Darkwater – Human Review

It's an album that does have its share of fun and flashy moments but also manages to be very subtle at points, and it's clearly a lovingly crafted album,...

Released By: Ulterium Records

Released Date: March 1st, 2019

Genre: Progressive Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/darkwaterofficial

Line Up:

Henrik Båth – Vocals
Markus Sigfridsson – Guitars
Simon Andersson – Bass
Magnus Holmberg – Keyboards
Tobias Enbert – Drums


1. A New Beginning

2. In Front of You

3. Alive (Part I)

4. Alive (Part II)

5. Reflection of a Mind

6. Insomnia

7. The Journey

8. Burdens

9. Turning Pages

10. Light of Dawn

Sweden has produced a lot of great melodic prog over the years, with some of my favorite Swedish prog bands being Seventh Wonder, Evergrey and Wolverine. One really unique and special band that had gone under my radar until recently is Darkwater, a band who’s been around since the early 2000s, but they’ve only released two albums up to this point. I gave their second release, Where Stories End, a listen recently and was immediately impressed by the band’s unique brand of melodic prog, which has some of the atmosphere of a band like Evergrey, as well as some of the technical musicianship and more complex songwriting of Dream Theater, while also putting in some of their own special touches, to help create their own fresh sound. Their third full-length release, Human, is due for release this coming week, and it continues where the band left off over 8 years ago, building on their unique sound while pushing it further with some new elements to help create their best album yet

One thing the band specializes in is managing to balance perfectly between heavy riffs, big melodic choruses, and some more subtle atmospheric sections. All of these elements are in place in some way or another on all of their tracks, and they’re always blended together in very effective ways, with Markus Sigfridsson providing some excellent guitar work, both on the heavier side and with some excellent melodic solos, and with keyboardist Magnus Holmberg setting the tone wonderfully with his symphonic keys, which generally have a dark tone to them, but still manage to sound beautiful at times, and they certainly do a great job of creating atmosphere. Another important element is vocalist Henrik Båth, who has a warm, deep voice, which fits in with the music perfectly. He sings with a lot of emotion and provides a powerful, yet very smooth performance throughout the album.

The band at times remind me of Evergrey at their best, with their ability to mix some very heavy riffs with some dark and foreboding keys, but they tend to have more extended instrumental sections, as well as some more complex arrangements. At the same time, their music is certainly more accessible and more melodic than the likes of Dream Theater, and so the band manages to create their own sound that fits them perfectly, drawing some influence from other bands, while still managing to stand out. Human expands on their sound in a big way, offering up more variety and more intensity than their previous album did, while still continuing to provide listeners with everything they’ve come to expect from the band.

Everything is expertly performed and produced, but of course, the most important area is the songwriting, and that is where the band has really come through on this release. One of the best tracks is the opener, and second single, “A New Beginning”, and it actually lives up to its name, as it manages to feel equal parts fresh and familiar, in that it maintains the general sound of the band’s previous work, while being faster paced and a bit heavier than usual. It introduces some light power metal elements, which appear on and off throughout the album, and help add an extra layer to the music, to go along with the increased symphonic elements, which were already there on Where Stories End, yet feel a bit more prominent this time around. This track opens up with some nice piano before the symphonic keys take over, and then the heavy guitars kick in and the track takes off at a pretty fast pace, with some very heavy riffs. This keeps up throughout the opening verse, which charges ahead with some of the band’s heaviest, speediest material ever, though this eventually gives way to a slow, soft and very melodic chorus, where Henrik’s excellent vocals and the more atmospheric elements of their music began to take over. The track alternates very fluidly between these two styles, with some more softer portions later in the track, while also delivering some more heavy guitar work and speedy tempos during a great instrumental section. It’s an excellent track overall, and a great indication of what to expect from the album on the whole.

The band goes back to more familiar territory with third single “In Front of You”, a slow but very hard hitting track, which opens up with some heavy, chugging guitar work, before claiming down for some atmospheric verses. The chunky guitar work returns for the chorus, which is intense, but very well sung and very memorable, and while the song is definitely one of the heaviest and darkest here, it still sneaks in some great melodies, especially during an excellent solo in the second half. Next is a brief interlude, “Alive (Part I)”, which has some soft guitar work, ambient keys and very soft and beautiful vocals from Henrik. Unsurprisingly, it gives way to the lead single, “Alive {Part II}”, which is one of the best on the album, as well as being very clearly a Darkwater song through and through. It has some nice lead guitar work, some excellent melodies, and some very nice atmospheric keys, as well as slight symphonic elements to help add some extra flavor. It isn’t overly fast, but it moves at a nice pace during the verses and instrumental sections, but the highlight is the chorus, where Henrik delivers a very powerful and extremely emotional performance, while the lyrics are also inspirational and very well written. It’s an excellent track overall, and a perfect indication of what to expect from the album.

