DARK SUNS — Grave Human Genuine

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DARK SUNS - Grave Human Genuine cover
3.95 | 11 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2008


1. Stampede (3:07)
2. Flies in Amber (9:52)
3. Thornchild (7:11)
4. Rapid Eyes Moment (7:20)
5. Amphibian Halo (5:16)
6. The Chameleon Defect (6:08)
7. Free of You (8:42)
8. Papillion (5:29)
9. 29 (6:24)

Total Time: 59:32


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I found Dark Suns while checking out progressive metal bands on iTunes. I don't remember which of their albums I sampled first, but I later read that their first album sounded a lot like Opeth, their second began moving away from that, and their fourth I listened to a bit and found it very jazz-influenced. This one made the biggest impression on me and so I ordered a CD from Amazon.

My experience with progressive metal is still somewhat limited; however, at times I was reminded of Tool's "Aenema" because of the slow heavy bombast of guitar chords, bass, and drums. Dark Suns shy away from catchy riffs or speedy trash sequences. Instead they often use the louder instruments (electric guitar, bass, drums) for deafening blasts of doom-heavy sonic assaults. The opening instrumental in part sums up much of the heavier parts of the album.

What makes "Grave Human Genuine" so interesting, though, is everything else that Dark Suns employs to create the music. You'll find piano, flute, bongo drums, electronic effects, acoustic and clean electric guitars, strings, synthesizer, and possibly more that I have missed. The band uses all these to create delicate and beautiful acoustic music with drums and bass, symphonic metal, haunting and lonely musical passages, and music by which to go mad. They also don't hold back and fire full volley when it suits them. Listen to the wonderful acoustic guitar/piano/bass/drums opening to "The Chameleon Defect" which abruptly turns into an auditory bombardment at a rate that can hardly be counted in beats per second. Though the general atmosphere is dark and there are no catchy melodies to sing in your head, the music is very intelligent if not experimental.

A few words on the vocals, Nico Knappe's vocals tend to be sung very delicately and softly, which can work wonderfully to contrast the dark heavy side of the music. Sometimes though I wish he would put a little more edge into his voice. At times I think his style bothers me a bit but other times I am okay with it. There are also death growl vocals placed to good effect but I don't know who is providing them. Also, Vurtox of Disillusion guests on a couple of tracks for spoken parts. It's interesting that I ordered Disillusion's "Back to Times of Splendor" at the same time as Dark Suns, discovering them during the same iTunes hunt.

The album is both diverse and cohesive. The approach to the dark heavy music doesn't vary much but there's so much else on there that the album doesn't get tiresome. If you are looking for more standard metal then this one might not please, but for something in a progressive vein, I think this is rather original among the prog metal albums I have heard so far.

I don't feel it quite deserves five stars but a very strong four stars.
Beauty in unexpected places.

This line is growled during the highlight track of the album, and it is an apt descriptor of this work. Ranging from unbelievable heaviness to floating melody, this indeed is an unexpected beauty.

When I first encountered Dark Suns as a recommended artist on internet radio, I had fairly low expectations. Opeth-lite with Tool thrown in was a common descriptor, but then I heard a longer selection on Franz Keylard's prog podcast, and I was impressed. In fact, I slowly bought up the tracks on iTunes until I now have the whole album and continue to recommend this as one of the better metal albums of the year 2008.

The standout track is "Flies in Amber" which starts with flute and a syncopated, complex-time riff and employs Nico Knappe's greatest helping of growls on the album. Present too are his childlike, unique clean vocals that really are Dark Suns signature element. These are featured most prominently on "Thornchild" which begins with an extended a capella section which includes lyrics "Take your spoon now, just taste my spine. Crunch it slowly..." I find the juxtaposition of the choir-boy tonality and the dark lyrics quite effective, and when the heavy section comes in, it makes perfect sense.

There are many standout moments on this album, including what may be the absolutely most heavy recorded moment of all time, during "Chameleon Defect," which simultaneously employs blast beats, gothic choir, and plenty of heavy guitar which I can only describe as standing outside during a soft-ball size hail storm.

Not everything works so powerfully, however. The electronic drums of "Amphibian Halo" aren't bad, but distract from the overall feel of the album. Similarly, "Papillon" is an overlong mood-piece that has spoken word passages. Again, not bad, but certainly a step down in an album that has its share of brilliant moments.

Since I first wrote this review, the album hasn't held quite the interest for me. It just doesn't draw me back that often. It's still quite strong and well worth the listen.

Members reviews

Dark Suns return with this, their third album Grave Human Genuine, and in doing so have given us an absolute gem. The shortest way to describe this album would be the beautiful melancholic atmosphere of Opeth's Blackwater Park mixed with the emotional impact of Pain of Salvation's The Perfect Element Part 1, a combination that creates something very much all of their own. The reference to Pain of Salvation is particularly relevant to this album as the bass player is none other than Kristoffer Gildenlow, former bassist for Pain of Salvation.

