Darksworn – Rogue (2017)

Hmm… Of the many submissions I’ve gotten over the past couple of years, the history here is a bit difficult to grasp. Apparently the Oregon based musician Alan Blaisdell performed under that name for a couple of years, releasing The Epic in 2016 followed by Gravity this year. Adding to that, he changed his name to Adam Darksworn, now titles the project Darksworn and released yet another new album this year called Into The Dark Storm. But if that wasn’t crazy enough, this Buckethead of melodic death metal is about to release yet another album (which is the one I’m about to cover in this review) called Rogue. At this rate, he could release another two albums by Christmas. It’s obvious from the amount of material released already that Darksworn has a lot of time on his hands, and thankfully that time translates into some rather intriguing music. The following release I have here is a bit raw and fairly short, but the musical passion is there and I feel that in the future, Darksworn might be something of note. There are already some nice ideas here and there, especially considering the fact that the guy is writing all of this music by himself. He also crafted the other four or five discs that I mentioned earlier. Let’s make this a little more interesting and go with a rundown, shall we?

When the disc begins with “Merging Planets” I notice an obvious raw quality, but nice melodies. The growls seem oddly layered over the instruments, there’s a real lack of clarity there, especially when these are lapped ontop of “Leviate” which contains some amazing melodies as well as a more defined sense of clarity compared to the former. It’s that raw vocal meets over-produced clean melody vibe that really rubs me wrong. Yes, you can tell that Darksworn recorded the vocals over the track after it had been recorded, same as I do – but I don’t think he mixed it in properly. What really needed to happen here, was the instruments being turned up a little more. You need to emulate the feeling of playing with a band, which is not what I’m getting here. I usually record my vocals over the tracks and then raise his mixes just enough so that I’m properly homogenized within them. The fact that the music is too low in the mix and his vocals too high really seems to be a problem. I often use an effect that raises the volume of my vocal tracks pretty high, but then I greatly lower that to about negative one or even negative four if necessary. Of course, I’m using a rather ancient program and ot sure what kind of program he uses for these albums. Regardless of that, raising the volume of the main tracks might just work in his favor. I don’t need to hear the vocals as much as I need to hear the vocals AND the music. It’s very important. When mixing, it is important that every riff be heard regardless of the vocal implements in the track. I don’t want there to ever be a point where the music is inaudible over my obnoxious, egotistical ramblings.

As we move forward, the video game atmosphere of “Lost” comes into play, with MIDI tings that greatly bring me back to my teenage years of amateur game design with object programs. On a Windows 98 PC, most of your MIDI’s would come out this way. “Slow Death By Poison” has a rather interesting introduction and also features better mixing. One of the reasons that could be, is because the track is more BDM influenced and naturally louder with more of an emphasis on chunky bass. This one’s actually quite good, moving far away from the polished melodic death metal that opened the disc and leading to a style that seems to work a little better with the vocal approach. It still stumbles a little on the vocal element (where’s the passion in this?) and I’m noticing the same in “Inferior.” When Adam utilizes the vocals here, it often sounds like he’s having a bit of trouble enunciating emotion into them. It’s not that he doesn’t have the skill, but I’m just not hearing anything here that really manages to stand out as far as that level of the performance is concerned. I will say that as far as the structural compositions are concerned, they’re much better. But it sounds apathetic, which takes me out of the performance. Thank goodness for the chiptunes here and there or I might have fallen asleep! “Through Defeat” almost sounds like a Japanese approach to melodic death metal. Despite the interesting use of electronics, there’s still a bit of a rough-edge here that needed a bit more fine tuning. Even the solo is just slightly off in areas, but I’ll commend him for the effort. The man is trying to experiment, and he’s got a head full of ideas that seems to require focus. “Immortal” takes a more modern approach to the genre, but now the opposite is happening here as the vocals are a bit lower than the music itself. It’s about reaching a happy medium, which is extremely difficult to do – I’d also recommend that Adam speak a little louder. It often sounds like he’s trying to do “quiet death metal” so as not to wake up the neighbors, his wife, a kid, parents or whatever. That style never works well for albums, because it retains the same amount of muffling that wouldn’t wake up said sleeping individual, and doesn’t have the full force of bravado that such a genre must utilize. This is an aggressive genre for the most part, it should have a little more depth and emotion. I’m not feeling the approach there at all, because it feels like there’s a side-factor preventing this from being as good as it could be. As far as the last track, “Enslaved” went, there were a series of problems including the whole thing ending abruptly and several portions of vocal excess that seemed like they were not properly removed. But this could be the result of some skipping in the source material, or another foreseen error. I know that this track behaved rather strangely on my laptop and MP3 player, so I’m not sure the real issue there.

In any case, I see this as a quantity versus quality type of issue. Adam Darksworn has a great deal of ideas and reminds me of a much younger me that wanted to perform every kind of musical style that he could get his hands on. But I realized that as much as I loved that kind of stuff, it just wasn’t focused. My old Ebon Etheric “electro-metal” junk proved that. Musically, some of these songs need just a little more attention to detail as far as production goes. “Through Defeat” really needs some TLC. I think that maybe instead of trying to beat Buckethead and Merzbow at their own game as far as album releases, it may be time for Darksworn to take a look at al of his music and focus on the cuts that really need a touch up. Just last week, I trashed about two or three hours of writing and vocal work, because it didn’t fit our style. That might sound extreme, but I don’t want to put out any old album. I hope that this new wave of indie metal artists will soon come into that mentality. Since the advent of the internet, creating and releasing music has become incredibly easy to do. This is also why we’re bogged down with so many releases from every part of the world that you could ever imagine. I can’t even keep up anymore. There’s enough heavy metal and rock music bursting out of the underground, you could fill a swimming pool with it. Maybe even a body of water if it keeps going at this rate. With that much music, it becomes very difficult to tell where the talent pool is. There already are many artists out there similar to Darksworn, who have more than enough material for about six or seven albums already. The trick is to know what’s useful, what needs to be tweaked and what needs to be junked completely. Even so, I think it is still worth checking out the artist’s page to see what he’s made of.

(8 Tracks, 29:00)




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