Dark Age - Minus Exitus
Remedy Records
Melodic Death Metal
12 songs (50:10)
Release year: 2008
Dark Age, Remedy
Reviewed by Ross
Dark Age is a band that Metalheads outside Europe have probably never heard of. Hailing from Hamburg in Germany they have been on the go since 1994, have produced five Studio Albums, one EP, a two disk DVD and have appeared at Wacken Open Air twice. They’ve also toured extensively throughout Europe appearing at many other Festivals and yet global recognition eludes them, which is a great pity as these guys are master purveyors of Melodic Death Metal. If you have even the slightest appreciation of MDM then their latest opus Minus Exitus should be at the top of your wish list.

I became a fan of Dark Age around 2002 when they released The Silent Republic. That album set me on a quest to get hold of their back catalogue that I could only acquire through contacts in Germany. Since then, through these contacts, I’ve managed to keep-up with what’s been going on in the Dark Age camp and made sure I got hold of all future releases. Their first full length, The Fall, was quite dark leaning more towards Death rather than the Melodic side of things. However, the shape of more Melodic things to come was present on that album in the track Storm; my all-time favourite Dark Age song, so far. Progressive albums kept leaning more towards the Melodic giving us this feast of MDM that is Minus Exitus. I’d even go so far to say that Dark Age have surpassed Children Of Bodom as guiding lights in the MDM sub genre; all that’s required to press this point is a better publicity machine. Guitarist Jörn Schubert uses every technique there is to create and weave intricate and technical riffs, hooks and solos. Hammer ons / Pull offs, tapping, sweep picking, pinch harmonics, natural harmonics and some balls out shredding are all there, in the right amount and in just the right place depending on whatever is required at that precise moment in the song. Eike Freese employs the same design with his vocal styles; using Death growls, rasps and clean wherever that particular style has the better impact in the song. On rhythm guitar, Eike blasts out some face shredding riffs, keeping the speedier tracks hammering along and the perfect accompaniment to Jörn’s technical widdly-wankery, especially on the ballad-esque No Way Home. New bass player Alex Frank has proved a worthy replacement for Torsten Eggert. His playing ability gels extraordinarily well with the music providing juxtaposing counter-points, low end rhythmic riffs and brilliantly placed slaps and twangs as heard in his mini solo half way through The Dying Art Of Recreation. Keyboarder Martin Reichert, at first, appears to have quite a minimal role in the band. You really have to listen quite hard to hear him during the majority of the album; but he is there. However, when he does get the chance to let loose he takes full advantage and shows exactly why Dark Age have a keyboarder. His repertoire stretches from soaring electronic to tinkling piano fills, again, the track No Way Home is a showcase to his playing prowess, along with the hidden bonus track which comes in about a minute after The Echoes Discipline; a hauntingly melancholic piano / vocal ballad that prickles the hair on the back of your neck. Finally, drummer André Schumann blows your mind with some of the most technical foot and stickwork you’ll hear in a long time. He can change from playing blastbeats to steady rhythms to intricate fills and back again in a heartbeat, and yet somehow, he seems to make it sound effortless. The sign of a truly remarkable drummer.

Minus Exitus is one of those albums that doesn’t have a comparable thread running through each track; each track is a stand-alone roller coaster ride of Death, Thrash, Power, Speed that twists and turns making everything a listenable extravaganza. Memorable choruses will rattle round your head all day until you succumb to its subliminal pull to play the damn thing so’s you get to hear it all rather than the same refrain over and over. Once played, another chorus or riff will get stuck in your head demanding you spin the disk again. The MDM scene is chock full of bands and originality is hard to find, Minus Exitus doesn’t exactly have many surprises up its sleeve, but it doesn’t regurgitate polished up same old, same old either. What it does is sticks to the Dark Age ‘Don’t-Fix-What-Aint-Broke’ watchword, but delivers with a certain panache and eloquence adding a dollop of flamboyance all underscored with large dose of power and raw aggression. Lending to that power and aggression throughout the album are guest vocalists Leif Jensen (Dew Scented), Azathoth (ex Dark Fortress) and Ron Brunke (ex Nayled. And with the cover artwork designed by Dark Tranquillity’s Niklas Sundin you’ve got quite a winning presentation both visual and aural.

Dark Age are currently signed to Remedy Records which is a small independent label based in their home city, Hamburg. Vocalist Eike Freese day job is his own recording studio Eikey Studios where Minus Exitus was recorded, (and where all future albums will be recorded I presume). This arrangement might be good for the creation of excellent albums; little or no pressure from the label and quite open access to studio time. However, it doesn’t really help get the band the recognition it deserves. Adding to this Eike’s future commitment to his studio and it looks like touring is going to be severely curtailed. This may relegate Dark Age to a studio band with the occasional excursion to a stage somewhere in mainland Europe or a one-off festival date. Some may say that Bal Sagoth seem to manage with very little touring but they have a pretty unique sound and are backed by Nuclear Blast whereas there are a boatload of MDM bands out there, touring there asses off just waiting for that moment when a label A & R honcho picks them up. I really hope Dark Age can work out some arrangement where they can get out on the road yet keep some semblance of their current status quo. I’ve yet to see their 2006 Live, So Far DVD but have heard the soundtrack, and my impression is that they are a seriously kick-ass live band. Anyways, for those who have yet to have the pleasure of hearing any of Dark Age’s material, you can get snippets of all tracks from Minus Exitus at their Website, and full songs at their My Space page. Go listen, enjoy, and show support for the little known band with the big sound.
Killing Songs :
All, but Minus Exitus, Outside The Inside, Exit Wounds and Instrumental in particular
Ross quoted 85 / 100
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