardcore band trying to incorporate melodic metal into their sound; this is metal, plain and simple. And it's oh so good, with everyone who hears it drooling at the mouth, eating up the Gothenburg thrash melodies, the memorable hooks, the perfect production sound. Package-wise, the booklet art really works well with the tunes in creating an atmosphere of ruined hope in society and humanity, what with all those industrial sites and highways; plus, it's better than what we're usually staring at while listening to such heavy tuneage. Drummer Ryan Parrish is on fire here, especially on standout track "Seven Day Lie," which he propels into new levels of snare-driven ecstasy. The closing track, "Veritas, Aequitas," is an epic 13-minute instrumental that manages to stay exciting. While the vocals occasionally grate, it's easy enough to tune them out and listen to the blasting, the melodies, the riffs, the hooks and the reminder of how good it really can be when hardcore sensibility meets metal songwriting. (Victory)