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darkWaters - "The Golden Age Of Decadence" (CD)

darkWaters - "The Golden Age Of Decadence" CD cover image

"The Golden Age Of Decadence" track listing:

1. Osiris
2. As We Become One
3. Pure Hate
4. Dreaming Of The Abyss
5. Science Of Things
6. Rock It While You Can
7. Forsaken

Reviewed by on March 13, 2014

"Nothing but bitchin' tunes... [the album] manages to steer clear of any particular category."

There’s something charming and disarming about metal albums like “The Golden Age Of Decadence.” They confound expectations not with chests puffed out, but with an understated doggedness that forces the listener to reevaluate his or her preconceived notions about subgenres.

Formed in 2012, Portugal’s darkWaters ain’t here to reinvent or redefine metal as we know it. They’re simply here to play it without pigeonholing themselves. From this, one might expect a painfully self-conscious, mishmashed musical array including everything but the kitchen sink. Instead, this debut album blends and balances the old school with the new to a point where all distinctions fall away and you’re left with nothing but bitchin’ tunes to focus on. Which is the point.

First off, the album runs a lean, economical seven tracks (and no, none approach Opeth or Dream Theater lengths). This is crucial, and often overlooked today. Less can be more, more can be dull, and overdoing it can seriously dilute a band’s potency by the end. darkWaters avoid this, and “Golden Age” is all the swifter, snappier, and more memorable for it.

As for the music itself: its stylistic backbone fuses British New Wave and classic hard rock sounds with a crunching modern power groove, a surprisingly workable combination that runs the full album. Some songs veer slightly in either direction; note the Pantera-driven chugging on “Pure Hate” followed directly with the fluid Maidenesque melodies on “Dreaming Of The Abyss.” A couple, including “Science Of Things,” break into prog-rock territory. Frontman Sérgio Lucas’ nasal vocals are an acquired taste, and may put off listeners searching for deeper ranges or growls, neither of which appears here.

But Lucas is consistent and never loses focus, and neither does the band – thus the album never loses the plot (or, as mentioned above, overstays its welcome). Much credit goes to guitar duo Jorge Costa (lead) and Diogo Cardão (rhythm), who often function as one; their interplay is seamless enough to sometimes mimic a lone, exceptionally skilled axeman. This partnership shines brightest on “Rock It While You Can,” which boasts riffs as playful as its title, leads as deft as the best neoclassical shredders, and a rhythm as tight and pumping as your favorite headbanging anthem.

“The Golden Age Of Decadence” offers elements smacking of traditional, power, groove, and progressive metal – and good old hard rock – but through humble restraint, manages to steer clear of any particular category while still sounding professional and self-assured. darkWaters, collectively, know exactly who they are.

Highs: "Rock It While You Can"

Lows: Fans of more aggressive metal might find the vocals wanting.

Bottom line: A subtly innovative and skilled debut from a very talented band that embraces old school and new.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)