ALBUM REVIEW: Darko (US) – Darko

Release Date: May 7th 2021
Label: Unsigned
Twitter: None available


With the vastly differing variations of metalcore that have been churned out since the genre’s inception, deathcore has always felt like somewhat of an afterthought, the misunderstood straggler attempting to find its own way. The “Nu” era of glitchy, industrial-tinted, hyper-stylized production and slamming heft has birthed a modern wave of “nu-death” or “nu-core”, with relatively new acts like Left To Suffer baring very little sonic resemblance to early genre staples such as Waking The Cadaver or As Blood Runs Black.

There are, however, a few groups that have trudged on with impressive longevity, and essentially made the successful transitional leap from the originating aspects of the subgenre to its current iteration. Darko can’t help but feel like a project immediately weighed down by its associated acts; Tom Barber (Chelsea Grin, ex-Lorna Shore) and Josh “Baby J” Miller (Emmure, ex-Glass Cloud) have pooled their collective experiences, resources, and genre insights together, yet the results of their self-titled debut are equal parts bewildering and underwhelming.

What mostly ensues across the near three-quarters of an hour runtime is your standard blend of unintelligible squelching growled vocals with the odd signature pig squeal lobbed in for good measure, chunking djentified riffs and slamming breakdowns. It’s all quite meat and potatoes modern “nu-death” that bands like Alpha Wolf have been delivering for quite a few years now, with arguably better results due to the lack of preconceived expectation or associative pedigree.

There’s a sense of frustrating aimlessness to most of the cuts here, even on opener ‘Splinter Cell’ which just seems to clunk you over the head with the tried and tested kitchen sink. Hence, confusion and bewilderment abound when early single ‘Donna’ and the apparent sequel track, ‘Daniel’, make their presence known. Both pieces glisten with shimmering vulnerability and fragility, offering a wholly unique dynamic, not just from the onslaught of forgettable accompanying chugfests, but the genre as a whole.

Slow-burning, minimal melodious composition is tempered by touching, emotive lyricism and a far more human vocal performance, recalling a post-hardcore orientated Trophy Eyes or Deftones. Apart from these two instances, as well as the atmospheric instrumental ‘If This Is Forever’, there’s really nothing of merit to credit to Darko, which is a total shame.

The utter disregard for cohesion of any sort allows such genuinely powerful works to sit precariously sandwiched between standard genre filler on either side. Going forward, Barber and Miller should perhaps trust their melodious instincts, and let this project bloom into something wholly unique from deathcore, rather than feeling that their past endeavours dictate some form of fan-service hand-holding.