While I have admittedly slept on much of the Darkest Hour discography, essentially stopping after the 2003 barnburner Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation, I was intrigued to return for the Washington DC metal act's latest effort. My affinity for Kurt Ballou's work in heavy music production is well documented amongst much of my previous reviews, and seeing that he had engineered and mixed Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora was enough for me to check out the first track released and album opener, "Knife In The Safe Room".

Holy shit does the band come out of the gate, as a wall of dissonant feedback surges into an uptempo riff heavy assault, vocalist John Henry's distorted midrange screams immediately take center stage. The track barely lets up from start to finish, only stuttering a minute or so in for a ripping solo that leads into a devastating ending breakdown that relies on more than open chugs. The ending chord stabs sound At The Gates-esque, and that's a good thing.

"Timeless Numbers" is a slower paced song that is a more suitable soundtrack to your typical headbang. Drummer Travis Orbin has a couple moments to shine with some cool fills in a stop start section that Henry's vocals accompany. While the label of "metalcore" has followed Darkest Hour throughout their 21 career, Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is very much a straight forward metal record.

Many other outlets more accustomed to the band's discography as a whole seem to describe the record as a "return to form", but I see it more as one of Darkest Hour's heaviest records to date. The "core" elements of a cleaner, more melodic vocal during the chorus have notably disappeared for the most part. Much of the melodic element across the record is in the dueling guitars that sprinkle harmonies all over the place. A great example of this is on "The Flesh & The Flowers Of Death, where guitarists Michael Schleibaum and Michael Carrigan duel each other through fast paced rhythm sections and a more menacing pre-chorus that leads into a crushing breakdown riff. A harmony soaked solo leads into more of the aforementioned breakdown before suddenly coming to an end.

It's worth noting that the album was completely crowdfunded through an IndieGoGo campaign that raised $72,584. This model allowed the band to forego any record label interference, much like Protest The Hero has done on their previous two releases. Also worth noting is the return of longtime guitarist Kris Norris, who laid down a solo on album closer, "Beneath It Sleeps"

Overall, this record has inspired to dig into Darkest Hour's discography and see what I've been missing out on since 2003. Kurt Ballou has hit it out of the park again by capturing the band's intense live sound and putting the icing on the cake for what is definitely an early contender for metal album of the year. Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is out this Friday, March 10th via Southern Lord Records. Listen to Knife In The Safe Room below: