Bursting from the speakers came the ethereal death metal destruction of Darkest Hour, and they laid waste to all ear drums that stood before them. These and other such clichés will be deployed to describe just how jaw-dropping Darkest Hour were at the Barfly in Brighton.
Opening with "Doomsayer," the first song from the latest offering Deliver Us, the use of a sombre, clean, picked guitar intro destroyed by a display of uber-heaviness -- vocals-a-roaring, guitars-a-shredding and double kicks-a-pounding -- was well worn, but not without a reason: It was effective.
And so it continued. Most of the songs were from Deliver Us: "Demon(s)," "Sanctuary," "An Ethereal Drain," etc. All were blistering and with help from the sharp, clear sound they managed to fill up every space in the mind. The diminutive crowd received them appreciatingly, whipped into a frenzy that eventually bursted into two halves. The no-mans'-land was taken up by a group of testosterone-filled youths doing a bizarre hybrid of folk and hardcore dancing.
Being on Victory Records, the crowd seemed a strange joke. The trendiness of the label means they attract kids who would perhaps not normally go to a death metal gig, and made the audience slightly more diverse than long-haired, angry young men. There were also short-haired, angry young men, granted. But, their record company may also be a hindrance, for metallers seem to fob them off as being in a 'hardcore vein,' and therefore 'less,' which is sad. Fools!
A key factor that helps sets the band apart from most has to be the astonishing ability of drummer Ryan Parrish. His feet never seemed to stop, only seeming to vary between different types of driving beats. His fluency with the drums, the snare scatter shots and fills, drive everything and kept everything going, adding to the ethereal feel of the band. Sometimes muddied by the album sound, there were no such problems that night, as Parrish was on form and as brutal as anything. He seemed to know the perfect drum beat for every riff the guitarists can come up with.
Guitarists Kris Norris and Mike Schleibaum traded riffs effortlessly, delivering their brand of melodic death metal and occasionally throwing in the odd solo and an excellent party trick: synchronised sweep-picking. Add to this Paul Burnette's bass playing, giving everything a pronounced groove, full of slides and held notes (it's very nice to be able to hear a metal bassist, too).
John Henry, the vocalist, befriended the crowd and turned it into a fun gig. Looking at ease and not really caring at the small number of people there, he played to and enjoyed the audience: cooing them forward, encouraging dancing, headbanging and stage invasions. His efforts were rewarded with circle pits for "With a Thousand Words to Say But One" and again for set closer "The Sadist Nation."
It may have been a small crowd, the set may have consisted of songs mainly from Deliver Us, and there may have been some macho bullshit going around, but the sound was clear, the band was on form and Henry charmed the crowd well. What more could you want? There's no other word for it: awesome.