DARK SUNS — Grave Human Genuine (review)

DARK SUNS — Grave Human Genuine album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Sleeper
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.
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