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Tyranny of Hours - Darkling

CD Info
10 songs
English Lyrics

I like listening to a lot of different genres of metal, but progressive metal has always kind of been hard for me to connect with.  I don’t exactly know why, but unless it’s a distinct concept album I can get behind, prog has been something that had eluded my understanding and my ability to wrap my head around it.  But, once in a while, something progressive comes along that I do really connect with, and that, when it happens, is very rewarding.  Such was the case with Portland, Oregon’s own Tyranny of Hours, and their self-titled album that came out about five years or so ago.  I loved that record, and I reviewed it for Sonic Cathedral back when it was released.  Today, Tyranny of Hours are very proud to drop their follow-up full-length, Darkling, and once more, this prog act hits the mark for me.  I am happy to report to you that this is an amazing sophomore effort by a band that has a “connectability” factor I can totally get behind.

The labour of love that Tyranny of Hours head honchos, Don Graham and Michelle Mattair, and their two bandmates, Matt Galligan and Alex McDonald, have put into Darkling is obvious from the beginning of the CD, and introductory song “River of Stones” sets the tone for what we are about to experience as the listener.  Right away, we are treated to lyrics filled with gorgeous imagery that seem to take the listener to an almost alternative reality, where the landscape is dark and cold and lonely, but at the same time, teeming with beautiful details.  Don and Michelle wrote the lyrics, and I have to say that the poeticism in so many of the passages was really outstanding.  I’ll give you some examples.

From “River of Stones”, the first four lines really drew me in with the vision they inspired in my mind: “Sorrow falls so cold, heavy weighted by repenting/Your thousand tears are jus a river made of stones/Barbarians razed the gate while you were blinded/By the sun reflected on your gleaming throne.”

“Waited”, track three, is another stunning example.  “Someone told me not to wait/So I staked my claim at the autumn gate/And waited anyway/Wind complained and the rain agreed/Winter begged my company/And settled in to stay.”

I could go on!

This is an album filled with a palpable atmosphere, which is a result both of the gorgeous lyrics and the heavy, dark, drum and guitar-driven music.  Adding to the feel and complexity of the album are the subtle symphonic accents that heighten the sense of urgency and sense of something imminent about to go down.  Overall, Darkling has an overriding feel of utter loneliness, waiting in vain, loss, and emptiness – all conveyed spectacularly through the writing, compositions, and vocals.

And let’s talk about the vocals for a minute!  Michelle always has been a very powerful singer, with a huge presence and a haunting tone.  She is one of the reasons this album is so compelling.  She has range and she uses it to it fullest potential.  The combination of her words and her vox are absolutely killer in Darkling, and her delivery is smooth and goose bump-inducing.

The guitar work, performed by Don, is also worth mentioning.  I think it’s improved a lot since their debut album.  This CD is rife with punishing riffs and solos.  The drumming is also excellent; I tend not to notice drumming much in music unless there is something unique about them, and in this case the drums are complex, very much forward in the mix, and add a feeling of ominousness to Tyranny of Hours’ overall sound.

My favourite tracks are the aforementioned “River of Stones”, as well as the album’s first single, “Oceandead,” which again has some really amazing lyrics that transport the listener to a far away fantasy land.  I also loved “Night Becomes Light” and the title track “Darkling.”  The album also contains a nearly 10-minute long, rather epic tune called “The King’s Mirror” that also stands out.

I really feel that Darkling is an album that could potentially – hopefully! -  launch Tyranny of Hours onto bigger and better things.  As I said, it’s a complex album that improves greatly upon its predecessor (which was still an amazing album) in so many ways: the lyrics, the atmosphere, the instrumentation… This is a band with a very deep well of talent.  Comparisons to Edenbridge are apt.  Also, there are very mere hints of Nightwish in their sound that I detected as well, which added to the depth of the listening experience.  

Tyranny of Hours is an absolute gem of a band that I hope receives the attention the musicians deserve after a release as rich and lush as Darkling.  Their hard work over the past few years is evident in this new album, and I hope it vaults their careers into the stratosphere! This band definitely has the chops to succeed on the European scene.  I was certainly impressed – and prog is not even my bag, as I said at the outset. Check it out and enjoy!