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61pFgmq577L. SL160 From the moment I laid eyes on the morbidly beautiful cover for THE HUMAN ROMANCE, the seventh studio album from Washington D.C.’s DARKEST HOUR, I was intrigued. A fan of their earlier work beginning with SO SEDATED, SO SECURE (2001), and following them through HIDDEN HANDS OF A SADIST NATION (2003) and UNDOING RUIN (2005), I’d actually given up on the band, skipping their last two albums as I felt that with UNDOING, they’d fallen into the same “metalcore” trappings as many of their peers – it all sounded the same. Based on cover art alone, I was ready to give the band another chance.

THE HUMAN ROMANCE presents a band that is much improved in the six years since we last met. Having skipped their 2007 and 2009 releases, I now feel as though I’ve missed out on their growth, as their latest offering is a solid display of quality musicianship, though the songwriting can lack at times.

Tracks like “The World Engulfed in Flames, “Savor the Kill,” and “Love as a Weapon” show what the band can do when they’re at their best. Interesting structures with intricate soloing and space for all instruments to breathe beneath the raspy wail of vocalist JOHN HENRY (who seems to channel a bit of KILLING JOKE frontman Jaz Coleman on “Savor”).

The downside is that DARKEST HOUR still have a habit of tossing in some filler here and there such as “Your Every Day Disaster,” which finds the drums about as basic as you can get, while the guitarists hit back-and-forth notes on the fretboard with speed in mind and creativity left for the solos.

Overall, THE HUMAN ROMANCE is a solid effort in a still-cluttered genre. A good album for 2011, but staying power will be left for time to determine.

Rating: 3.5/5

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