Darkest Hour goes first today, and their eight studio album comes in with the ultra-heavy Wasteland. It's a very different sound for a band who have become synonymous with melodic metalcore over the past fifteen years. And so kicks off an hour of experiments in sound. Some of those attempts pay off handsomely (and I should point out that you can actually hear the bass on this album, and it's tuned down to Seismic). But there is a twitchy inconsistency to the songs on this eponymous album, as if the band emerge from and then quickly retreat back to form. Darkest Hour also do something unprecedented with this album: they take curtain calls. What else would you call it when a band includes a bonus track, then a presumably non-bonus track, then another bonus, then two more regular tracks? (One of those final songs, Hypatia Rising, is also one of the album's best, so this isn't a matter of filling up time with extra crap.)
Distorted Harmony wisely avoid the traps that trip up DH. The Israeli prog metal group wield a self-assurance that belie their youth; Chain Reaction is only their second album, but it's every bit as bold and surefooted as obvious Dream Theater was on their sophomore effort. And yet, tracks like Hollow still manage to step away from mere imitation, and feel different and fresh. And while Distorted Harmony dish up less bleakness than Darkest Hour, you're less likely to look at your watch while listening to Chain Reaction. Distorted Harmony advances, and will challenge Inter Arma in three weeks!
Tomorrow, Zig has the unenviable task of deciding who wins in a grudgematch between Soen and Overkill.