Darkane – Inhuman Spirits Review

I like Darkane. The veteran Swedish outfit has always struck a particular chord with me, especially on their more consistently ripping offerings, such as underrated debut Rusted Angel, and gems like 2002’s Expanding Senses, and 2005’s Layers of Lies. Despite falling into the shadows of their more recognized contemporaries, Darkane’s gnarly, melodic and hooky blend of thrash and melodeath, amply bolstered by chunky modern metal grooves and symphonic touches, offers a damn good time when the band is in the zone. Yeah sure there have been some patchier offerings, but overall Darkane has crafted a solid body of work since forming way back in the late ’90s. The return of Rusted Angel vocalist Lawrence Mackrory on 2013’s The Sinister Supremacy delivered a welcome shot of adrenaline back into the Darkane camp, and a second coming of creative spoils appeared a distinct possibility. However, nearly a decade has elapsed before Darkane finally return with seventh opus, Inhuman Spirits.

How seasoned Darkane listeners approach Inhuman Spirits may depend heavily on whether you reside in the Mackrory camp of preferred vocalists. While Jens Broman, and in particular Andreas Sydow, served the band well, Mackrory’s unique vocal style has always appealed to me – his old-school thrash vocal charms, aggressive vs melodic balance, and versatility complements the Darkane sound nicely. Once again his vocals are on point on this long-awaited return and his bandmates deliver a tightly coiled display of melody, atmosphere, aggression, technicality, and thrashing speed. Basically, all is well in the Darkane camp. Darkane’s sleek stylistic shifts and willingness to embrace and expand upon their familiar thrash meets melodeath combo has long worked as a winning formula, and Inhuman Spirits is no different in that regard.

Darkane remain at their most potent and invigorating when launching into tightly coiled bursts of thrashy goodness, jackknifing into booming choruses and striking melodic leads. The symphonic intro of the opening title track kicks the album into gear in rather epic and bombastic fashion, before fleshing out the rich atmospheric vibe with typically sharp and catchy thrash bursts. It’s a dynamic, entertaining cut that jams plenty of ideas and rousing hooks into the mix. “Awakening” puts the foot on the throat, exhibiting a chunkier modern death approach, with Mackrory tapping into a gruffer lower tone amidst his higher-pitched, thrashier vocal signature. There is little in the way of filler as Darkane charge full throttle through a tidily executed batch of tunes, forming a solid companion piece to The Sinister Supremacy. The album’s first half is especially strong, with the second half not quite delivering the same level of focus, though it’s still ripe with a couple of noteworthy bangers.

Guitarists’ Klas Ideberg and Christofer Malmstr├Âm are an exceptionally gifted and underrated axe duo, bringing a solid collection of sharp riffs, technicality, stellar solos, and thick, chugging grooves. Mackrory sounds great as well, even if he is a little domineering and some of his lower growls are less impactful, despite offering decent variation. Overall, the songs vary from solid to very good and it’s another worthy addition to the band’s discography. After nearly a decade between drinks, however, the album could have been much more had the standards of the higher grade cuts been maintained across the album. There are no complete duds, though their penchant for leaning too heavily into modern metal and djenty desires lessen the impact on occasions, and while the thrashing, Gothenburg-styled surges supply plenty of highlights (“Inhaling Mental Chaos, “Mansion of Torture”) some riffs feel a little recycled or familiar. Energy levels and versatility remain on show, however, it’s unfortunate the album ends with an anti-climactic mood piece.

Flaws aside, it’s rarely dull and several hooks have remained embedded in my skull, such as the potent “A Spiral to Nothing,” which also makes me pine for a new album from The Offering. Although Darkane may not have achieved the mainstream stardom of Soilwork and In Flames, or quite hit the dizzying heights and more consistent output of peak Dark Tranquillity or At the Gates, they’ve carved their own identity and released some top-notch material along the way. Inhuman Spirits is a fun album and welcome return marking another solidly dependable platter from these underrated Swedes.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: darkane.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/darkane
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2022

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