Monday, October 24, 2011

Dark Haze - 天霾地晦 (EP) (2011)

The Asian metal scene has gained momentum in recent years, having seen more and more bands getting global recognition. Dark Haze, a melodic death metal band from Beijing, China, is looking to ride the thermal currents, right into the public eye. With a masterful grip on thrashing guitars, diverse vocal structures and all things brutally heavy, there is little doubt that this five piece has all the tools to grab a piece of the pie. On their new EP, titled "天霾地晦," they showcase their skills over the course of five grinding tracks.

Right out of the gate, you are in for a thrashing treat. "Deep Sea" is full of monster riffs just waiting to start your hair swinging. The verse vocals are gritty, screeching through lyrics like the blackest of black metal bands. But the use of the more guttural growls mixed with clean vocals is the true highlight. A ripping guitar solo layered over lightning fast drums takes you on a roller-coaster of metal riffage. There is a noticeable focus to the music, remaining heavy, but cohesive. "Rebirth After Robbery" is no different, with a dynamic guitar lead bringing the track to top speed in moments. The vocals remain impressive, hitting all of the most brutal delivery styles. Precisely timed cymbal crashes launch stop/start moments, practically telling you when your head should bob. A beautiful acoustic interlude heals your wounds, only to be followed by excellent solo work. The soundscape is so rich, focusing on how things sound together, rather than disjointed layers of distortion.

An ear piercing scream begins "Mournful Tree," with an infectious guitar groove dominating the opening measures. It is rare for an album of this style to be just as easily called "catchy," but Dark Haze are just that. The track is equally abrasive and memorable, playing one off of the other in a dark harmony of sorts. The vocals stay toward the blackened end of the spectrum, and it suits the song well. The guitar solo found in the latter half is a blitz of skill and technical prowess. The diversity of their sound is found in "Endless Wind," which displays the ability to switch to a more uptempo, almost power metal, feel. The clean vocals are the perfect compliment. There is a little bit of sloppiness in the early fret work, something that seems almost impossible given the previous material. It gains steam as the track progresses, finding a groove in a late bursting solo. The closing track, "在末世的上空" is a summary of the previous four, spanning every corner of their respective highlights. You will find the heavy, mixed seamlessly with the brilliant melodic passages. With silky smooth bass lines flowing from all angles, this is an encore waiting to happen.

I am not sure who decides how a band will be marketed to perspective fans. In this case, whoever picked "melodic death metal" as the tag line for Dark Haze should be relieved of their decision making duties. There is a tremendous amount of talent on display, and it is so easily passed over if you pigeonhole this band so carelessly. I am no lyrical wordsmith, no literally magician. But this EP, simply titled "天霾地晦," could be labeled as a "hair swinging, head banging metal assault." Better yet, I should just let the guitars speak for themselves.


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