REVIEW: Darko (US) – Dethmask [EP/2020]

Artist: Darko (US)

Album: Dethmask – EP

            2020 hasn’t gone as planned. That is true for everyone—no matter who you are, where you live, what you like doing, whatever—2020 has been, really, a shitshow. And where there are some people who have been quick to point out trite “silver linings” of lockdown, many of these do little but to highlight those with immense privilege and an equally inflated sense of social ineptitude. With that said, there is one relative upside to quarantine season for those of us invested in heavy music: new music. More of it, sooner than we expected, and even releases that weren’t even on our radar in early January. No release exemplifies this quite as much as studio duet Darko, a two-man juggernaut comprised of percussionist and session instrumentalist Josh Miller (Emmure) and vocalist Tom Barber (Chelsea Grin, formerly of Lorna Shore). Together, this duo have brought us a dizzying, frantic, furious display of downtuned brutality in Dethmask, a short-but-spine-shredding show of force built on grooves, guttural bellows and gut-wrenching breakdowns.

            Dethmask is a brief, brutalizing amalgamation of deathcore, groove metal, mathcore and what I can only imagine the abyss must sound like. From the opening salvo of “Get G00d” through the crushing climax of “Devine Void,” Miller delivers nothing but spastic, ruthless chaos. Miller’s percussion—something he’s already proven his hands (and feet) at—sets the stage for low grooves that bruise the listener’s ears within seconds. “Deth Msk” highlights this well, as Miller’s frantic drumming sets the tone for leads that jump hither and to between skin-melting, panic-chord-laden riffs and breakdowns with a low end that may as well be composed entirely of the brown note. “Devine Void” is possibly the most varied and diverse song Dethmask brings to the table—with spastic leads, bouncy grooves and breakdowns blistering enough to make even the heavy music veterans sweat. Then, there are songs like “:the obsrvr” and “:the tresur,” interludes that add more duration and ambiance to the release without adding substantive instrumental material. Fittingly enough, as Dethmask has been teased as a “Part One” by Darko, it ends with “Rekolektion,” a brief beat track that seems a smooth segue into a second act.

            By now, the heavy music community is familiar with Tom Barber—having lead Lorna Shore to notoriety before adopting a new role as the frontman of legendary deathcore act Chelsea Grin, Barber’s position among the ranks of heavy music vocalists is well-earned to say the least. With that said, his performance on Dethmask is absolutely not what one might have expected. Barber’s vocal range focuses lower, using grisly guttural tones vaguely reminiscent of those employed by Disfiguring the Goddess’ Cameron Argon (Big Chocolate). Low, wet and grotesque, Barber’s vocals—especially on “Deth Msk” and “Electric Body” are nigh unintelligible for their visceral, intense tonality. Elsewhere—especially on “Devine Void” featuring SPITE’s own Darius Tehrani—Barber’s voice is much more varied, swiftly toggling through shrill highs and raw, powerful mid-range yells before hammering home with those same gut-busting bellows. Barber’s effort—coupled with Miller’s dense, devastating instrumentation—is what makes Darko such a convincing, crushing project.

            Darko’s debut is a devastating example of eviscerating music done exceptionally well. While it’s brief—especially considering three of the record’s seven songs are interludes and two others have been released as singles—it serves as a scintillating sampler of what the duo has in store. Capturing elements of chaotic metalcore and deathcore without skimping on the groovy, heavy elements of either, Dethmask is, if nothing else, something to get the heavy music extremely excited for whatever Darko has up their sleeves next.


For Fans Of: The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Glass Cloud, Emmure, Arsonist, Lorna Shore

By: Connor Welsh