The album opens with the short instrumental Stampede which serves to give a distinct hint as to what is to come. Stampede flows into what is arguably the albums finest track, Flies in Amber, a track that shows greatly how the band create their sonic style here on Grave Human Genuine, by using the guitars and keyboards (Thomas Bremer being particularly fond of the MIDI flute sound that goes a long way to create the haunting atmosphere) to create a dark, melancholic and sometimes menacing, at others haunting, atmosphere whilst using the bass of Gildenlow and vocals of Nico Knappe, as well as the occasional guitar solo, to add the emotional impact that defines this album, though I'm not sure how Schmidt contributed additional rage to this song. The distinct quiet-to-loud build up that the band use is repeated, though most certainly not with any copy and paste repetition from Flies in Amber, through Thornchild and Rapid Eyes Moment using distinct compositional changes to avoid any chance of the songs sounding samey. Amphibian Halo is where they add a fair bit of experimentation with electronics, particularly with drum sounds and mixing them with acoustic drums in a similar way to King Crimson's more recent "observations". The (relatively) lighter atmosphere here makes this an enjoyable listen. The Chameleon Defect takes the ethos of light-to-heavy to extremes by using a very mellow, light-hearted and jazzy melody which comes to an abrupt halt and blasts into a cacophonous wall of thrashing metal riffs and pounding drums, before doing the same in reverse and starting over again before dropping the mellow factor further and fading out the song. For the last two songs of the album, Dark Suns perform an impressive feat of maintaining the dark and melancholic atmosphere without being particularly heavy AND without it feeling like you've just changed album. Free of You uses a beautiful melody that builds in intensity without really getting much heavier until the end and Papillon uses a string quartet to dominate the opening of the song before the band kicks in and finishes the album with a flourish.

Now, I'm not normally a fan of bonus tracks as, with the exception of live tracks, they tend to be songs that deserved to be cut from the final take, demo's, mildly interesting or just plain bad covers, radio edits and in the case of live tracks, sometimes they are poorly recorded. 29 does not fall into any of those categories, in fact its one of those very rare animals, a bonus track of very high quality. In itself it actually feels slightly different to the rest of the album as its not metal at all, instead its a very nice smooth, jazz rock number of a quality equal to that of the rest of the album, and most certainly doesn't stand out as being out of place. There are two final notes I'd like to make about this album before I finish, and they concern Kristoffer Gildenlow and drummer/vocalist Nico Knappe. Gildenlow makes a welcome return to the progressive metal world here, his first such album since Pain of Salvations BE, and in actual fact gives his best performance since Remedy Lane. His playing here is rather different to what he did for Pain of Salvation as he isn't supporting the intricate compositions of his brother, Daniel Gildenlow, but to a style that is unique to himself and adds brilliant depth to the atmospheres here. He adjust brilliantly and simply thrives in with the band, its a shame that he wont be a full time member (as far as I know). Knappe here has adjusted his vocal style to use far less of the growls that he did very well on the bands debut, Swanlike, even going as far as limiting them to a few lines on Flies in Amber, and instead gives a very delicate vocal delivery that proves that you don't always have to like the lyrics for them to be turned into poetry. This is not to belittle the other musicians on here, all of which gave excellent performances and lack nothing for skill, but I thought these two points needed mentioning.

From a band that started off as almost an Opeth clone, though an extremely good one, they have matured into their own identity here and produce one of the best albums of 2008.
This is genuinely Grave, man. If I were to look at the album as a whole, a grave and grim picture is what I would paint. Heavy and dark, this album has more to it than

The name of the album is a bit weird, but as the press release says, it symbolizes the three characteristics of this recording. The most prominent of these that comes up when listening is, as I said above, Grave. The riffs, the drumming, the overall atmosphere is that of seriousness and indeed that of gravity. However there is a counter response to that grim and cumbersome feel in the form of the flute and delicate vocals, both reminding me of Deadsoul Tribe and Devon Graves (pun?).

Indeed, had I not known I was listening to Dark Suns, I'd have thought at first listen that Flies In Amber, Thornchild or Free Of You were new Deadsoul Tribe songs as they fit in sound, style and even name of the song; differences may be found in Flies In Amber where there are growl(-like) vocals that come in a bit later in the song (which remind me of Nick Holmes in the Shades Of God album by Paradise Lost); it also differs as it develops to more than what DST usually does, though it may very well serve as a basis for what to expect. Unlike DST they don't write songs made in a somewhat strict mold; they break through it and add variations, experimentations and buildups and they infuse energy to counteract the slower parts; this dose of energy is very well in place, as it breaks the pace and adds interest.

The similarity to Pain Of Salvation may be (apart from the sound itself) in the way they structure their songs. I'm not expert on this, but the feeling I got from listening, is that they seem to follow or at least unconsciously build their tracks as POS did on their albums like Remedy Lane and The Perfect Element I.

An interesting song is Amphibian Halo which makes use of electronic effects and a pervasive sound and atmosphere; as if they're invading your mind while you listen. Another great track is the fantastic The Chameleon Defect, which has a great noisy part to it with a very high intensity dose that comes unexpected. The following is a good buildup and development of the former. This is exactly how I would like to hear the band go to. Combine their ability to create beautiful and inspired musical landscapes as Flies In Amber with their talent that made this track; this track alone is shows their skill and aptitude to form gorgeous tunes that not only mesmerize with their beauty but also stupefy with power.

All in all, there's quite a bit of variety in the sounds they create in the various songs here; though all share a basic grain, Dark Suns show they know how to grow each one of these grains in different ways, to achieve an interesting diversity and mix of songs. At first it may not be apparent, but close listening will reveal this.

Aside from what sounds to me like obvious influences, I have to say I enjoy this album a lot! It is very well done, well played and well composed in a sense that I enjoy how they build their songs and the way they develop them. They should try and distance themselves from those influences I mentioned, but not by turning to a different path; rather build away from it, to create their own route. Following what they do on The Chameleon Defect is a good start. I find this to be a powerful and interesting album. I recommend this to fans of Pain Of Salvation and Deadsoul Tribe and also to anyone who wants to hear a good slice of well done dark metal. This is an album I'll come back to often for more listens.

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