01. The Choir Of The Prophecy Fulfilled
02. Reflections In Ruin
03. Broken Wings (Part I)
04. This Side Of The Nightmare
05. This Curse
06. Coda XIII
07. This Side Of The Nightmare (Alternate Version)
08. Reflections Of Ruin (Alternate Version
09. This Curse (Alternate Version)
10. Faith Like Suicide
12. Looking Forward (To The End)
13. The Misanthrope
15. Keepsake 23
2006 A-F Records
Once upon a time, a metalcore band called Darkest Hour from Virginia released two EPs on two different tiny labels. These two releases were the beginning of what would become a long and illustrious career that would see the band evolve into a Swedish-influenced metal band, sign with Victory Records and even tour as part of Ozzfest. The band's rather extreme shift is what makes Archives so interesting a decade after the fact. As much as the band's current lineup might generally disavow these recordings, they were the beginnings of the band's noteriety and thus, should be out there for the band's current fans to discover.
Archives, consisting primarily of the band's first two EPs (The Misanthrope and The Prophecy Fulfilled) along with a handful of demos and alternate takes, is a nice little piece of history that should serve as required listening for the band's new generation of teenage fans and as nostalgia for those of us who remember the days before Darkest Hour had conceived of their now distinctly Gothenburg sound. The disc begins with The Prophecy Fulfilled EP, which is arguably the best stuff here. Most of the material has more in common with 90's metalcore in its straightforward combination of death/thrash riffing (a la Obituary in this case) with hardcore breakdowns. There might not be anything flashy or particularly inventive about it, but it's still heavy and generally fun. "This Side Of The Nightmare" plays out like a prototype for the seven years of music that followed it. Even the ridiculously indulgent ending of "Coda XIII" is a good indicator of which way things were headed.
After the disc's first half-hour, the disc's contents become immeasurably less enjoyable. Where The Prophecy Fulfilled is a nice slab of late 90's metalcore, its demos seem ultimately unnecessary. The alternate take of "This Side of the Nightmare" just speeds the original up a bit without adding any significant depth. Alternately, the alternate take of "Reflections of Ruin" is slowed down slightly to even less interesting effect. "Faith Like Suicide" was previously only available on vinyl, making this disc even more worthwhile for diehard fans of the band's earlier material and the song is actually a rather clear indicator of the progression the band was making between the early material and their first album, The Mark of the Judas.
It had been years since I had actually sat down and listened to The Misanthrope and it was this material that I'm not surprised the band has forsaken. It sounds ironically similar to the Victory Records sound of 1996, something that the current Victory roster and even staff have been trying to distance themselves from for years. It's slower, more hardcore influenced and frankly, terrible. John Henry's vocals sound awful as well. It's nice to have proof for 15 year olds that Darkest Hour did not, in fact, invent Swedish metal, but otherwise having these songs reissued serves little purpose because I doubt anyone will really want to listen to them.
Bottom Line: As unexcited as I am by most of the music on this disc, it's nice to see material like this reissued by a band that has spent years denying its existence. Listening to Archives was a nice trip down memory lane for me, but I'll probably never listen to it again. I just hope a twelve year old sees it at Best Buy, buys it and finds out that there's more to metal's history than the second stage at Ozzfest.