Doomriders – Darkness Come Alive

Over the course of almost a decade, Deathwish Inc. have proven themselves not only auteurs of hardcore, but also purveyors of new and refreshing sounds. With a foot firmly rooted in the extreme music community from whence it was conceived, the label often branches further outward into the sonic spectrum, evoking the likes of polarizing outfits like Starkweather and Acid Tiger. More recently the label announced the release of Darkness Come Alive, Doomriders‘ long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s bluesy debut LP Black Thunder. The group, fronted by vocalist/guitarist Nate Newton (also of Converge), and featuring JR Conners, Jebb Riley, and Chris Pupecki of Cave In, Disappearer, and Cast Iron Hike, respectively, drop all pretense and emulation of influence in favour of fiercely delivering the goods. With such a breadth and wide array of background subjecting itself into the fold, Darkness Come Alive consistently fails to disappoint, where ace songwriting and musical sensibility is etched wholly into its being.

To claim this record arrives without stir would be a gross understatement. The press release reads, “rage and gloom have come to roost in Doomriders’ second proper full length album.” Have they ever. With their sophomore effort, the proclaimed “death n’ rollers” have demonstrated that their time away with other projects hasn’t dulled their edge one bit, rather sharpening the blade in a successful effort to dissect the microcosmic nuances of aggressive, mid-paced rock and roll to carve their own niche in aggressive music’s growing canon. Where a fun, jam-oriented outfit once kicked out tunes with an obvious late 60s, early 70s classic rock influence etched vividly on-sleeve, in its place a goliath has taken throne, entrapping all who veer in its sights.

If readers should take one thing home with this review, it’s that Darkness Come Alive is listenable. Every song in its 48 minute running time is meticulously constructed and rigorously executed so that the final result is nothing less than pure sensory enlightenment. “Heavy Lies the Crown” draws the listener in with its fretboard chromatics and charging basslines. “Bear Witness” exhumes Blue Cheer while nodding its head to Remission-era Mastodon. “Knife Wound,” “The Equalizer,” and “Bloodsucker” each variate on the D-beat, a staple of hardcore. Here though, the proceedings breathe an air of urgency and excitement to the darker nature of the rest of the record. Instances of this darkness are apparent throughout the record’s highlights, including the psychedelic “Come Alive,” the Baroness-schooled sludge of “Jealous God,” and the undeniably haunted crooning in “Crooked Path.” Short interludes work to enhance rather than hinder the experience, with cuts like “Fade From Black,” “Night Howler,” and “Night Lurker” giving the proceedings a cinematic quality, evoking the likes of Newton’s work in Old Man Gloom.

The pleasure of listening to Doomriders – yes, pleasure, seeing as this is music crafted with the utmost respect for the listener – comes in repeated bouts. Lyrics etch themselves into the listener’s mind, working together with genuine hooks to stick with said audience for days on end. Lines ring loud and call upon the listener to involve themselves rather than be spoken to.  “Heavy is the crown upon the heads of kings/ Heavy is the price we pay for petty things,” Newton laments at the beginning of the album. He later claims, “I don’t want your money, I don’t want your life/ I need your charity like a wound from a knife.” Newton riles up all the compassion he can muster, sounding more aggressive than ever, yet perfectly legible. While the lyrics within are a far cry from, say, Jane Doe-era Jacob Bannon, the band knows not just how to write a catchy line, but how to gnaw you out with it. The album unarguably hits its stride midway with the raging “Lions.” This cut finds Conners and Riley interlocked with a rolling drum and bass line, dragging their swords to the battle with Newton at their lead. “Don’t let them grind you down!” he shouts. “Choke on all their lies, wasted all their lives, lowest of the low… You’ve got the heart of a lion.” The song is unabashedly vicious, yet uncannily positive in its demeanor. It evokes such powerful imagery, the song alone warrants the utmost attention to this album. Thus lies the charm and ferocity behind Doomriders’ latest: It is aggressive, it is visceral, but it’s got your back in the battlefield. Excellent stuff.


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