Dark Black Past

Dark Black Past

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Dark Black Past's self-titled ten-song debut features the distinctive lead vocals and keyboards of Johnny Young -- not the Chicago R&B singer or the blues mandolin player -- but a hard rock singer who had that vocal drone long before Marilyn Manson got famous with it. "Jesus Lives in Texas (With a Machine Gun)" leads off the album, with Black Sabbath meets Vanilla Fudge and that touch of Manson before the fact. It got underground radio play and should have broken out. "On Trial" is the one tune where guitarist Steve Mironovich handles the lead vocals, and he keeps it in that same bleak arena that Young embraces. It's virtuoso metal, precise hard rock with a lot of heart. The four-piece unit has Jimi Brix on fretless bass, and drums by Tobias Ralph, and they tear it up on no-nonsense titles like "Rage and Revenge" and "Survive." Where other loud bands from the New York area overwhelm with abandon and volume, Dark Black Past keeps it as contained as the band Rush, without that group's overplaying. The vocals all stay in the low mid-range where the guitars are, and the smartly crafted songs keep things interesting. A creeping ballad like "Out of Time," with Mironovich's leads oozing in over the clever use of chords and riffs, has textures that make a fine contrast with the leaden groove of "Cracked Life." This is refined early-'90s metal that a major label should have had no problem marketing. It's too bad it got away, because the level of creativity is extremely high. "Ellie" may sound like a pleasant enough title, but it's deceiving, as the band moves into the prog rock realm they border on, with the keys and spitfire guitar working in unison with the singer/songwriter. Johnny Young's voice is powerful and does some pretty amazing things here. Since this project, the singer has released two solo discs, four instrumental albums, and work by Mudgod and Bloodroot, all noted on http://www.johnnyyoung.com. This Brooklyn-based ensemble put together a truly unique sound that sweeps blues heavily into the metal. "Blink of an Eye" has the hooks, while "It's Only Time" concludes the CD with a spacy ambiance. Some of the members continue to perform together, but this early album is very special and worth seeking out by fans of the genre.

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