A little over a year ago the Chronicles ep from Darkness Divided was reviewed in these pages and mention was made of the band describing their sound as “metal” when this illustrious reviewer thought it correctly should fall into the “metalcore” category. At the time, the band had released a couple of singles after Chronicles that suggested they may be leaning more toward the metal side of metalcore, which would highlight more of musicianship in the band, of which there is plenty. With the release of their first full-length album, we now have an answer to the question of which side of the spectrum would they turn.
Darkness Divided formed in 2010 as a four piece of the three Mora brothers, Gerard (vocals), Christopher (guitar), and Joseph (bass) with Israel Hernandez on drums. For Written in Blood, the band has expanded their overall sound by adding Sebastian Elizondo on guitar and vocals. The band, which hails from San Antonio, recorded the album at Alchemist Recording Studio in their hometown with Cory Brunnemann. As one would expect for a release from Victory Records, the overall sound is well mixed and produced and has plenty of punch. A casual glance at the cover with the raised hands with pierced palms and title Written in Blood, should provoke some thoughts on content and lyrically, the album was “written with the idea that despite the struggles of life, people prevail through a spiritual salvation with Christ…”.
As most albums seem to do anymore, Written in Blood opens up with essentially an intro track. “Severance” does contain some elements that set the stage for what is to come. After some clean guitar and keyboard parts there is some intricate guitar work to play along with the orchestral portions and then some effect-modified vocals that actually reappear in the second track “The Shepherds Hands”. One thing I noticed on several songs is that Darkness Divided often opens songs with parts that sound straight out of a playbook on writing a metalcore song, but then quickly head in another direction. “The Shepherd’s Hands” actually sounds like it may be an As I Lay Dying song at the beginning but perhaps a bit more traditional metal than that with vocals barked out in a couple of different styles before the clean section comes in. As one might expect, breakdowns and clean choruses are a major part of every song on the album but as in “The Shepherd’s Hands”, there are also a number of sections in songs that are very effect-laden and seem a bit stretching. I actually think the songs would be stronger without them as they detract from the overall heavy feel and this an overall heavy album.
“A Well Runs Dry” begins with some of the intricate guitar and almost standard metalcore type structure, but then veers off in a more metal direction where the band can really showcase their abilities. When the songs pick up speed, Darkness Divided really come into their own. Unfortunately for this reviewer, those sections tend to be short-lived and interrupted by breakdowns or soaring and clean choruses. With respect to the vocals on the album, they are very strong, both the clean and the metal and there is a good bit of variety. The addition of Sebastian Elizondo is certainly a welcome one to their overall sound as his guitar work and contribution to the vocals are excellent.
Throughout the album, I hear As I Lay Dying, August Burns Red, and possibly even some For Today in the mix. That right there should paint a picture of what the album is like. I almost get the feeling that many of the effect-laden sections of songs were added to differentiate Darkness Divided from those bands, but for me the fact that “The Hands That Bled” features guitar solos by both guitarists is the way to differentiate that would work better (at least for metal purists). There is a lot of talent on display in this album from guitars to drums to bass to vocals and they all shine through in various songs on the album.
As a metal snob who tends to look down his nose at metalcore, there is something about this album that I do like, even if it is not obvious from the review. There is no denying that the songs contain the elements typically found in metalcore songs and some may consider that formulaic, but there is still that underlying metal part that keeps the interest level and attention of the listener. A song like “Remnants’ even brings in some vocals more reminiscent of traditional hardcore in the way they are barked out in some sections and then the brief shout along “…We are the remnant of the chosen one”. This variety in style and approach may be the reason I keep listening as when the clean choruses come, I know there is some good metal on the other side.
Written by John Jackson
2. The Shepherd’s Hands
3. A Well Run Dry
4. The Hands That Bled
5. The Descent
6. Eternal Thirst
7. Withering Kingdom
9. The Will of Man
11. Divine Mercy
Gerard Mora – Vocals
Sebastian Elizondo – Guitar, vocals
Christopher James Mora – Guitar
Israel Hernandez – Drums
Joseph Mora – Bass
“Chronicles” EP (2013) [review]
Record Label: Victory Records, Aug. 2014
Video for ‘The Hands That Bled’
The making of “Written in Blood” (pt. 1):
The making of “Written in Blood” (pt. 2):