PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For almost twenty years, Virginia’s Darkest Hour have been hammering away at the metal scene, carving a niche with their distinct class of melodic death metal. 2014 has brought a new, critically acclaimed album, a new rhythm section, and high-powered live shows, including a run on this year’s Mayhem Fest. Monday night at Empire in Springfield, VA, both the band and the fans were treated to one hell of a homecoming.
With seven bands on the bill, things got off to an early start. I missed some of the local support and Black Crown Initiate while interviewing Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum (look for that interview next week). I came back in with enough time to grab a good spot for Kansas’ Origin. The four-piece unleashed an assault of balls-out, intense technical death metal. Vocalist Jason Keyser’s wailing, guttural vocals were otherworldly, and drummer John Longstreth’s blast beats drove the band at warp speed.
A small pit opened up on the floor as they went into “All Things Dead.” Bassist Mike Flores and guitarist Paul Ryan seemed to be in a finger war, seemingly trying to outmatch each other in a technical duel. The crowd was a bit meager due to the early hour, despite being four bands into the set at this point. As Keyser was introducing “The Aftermath,” he hadn’t even finished saying the name of the song, and the band blasted in with a roar akin to a tractor-trailer crash. Hair windmills and headbangs ruled the moment, and Keyser commanded the crowd to start the next song with a silent wall of death, beginning the music as the two sides of the split crowd collided.