Darkest Hour / Himsa / A Life Once Lost - live in Portland (Cover Artwork)

Darkest Hour / Himsa / A Life Once Lost

live in Portland (2006)

live show

I wasn't supposed to go to this show. This review was actually going to be for Anti-Flag and Smoke or Fire, who were playing the same night across town. The only problem with that was when I drove up to the Loveland, there were leather-clad mohawked teenagers wrapped well around the block an hour after doors opened; the show had long since sold out, and there was no way I was going to miss three bands waiting to see if I could get in to Anti-Flag. Darkest Hour was playing not too far away, and I'd never seen them live. The biggest issue was that they were headlining a metal show.

The problem with me going to metal shows is, well, I don't really like metal. Darkest Hour is one of those bands that just is an exception, with their attention to harmony and melody taking precedence to, well, unending noise. I got to the venue just in time to see the Acacia Stain take the stage, who were really good at being pretty annoying. The music was long and generic, and the lead singer would do a half-jig whenever the drumbeat hit a moshing / jumping pace. One of the guitarists reminded me of Vin Diesel, and he was concentrating more on flexing his biceps and giving, "I'm so fucking pumped!" facial expressions than he was on being involved in the music. The set was delivered without error; it was just unengaging and incredibly similiar song-to-song.

A Life Once Lost came on next, the lead singer looking suspciously like Ryan Dunn from Jackass. They were able to capture my attention a bit more than Acacia Stain, but for the most part faltered for the same reason the previous band (and most metal for me) did: They lacked anything other than double-bass kicks, a few well-played guitar solos, and extended monosyllabic screams. The overzealous use of the fog machine certainly didn't help their case, either. A bit more impressive, and they were certainly in to the music they were playing, driving through each song with excessive headbanging and attitude, but it still was, well, just another metal band.

Himsa came on next to a vast uproar. I'd never heard them, and I must admit, they were pretty fucking good. However, their most impressive offer was their guitarist's hair; the dude has a mane bigger than I'd imagine a lions would be. Absolutely insane. The guy from Coheed and Cambria is envious. Anyway, Himsa was far superior to the two prior bands, offering a bit of melody during their songs, interchanging guitar parts, and even daring to not use the double bass at all times (which it must be tempting to do, since their drummer had two bass drums). One song that struck me more than most was "Dominion," which was the third song played. After that the band even picked up more speed, and the songs seemed to get better and less monotonous. While I won't be going out and calling myself a fan of Himsa, they certainly made the evening more enjoyable.

Darkest Hour came out to, what seemed to be, less applause than Himsa. With bands like this I always wonder if they'll be able to match the intensity they can deliver through a record, and they didn't fail to. While most of the set was new material from Undoing Ruin, they still played a couple old tunes ("Accessible Losses" and "The Sadist Nation") and a couple of really old ones ("An Epitaph" and "So Sedated, So Secure"). Closing with "The Sadist Nation," the lead singer brought a single drum on to the stage to play along, eventually handing it down into the crowd for them to play, a move I'd never seen before and wondered how smart it is to put a drum into a crowd, but to each their own.

So, was it worth it? Probably. I would have liked to have seen Anti-Flag, but Darkest Hour put on a hell of an energetic performance and were spot on at nailing each and every note, translating the crescendos built so well (especially during "Accessible Losses" and "With a Thousand Words to Say But One") on record into a cathartic performance. The mood was overwhelmingly positive throughout the show, which was pretty cool; with the massive ammounts of stagediving going on, people took care of one another and anyone who was starting trouble was immediately taken to the door.

I grabbed the set list from the stage after taking some photos, and so this is straight from that:

  • With a Thousand Words to Say But One
  • An Epitaph
  • Sound the Surrender
  • So Sedated, So Secure
  • District Divided
  • Accessible Losses
  • Tranquil
  • The Sadist Nation
I wasn't thrilled with the seemingly short set; I would have liked to hear another song or two, especially from Hidden Hands..., but you can't get everything you want these days. I will say that trading a crowd focused on image (with mowhawks and denim) for one focused on image (biceps and running into shit) wasn't the best trade-off, and being the tall skinny dude in a room filled with guys who look like they stopped by after leaving the gym isn't the best for enjoying your company. If you're into metal at all, this seems like a tour for you. If you're like me and are a bit more...selective...about the excessively loud music that graces your stereo, Darkest Hour is a great live band, but don't feel like you missed much if you show up late.