Darkwater make such a strong impression with “A New Beginning” off their much-anticipated third album for Ulterium Records. There is a hint of unease woven into the piano melody, carried forward into the synthesizer lead that plays over distorted guitars and an urgent rhythm. I agree with Mike Portnoy’s assessment that progressive metal can at times be so self-indulgent that it’s more fun for the band than the audience. I think Darkwater strikes a fine balance between being technical, and being emotional with the music.
Rather than reaching backward to prog rock past, the tone is modern and there is a considered restraint in the way songs are performed. In “In Front Of You” Henrik Båth’s voice shines through, as well as how the guitars and synths share lead melodies. There is a moment where bass and drums share the spotlight, but not indulge in it, and further proof that the shared perspective is that the sum total is greater than the individual players.
What is it to be alive in 2019? One in 7.7 billion, or one of 7.7 billion? The crowning glory of Creation, or a mist that appears only briefly? Not only do the lyrics take a “bigger picture” view of life, but like in “Reflection Of A Mind”, the qualities of the soul are also examined. Life is a struggle for who we are: the lone voice that rises above the chorus.
A turning point comes in “Insomnia”, where words are laid to rest, never to be found. When he leaves this place in heart and mind, wakefulness is overcome by sleep and the conscious dissolves in dreams. The rhythmic sequence of “The Journey” is disrupted here and there by interludes; sometimes a chorus, sometimes a guitar lick, and it’s amazing how a bass riff can hold the same emotional quality as a guitar solo. It shows me how Darkwater use instruments as storytelling tools.
In “Burdens” the scene is immediately more intimate when voice is accompanied by acoustic guitar. While it felt to me like curtains were being drawn in the first half of the album, windows are now thrown wide open: “… I know that we are fallen, but I can never let it go.” There is an urgency about this song. It is revealed in the bass and in the guitar, and an instruction that is offered: “Roll the die….” There is a chance to become greater than we are.
Orchestral elements add dramatic splendour in “Turning Pages”. Timing changes work like phrases of a sentence, rather than demarcating where say a verse ends, and a chorus begins. It is a wonderfully dynamic song, which I’ve listened to repeatedly and not yet taken everything in.
And then it’s time to emerge into the “Light Of Dawn”: “… rise, breathe, swim ashore, emerge” and then to fly with all your might. What a journey this has been! You know how at the end of a movie sometimes, there is a hush? I had that pause once the final notes on the piano echoed out. Experience it for yourself.
Written by Karakul
1. A New Beginning
2. In Front Of You
3. Alive (Part I)
4. Alive (Part II)
5. Reflection Of A Mind
7. The Journey
9. Turning Pages
10. Light Of Dawn
Henrik Båth – Vocals/Guitars
Magnus Holmberg – Keyboards
Markus Sigfridsson – Guitars
Tobias Enbert – Drums
Simon Andersson – Bass
Release Date: March 1st. 2019
Record label: Ulterium Records
“Calling the Earth to Witness” (full-length, 2007)
“Where Stories End” (full-length, 2010)
“Human” (full-length, 2019)
Video for ‘Alive (Pt. II)