Before I discovered Brisbane-based industrial horror-rock quartet Darkc3ll earlier this year, it had never really occurred to me how few artists of that inclination I'd heard coming out of Australia, so I was excited to learn of an infusion of new blood into one of my all-time favorite genres. That's not to say that their sound will come as something totally new to fans of Rob Zombie's creeptastic brand of danceable metal, or the twisted heavy rock of Marilyn Manson or Murderdolls (they've previously toured with the latter's co-founder, Wednesday 13), because there's strong evidence of those artists' influences on Darkc3ll's sound. Although the band previously released the full-length album Reboot:Repeat, it wasn't until this year that their influence began to work its way across the globe, thanks in part to their ultra-cool single “Exorcist,” which caught fire this Summer in North America, reaching the #4 spot on the iTunes Metal chart... and maybe also due to a touch of controversy over the inverted-cross cover of their new album Dark Verses (which actually got them booted off at least one venue).
Controversial imagery and themes seldom sway my opinion these days – not only is shock value frequently used to scare up publicity, but as a long-time fan of boundary-pushing art and entertainment, I'm frankly too jaded to notice anymore. But one thing about Dark Verses that did make my ears perk up is the super-intense, urgent energy behind the music, and the band's use of occult and horror motifs to accentuate the sonic aggression, rather than simply serve as spooky window-dressing. When these cats start going to those dark places, you get the sense that they know the terrain very well. They also have a serious knack for heavy hooks and addictive beats – skills they still seemed to be sorting out on their previous record (although there were some pretty solid tracks like “Hate Anthem”), but which are firmly entrenched and primed to kill this time around.
The title track opens the album with a twisting pattern of gritty synth pulses and grinding industrial noise, forming the setting for a mid-tempo guitar riff loaded with crunchy, glitchy distortion. The snarling vocals of frontman J.Dracman are treated with similar effects, fusing them to the riffs like the voice of a malicious murder-bot, and electro-industrial synths finally cut through the mix and establish a more maniacal, high-energy EBM rhythm. While each of these elements is familiar in itself to any industrial fan, the combination here has a real bite of menace and malice, and it's this tone that the band carries forward through the bulk of the record. That heavy, ground-pounding beat and caustic, up-in-your-grill vocal delivery is put to best use in tracks like “Freakenstein,” the aforementioned “Exorcist” and the album's leading single “Six Hundred & Six Six” – and this unholy three represents the band's best material to date.
The riffs of guitarist Postmortem Matt (who also handles most of the synth programming on the album) are pretty straightforward and tight, locked to the synth patterns and the often funky grooves laid down by drummer Jay Macabre and bassist Rit Derelict, but he does bring some sensual flourishes to cuts like “Suicide Death Ride,” accompanied by the exotic twang of a sitar. The album wraps well with the down-tempo “The One I Fear,” where Dracman employs clean melodic vocals during the brooding opening before the tendrils of chaos work their way into the mix via swirling high-pitched synths, snarling guitar riffs and multi-tracked voices, pushing the distortion into the realm of pure industrial noise until the whole thing reaches critical mass.
As I mentioned before, the influence of other artists is apparent throughout Dark Verses, but not slavishly copied; tracks like “Bang!” bear some of the marks of early-era White Zombie, while there's a taste of old-school Nine Inch Nails in “Rest When I'm Dead” – which is not surprising, given the band has carried off a pretty sick, fist-pumping cover of “Head Like a Hole"... listen:
More than just a latecomer to the industrial horror-rock party, Darkc3ll have now emerged as a fully-formed monster with a distinct identity (while paying due homage to their influences) and raw, barely-controlled power that is irresistibly infectious. I suspect the global success of “Exorcist” is only the beginning of a successful campaign, and you can decide for yourself if you agree when Dark Verses drops tomorrow from RTD Records. Of course, be sure to check out the wicked video for “Exorcist” below: