Band: Andreas „Lacky“ Lakaw (drums), Arnd Klink (guitar), Meik Heitkamo (guitar), Dirk Hefele (bass), Oliver “Lee” Weinberg (vocals)
The history of DARKNESS is a moving one. The band was founded back in 1984 in Altenessen, a notorious district in Essen, Germany, Ruhr area, as a result after the visit of a Destruction/Tormentor show. Now, the band looks back on an almost 35 years spanning history with many up and downs, splits and reunions.
Since 2015, DARKNESS are serious about their business again, engaged Grindcore shouter Lee Weinberg (who is not allowed to grunt anymore) and returned to the scene with the XXIX EP and the much-noticed comeback album, The Gasoline Solution, in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Thrash Metal veterans are joyously expecting again. On October 12, the band’s fifth baby will see the light of day, baptized First Class Violence. A good reason to make a fuss about it and to invite for an electronic eavesdropping. Due to work I had to decide on a short notice whether I was able to partake or not and was lucky enough to snatch a free place to attend. Ok, let’s hit the road towards the darkest corner of Essen to the rehearsal room of DARKNESS. It was quite tricky to find that place, not only for me, so the beginning of the listening session was pushed back an hour. No problem, the fridge was full of brewski. I noticed that the Stauder brewery is located around the corner and joked about a direct pipeline to the rehearsal room. Funny enough, as drummer Lacky told, the guys actually asked but got denied. Damn… hahaha. But there was also a large amount of coffee and tea (good for me ;)) and snacks available. And no, I did not eat all the Puff pastry cheese sticks myself! That was teamwork ;)
The flock of media representatives was actually rather meager. As bass player Dirk explained, the label had already sent out the promo CDs so that many journalists probably listened to the new album back home instead of joining the party here tonight. Their fault. Anyway, guitarist Arnd was missing too. As for that, producer Corny was there, Kreator’s bass player Speesy joined as well as Exhumer’s drummer Matthias, among others. Illustrious company and it was a really nice evening :)
Talks and discussions all around, some old stories were dug out, for example, how singer Lee landed the position as the new DARKNESS frontman. Lacky also told: “No matter what we started with, we always ended at Thrash Metal. Thrash is our religion”.
The band’s expectations for First Class Violence are high. They don’t want to be stuck in the past yet not deny their roots. They want to sound Authentic, but also modern. They wanted the songs to be more complex but with catchy refrains, they told. Ok, now I’m curious! Let’s get started!
Lacky welcomed and addressed a few words to us, clear and brief, turned up the volume of the PA and so it began…
• …with the atmospheric and acoustic intro Prelude in E, partly guitar driven, partly piano driven. The melody (as one will notice at the end, gets cited in final track I Betray again) leads elegantly into Low Velocity Blood Spatter, a crushing track with pounding rhythms and sing-along refrain.
• No time to gasp as Neoprimitive thunders out of the speakers. Cool riffwork, first solo and a nifty transition to Hate Is My Engine. Here I already notice that DARKNESS don’t lose themselves in high-speed bludgeoning but also don’t do it the whimpy way either. First Class Violence is fast but always again reduces its speed, be it just for a moment and a break or for a full groove part. That makes the record very dynamic and keeps it thrilling.
• Listening to Hate Is My Engine the catchy refrain sounds familiar to me (“Hate is my engine, anger is my fuel”). Do I know it from anywhere else? The search engine later says no. But there are similar text lines though. Generally I think that DARKNESS like hint at old 80s Thrash Metal heroes. A hook here, a riff there, as a homage so to say.
• The following See You On The Bodyfarm has different kind of guitars, rather atypical for the band. I like it!
• Zeutan is a tribute to the former singer Oliver „Olli/Zeutan“ Fernickel, who passed away in 1998. The introducing voice sample is from Olli himself back in the days. The bridge of the song is from Faded Pictures (Death Squad), the one song Olli has written. In between Jürgen "Ventor" Reil (Kreator) and Thomas "Angelripper" Such (Sodom) let off steam as guest vocalists. The infernal scream by Tom Angelripper… priceless.
• DARKNESS pay attention on subtle little details to keep up diversification, no matter if they vary singing as in The Autocrazy (Autocracy) Club or allow influences like oriental sounding guitars as in Born Dead.
• The title track quickly develops - as expected - to a real smashing hit. No wonder that this one will be the first single and video.
• Really, really big is also the closing I Betray with its venomous lyrics and the enchanting voice of Emma Fieber at the end of the song. Just awesome! “I betray, I do it day by day, with every word I say, it is the human way…”. You would not believe how often I sing this refrain ;) It got so stuck.
Wow! That is it. First Class Violence is a much varied and entertaining album. I am quickly tempted to push the repeat-button. Yes, the songs are more complex (not too much); the lyrics (profound and worth to be read) and especially the refrains get easily stuck and make the listener sing along. That was a declared goal and the band succeeded fully.
It’s hard to say if First Class Violence will be the next big thing. The album surely has the potential to do so. DARKNESS are still DARKNESS. Authentic? Very much so! In the modern 2.0 version. Great record, indeed.
Afterwards we talked about the album, of course. Lacky praised producer Corny as well as singer Lee for their efforts. Rightly! That was a wonderful and interesting evening. Now I’m looking forward to the next shows in support of the album. Thank you DARKNESS!
As already said: First Class Violence will be released on October 12, via Massacre Records. Strongly recommended! The release party will take place the same day at the Nord Café in Essen. Don’t miss it!