February 21 saw the much-anticipated release of The Human Romance, the newest project from D.C. metalcore band Darkest Hour. With this album, the group may have finally indisputably achieved the right to identify with the new stateside wave of melodic death metal (often referred to as Gothenburg metal, or “melodeath”), which has expanded from its sparse Scandinavian origins and is rapidly emerging in the United States. Indeed, The Human Romance bears striking musical resemblance to We Are the Void, the most recent release from Dark Tranquillity (quite possibly the single most prominent Gothenburg metal band currently on the scene), and was produced by Peter Wichers, former guitarist of melodeath pioneer Soilwork. One of the more ambitious songs on the album, “Terra Solaris,” is an incredible success; though nearly nine minutes long, slower than most other songs on the album and purely instrumental, there is no point at which it seems tedious. Still, the real beauty of The Human Romance is not in the music – though the songs as a collective are impressive, and Darkest Hour is arguably among the most technically nuanced contemporary metal bands – but in the fact that this newest effort will appeal to both longtime fans of Darkest Hour and fans of other bands and metal subgenres. Such musical growth and progression – unhindered experimentation without total abandonment of previous style – is something that every band and artist in every genre should strive for, and an achievement of which Darkest Hour should be proud.
A more recent release, Aiden’s fifth studio album Disguises dropped on March 28. The post-hardcore horror-rock band may have, unfortunately, set the bar too high for themselves; their last album, 2009’s excellent Knives, and their sophomore album, the even better Nightmare Anatomy, are tough acts to follow. Disguises stays well within Aiden’s comfort zone, maintaining their typical theme of violence and their characteristic anti-religious sentiment. The first half of Disguises, while good music for its genres, offers nothing new. It isn’t until the second half of the album that the members of Aiden step up their game, impressing with back-to-back-to-back standout tracks “Perfect Muse,” “ReEvolver,” and “Walk Among the Dead,” the lattermost of which serves as a three-minute, 37-second representation of the band’s entire body of work. The album finishes strong on “Radio,” an unexpected song that mixes Aiden’s signature harsh, explicit lyrics with piano-ballad backing instrumentals. Bottom line: while there’s nothing wrong with the first half of the album, Aiden should have, following Darkest Hour’s lead, taken more risks and recorded more tracks like those found in the second half of the album – such a move would have taken the well-intentioned Disguises from solid to stellar.