"Marching Into Oblivion" is the debut full-length studio album by US/German progressive metal act Darkstar. The album was released through Institute Of Art Records in 1995. Darkstar is a project initiated by Siggi Blasey (Sequencing, Sampling) from German progressive metal act End Amen and guitarist Dan Rock from US progressive metal act Psychotic Waltz. Oliver Werner performs drums to the album and Martin Iordanidis plays the bass. Travis Smith is responsible for the very time typical computer crafted cover artwork as he also was on the "Bleeding (1996)" album by Psychotic Waltz. There´s a dark sci-fi atmosphere to the cover artwork (and the 20 page booklet), which suits the material featured on the album perfectly.
The origin of Darkstar is that Dan Rock vocalist/guitarist Uwe Osterlehner (Deathrow) during Psychotic Waltz 1992 european tour supporting their "Into the Everflow (1992)" album. Psychotic Waltz toured with German technical thrash metal act Deathrow who supported their "Life Beyond (1992)" album. The two musicians formed the End Amen project, which released "Your Last Orison" album in 1992. End Amen also featured Siggi Blasey in the lineup and that´s how Siggi Blasey and Dan Rock met (The close ties to the End Amen project are further strengthened when listening to the opening title track on "Marching Into Oblivion", which share both samples and a few other ideas from the "End Amen" track off the "Your Last Orison (1992)" album).
A couple of years later Siggi Blasey and Dan Rock formed Darkstar and recorded the material for what was to become "Marching Into Oblivion". Recorded in Germany in 1995 in a renovated WWII bomb shelter, the album showcases the two musicians mutual interest in ambient and synth heavy progressive metal. "Marching Into Oblivion" was recorded while Dan Rock was still active in Psychotic Waltz, and it was sold from the merchandise stand on that act´s 1996 tour supporting "Bleeding (1996)".
The music on "Marching Into Oblivion" is as mentioned above ambient (occasionally touching new age territory) and synth heavy instrumental progressive metal. A big part of the sound on the album is the use of samples, synths, and sequencing. Dan Rock´s guitar riff style from the two Psychotic Waltz albums "Mosquito (1994)" and "Bleeding (1996)" do come to mind while listening to "Marching Into Oblivion" but the material on the album is generally a bit more simple and repetitive than anything Psychotic Waltz ever released. The ambient sound occasionally reminds me of artists like Mike Oldfield and Robert Miles. The music is generally very melodic, with dreamy and epic guitar themes and swirling spacey synths.
Although the music, at least to some extent, is progressive metal you shouldn´t expect adventurous rhythms, complex song structures, or too much heavy riffing (it´s occasionally pretty heavy though). Instead this is atmospheric and melodic, quite repetitive, yet very innovative and rather unique. Dan Rock is not only a technically highly skilled guitarist but also a very creative one, and his playing on this album is in his trademark style. Lots of use of the vibrato arm and sliding notes which give the music a laid back floating sound. The sequencing, and the extensive use of synths and samples, provide the music with a melancholic and at times relatively dark atmosphere.
The sample from the "Aliens (1986)" film, which is used in the title track, where Sigourney Weaver screams at the top of her lungs: "Bishop! God Damn You!", is very effective. There are also other samples from the film featured on that track. "Confusion On A Grand Scale" features several samples from the Jonestown tragedy, and not only is it one of the heaviest tracks on the album, those voice samples really give the song an eerie feel. Other standout tracks on the album are the dark ambient "A New Beginning" which have some repetitive tribal type drums. It´s a very repetitive and ambient dark track, which works really well. "Alone" is another strong track which is a powerful and melodic highlight and the "Darkstar" track deserves a mention too.
While the synths, the sequencing, and the samples work to perfection, and the virtuoso guitar playing by Dan Rock elevates the music to an even higher level, I can´t say the same about the rhythm section. They quite frankly play some really simple and repetitive rhythms and bass lines, which aren´t that interesting. It sometimes sounds like the drums are an afterthought, and that not much creative hours have been put into creating the rhythm patterns. So if I have to mention a minor issue regarding "Marching Into Oblivion", it´s definitely that part of the album, which comes to mind.
The sound production is multilayered and quite intense. Again there´s an issue with the drums though which features a sound which lacks dynamics, and which overall just doesn´t fit with the rest of the music. The bass is too low in the mix and simply drowns in the multible layers of synth, sequencing, samples and guitars. So "Marching Into Oblivion" isn´t a perfect album by any means, but the minor issues aside the music is still for the most part innovative and often quite beautiful dark ambient progressive metal. Darkstar have a unique sound and that´s always a plus. It´s the kind of album that can be used both as background music and as a more focused listening experience. So it features a good balance between pleasant atmosphere and intriguing complexity. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.