Billy Graham once said that “History is full of surprises, and the next century will be no exception”. I’d like to take a small twist on the wording and replace ‘history’ with ‘music’, how many times have you been surprised or even blown away by a music release? In the many years I have been listening to that glorious succession of notes that we call music (showing my age now), I have been left dumbfounded on many an occasion and left misty eyed and open mouthed on quite a few too. It may be that, an artist that you previously felt had dropped the ball and whose standards you felt were lowering has come back on song with an absolute belter of an album or, it may be that some new band or artist have exploded out of left field with something seriously sublime and knocked your socks off, whichever, I always feel a warm glow inside when the power of music can leave me taken back to that extent.
When picking up the new Dark Age release, A Matter of Trust, I had no preconceptions or opinions because, dear reader, I had never heard of, or anything by, Dark Age so had no idea what to expect. Intensive research (well, 20 minutes on google anyway) was undertaken to find out what I was letting myself in for and, here are the results of that history lesson.
A five piece from Hamburg, Germany, Dark Age’s line-up consists of Eike Freese (vocals & guitar), Jorn Schubert (lead guitars), Andre Schumann (drums), Martin Reichert (electronics) and Alex Henke (bass). Dark Age were formed, as a death metal band, in 1994 and originally named Dyer’s Eve, changing their name to Dark Age a year later. Between 1999 and 2009 they released 6 full length albums from the first, The Fall in 1999 to Acadia in 2009. Over the years their sound has been evolving with the core elements of shredding riffs, hard drums and electronica however, with 2009’s Acadia they started to focus more on the song itself and its hook like, rather than on the riff. This development has continued with 2013’s A Matter of Trust where, the band have opened up to different ideas and, in doing so, a central theme has shown up, to focus on the song and not the technical ability.
Right let’s jump straight in at the deep end and find out if, as claimed, A Matter of Trust shows the band having the courage to listen to their instinct and interpret the point. Well, initial impressions are very favourable indeed, from the opening riff and industrial style keyboards of the opening to first track Nero and the introduction of the tasty vocals of Freese, there is a feel of a solidly crafted record, catchy hooks and a smooth chorus giving the impression of almost a coming together of Linkin Park style nu-metal with a much heavier element. This continues throughout the album with Afterlife and Out of Time carrying on the industrial synth-metal vibe with just as much influence from the keyboard and drums as there is from the polished guitars. Standing over all of this is the superb vocal talent of Eike Freese, his voice has that melodic edge of Chester Bennington ( Linkin Park) but feels really suited to the more powerful style of Dark Age, the addition of growling vocals in Out of Time gives a solid counter point to the track. The staccato riff, edgy keyboards and darker vocal merged with more growls give a seriously techno-metal feel to Fight! , there is an almost thrashy edge that is lifted by the lighter chorus, a serious pummelling of the musical senses. Don’t Let The Devil Get Me has a dark and melancholy feel to it, sombre guitar, brooding keyboards and sinister vocals all contributing before a nice guitar solo lifts the mood a little and the pounding drums run out the track.
The next two tracks on this potent album are the two stand-out moments of an already impressive release, My Saviour and Glory are superbly crafted anthems where highly emotive vocals, superior and catchy riffs and the ever present and lofty drums and keyboards all combine to produce two sublime songs. The expertly crafted chorus on both tracks just adds to the lavish feel. A cross between Linkin Park and U2 is about as close as I could get to describing The Great Escape, the technical metal keyboards combine with seriously catchy guitar riff to give the track a much lighter feel as it hurtles along at a fair pace aligning with the pop rock style of the vocal delivery. The Locked in Syndrome carries on with the heavier, nu-metal infused vibe of some of the previous tracks. Keyboard and guitar heavy, the high calibre vocal continuing the narrative throughout, I find myself really liking Dark Age’s style and delivery, the way they combine the lighter, nu-metal qualities with the heavier technical metal side is almost akin to putting a square peg in a round hole and making it work. A left field track on a left field album, Dark Sign starts with a hugely techo-dance inspired keyboard riff and blends it with the heavy guitar and hard rock vocal to really stretch the limit of what you think works in this genre, I must admit I wasn’t convinced on first listen but it is one of the stand out tracks for me now. We have come to the end of this absorbing album and final track, Onwards! doesn’t disappoint either, a hugely monumental and methodical wall of sound with a strong vocal, another massive anthem that rounds out the album perfectly.
As I said earlier, I had no idea what I was going to get with Dark Age but have been left in no doubt that these guys have the technical ability to produce something sublime, which they have done with A Matter of Trust. When asked if I like the surprises I always reply “It depends on the surprise”, well, with Dark Age I have had an extremely pleasant surprise and would not hesitate in recommending it highly.