Following one of the more accessible tracks, we have the longest on the album in “Reflection of a Mind”, a much slower moving, more melodic track. It has some excellent ambient keys and symphonic elements throughout, with some excellent, softer verses that help build up the tension, while the chorus is rather subdued, but very melodic and well sung, as always. The track stays soft throughout, aside from a brief burst of heaviness in the second half, but it’s another very emotional track, with very good lyrics and excellent vocals from Henrik, and slightly sped up last run through the chorus is amazing. Next is one of the shorter tracks, “Insomnia”, and it’s another one that has some minor power metal influence, moving at a pretty fast pace during its chorus. It starts off slow, with some dark and heavy riffs during the verses, before picking up the tempo a bit before the chorus, and then the chorus itself is fast, heavy and very fun, while still having some nice atmospheric keys. It’s another track which strikes a nice balance between being heavy, melodic, atmospheric and emotional, and it manages to blend everything together perfectly, while also including some cool, folk-influenced melodies in the second half, which is pretty interesting. It’s probably my favorite on the album, due to how addictive it is, though there are no less than great tracks on the album…

Next is “The Journey”, which is a slower, more introspective track, and one which makes great use of symphonic keys and more ambient keys. It has an epic feel to it, but in more of a dark and sinister way during the verses, before opening up for a lighter, very melodic chorus, with some very powerful and emotional vocals. It’s yet another track which seamlessly blends heavy, melodic and atmospheric passages, with the verses being very intense, the instrumental sections being complex and a bit foreboding, while the chorus is very accessible and melodic. Another one of my favorites on the album is “Burdens”, which starts off with some soft, yet very atmospheric acoustic guitar work, before eventually picking up the pace a bit and allowing for some more heavy guitar work. It’s another fairly mid-paced track, with some great guitar work and excellent keys throughout, but the highlight is the chorus, which is very melodic and has some of the most emotional vocals on the album, before giving way to some very heavy and sinister guitar work. The band’s tone blending is on perfect display, yet again, with the heavier sections serving as a perfect contrast to the very melodic chorus, while the ambiance is strong throughout, to help make it another addictive, yet very well crafted track.

Nearing the end, “Turning Pages” is another very atmospheric track, which reminds me of a lot of Evergrey in places. It opens up with some very soft keys, before picking up the pace and becoming one of the heavier tracks on the album, with some pretty epic symphonic keys in the background. It moves at a pretty good pace for a while, before slowing down again, and it’s another track that alternates fluidly between heavy, faster passages, and slower, more melodic passages while being pretty creepy and atmospheric throughout. It’s some of the chunkier guitar work that reminds of Evergrey, but in a good way, as it’s very well done and very intense, while still fitting in with the dark tone of the track. Closing out the album is “Light of Dawn”, which is unsurprisingly a more calm and melodic track, while still having some heavy guitar work in brief bursts. It’s another track where the atmospheric keys are a highlight, along with some soft and very emotional vocals from Henrik. The chorus is light but very powerful, and the lyrics are excellent once again. It’s a track which has some great vocal melodies, while also being fairly complex and having some excellent instrumental work, with an absolutely beautiful solo in the middle. It’s an excellent track overall, and it closes out the album very nicely.

While Darkwater may not be as well known as some of the other great prog bands in their country, they are certainly every bit as worthy of attention, and Human shows them stepping up their game, with some more atmospheric, melodic and at times very heavy songs, which are enhanced by strong vocals, and some very emotional, well-written lyrics. It’s an album that does have its share of fun and flashy moments but also manages to be very subtle at points, and it’s clearly a lovingly crafted album, with a ton of little details in each track. All fans of the the band’s previous work should love this album, as it’s clearly their best yet, while many fans of melodic prog looking for something with good atmosphere, heavy riffs, and a strong, emotional vocal performance, are also highly recommended to give this a listen, as it’ll almost certainly be one of the best albums of its kind released this year. This band likes to take their time making music, but as long as they can keep producing music of this caliber, the wait will always be worth it!

Written by: Travis Green

Ratings:  9/10

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