The United Kingdom's Designs of Chaos formed back in 2010. The five-piece has been making their live rounds over the years, though only recently have been putting in their studio time. 2013 saw the release of their debut EP, Chaos Engine, which found plenty of success with the fans and press, including quickly climbing the ranks on ReverbNation. What followed was more live performances and writing new material, all leading to the release of their most recent EP, The Darkest Storm. But does this independently released effort stand as another prime example of the group's strengths, or is it nothing remotely close to even mildly engaging?

The three song EP sounds great, having a nice bite to the largely digital production thanks in good part to the solid click of the bass kicks, as well as the deep pulsing and twang of the bass guitar, which can also be a bit on the dull side during the lighter melodic moments as found two-and-a-half minutes into "Darkest Storm". The rest of the drums do a good job at filling the gaps with catchy rhythms and pristine crashes, not to mention guitars that vary between being a bit too thin to just right due to the distortions used. This is an odd plague that appears from time to time on many songs, though most notably in said title track, which sometimes finds the lower backbone kind of dropped when cleaner riffs are called for, meanwhile segments like the haunting closing return most of the weight, if not all, right back to the mix for a wide mixture of "-core" licks with metal aggression that seems to take inspiration from Killswitch Engage and even Shadows Fall at times.

"Social Phantom", however, has a good share of groove laced inspirations. While some grim melodic tendencies on par to Deceased can exist, though relegated more to acting as bridges, there's plenty of Chimaira and Lamb of God authority on display, right down to including some gutturals during the chorus and the melancholic closing solo lumped into the crushing breakdown that plods along in more of a doom metal fashion. Meanwhile there's the final entry, "Strength in Numbers", which favors more towards the latter of those two examples, all the while having more of a melodic death metal touch, a style that can sometimes be felt in the earlier "Darkest Storm" as well. This anthemic assault has its fare share of steady bass kicks and Sacrament-era riffs that keep the largely mid-tempo performance engaging, even during the much slower chorus that finds the band waving the banner of battle ready sureness through brotherhood and unity.

The Darkest Storm is a well executed EP, though it's sort of like one of those chocolate samplers you might get someone, or yourself, on a holiday or special event. There's no denying the many inspirations that play a factor into the band's sound are on display in a way that isn't idol worship, but still remain fairly obvious even within the initial spin through. Each track sports one or two clear influences from pioneers or leaders of the style with just enough of a twist to give Designs of Chaos their own sound. Hopefully when the time comes for the band to finally cut a full-length, the direction the group wants to take will be a little more established, and not be such a metalcore smorgasbord that, sadly, isn't the most memorable within the ocean of like minded entities, but still a fun enough listen you can randomly come back to.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.