Darkest Hour

Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation

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To be indelicate, the vocal style that's taken grip throughout much punk/metal crossover music might be fairly characterized as the sound of a guy about to vomit into the microphone, amplified to 11 and aimed for maximum trajectory. Even within that narrow genre, the singing of John Henry on Darkest Hour's third album, Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation, crosses well beyond the bounds of (presumably unconscious) self-parody. The lyrics are printed (in teeny teeny script) in the sleeve, true, but even those who enjoy such sandpaper vocals and don't mind the difficulty in comprehension without a printed guide will be tired of the sound of a man spewing his guts out by the time this disc spins to a close. (And at 56 minutes, it's not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am affair.) It should come as no surprise that the lyrics are as vitriolic as the vocal timbre, decrying and describing a society where guns, violence, and malevolent media rule. The band does roll through twisted grindcore progressions in the background with reasonable aplomb, but this is agitprop that doesn't stand a ghost of a chance of achieving its mission, if that mission is to move listeners to think about some of the provocative issues the songs address. The album unexpectedly concludes with an uncharacteristic instrumental, "Veritas, Aequitas," whose piano, acoustic guitar, and air-guitar-hero soloing come as nothing less than a total shock after the mayhem of the preceding eight tracks. If it's a joke, it's one the bandmembers should take seriously; they're really underselling themselves if they're capable of playing in a more versatile range of any sort, but elect not to by choice.

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