Darkblack - The Barbarian's Hammer - Hot Dog City Records 2005
5 Songs
Running Time: 31:26

Pennsylvania's Darkblack have potential, and that's what's so frustrating about the whole thing. The guitars are well-played, the drumming aggressive, and the basswork from vocalist Tim provides a solid structure on which to build a pretty decent power metal album.

Two problems, though, will prevent this disc from causing a ripple in the over-flooded Power Metal market, the first of which being the vocals. While not a "bad" vocalist by any means, the phrasing and inflections Tim employs have him coming off like an erstwhile Geddy Lee, or bargain basement Harry Conklin. His voice is rendered thin, not due to lack of power, but for attempts to gain control he (as yet) hasn't the ability to attain. His midrange is perfectly passable, and in each song, there are sections in which I found myself wailing right along with him. 'Bracers Of The Eagle's Talon' begins with a furious downbeat, then the guitars literally take flight in one of many, many solos which grace Darkblack's first effort. I must admit, it's nice to hear an independent band not afraid to play higher on the neck than the 5th fret in these Drop D times. Is that a whammy bar I hear at 1:04? I believe so, and dammit does it feel good! I'm not about to say that the technique is always there with Darkblack, but what they lose in proficiency is made up for in passion for a style of metal not known for putting a Lexus in the driveway or a pool in the backyard. A meatheaded oldschool chug starts off 'The Warhammer', instantly memorable in that "I've heard this somewhere before but can't place it." way. It's really here first, though, that the other problem becomes noticeable. The solos (while good) tend to be thrown haphazardly around, and may last anywhere from a dozen seconds to nearly half a minute. I understand that soloing is part of the power metal ethos (and it damn well should stay that way), but the solo should always be built around the song, not vice versa. So much are the songs structured around the plentiful solos here, that the original idea becomes lost at times, rendering the material less effective than it would be were the songs cut down a bit. In a live setting, I can see these extended sections completely ripping the faces off of the first few rows, and turning up an already energetic performance that extra few notches. In the studio, though, maybe the six to seven-minute mark isn't something to be acheived with every song. Still and all, both 'Bracers Of The Eagle's Talon' and the Metallica (think from the demo/Kill 'Em All days) riffage in parts of 'Tale Of Vengeance' are enough to make this a worthy debut.

With a trimming of the excess, and some vocal lessons to broaden actual range and lend force, Darkblack could have a bright future ahead. The Barbarian's Hammer is not for the casual power metal listener, but diehard fans should find enough to satisfy their curiosity.

www.hotdogcityrecords.com

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