Darkane, "Expanding Senses"
You can tell me I'm on crack, but I honestly believe that the cover artwork of an album usually reflects, to a large extent what the music will be like. Most often, the dominant color on the cover is the best clue to extrapolate the disc's sound. By no means is this an exact science, and there are many instances where color and material are incongruent, but more often than even I'd like to admit, this idea seems to hold truth.
Predominantly red covers are more aggressive, green is usually a little happier and lively while blue is often cold and crisp. Black, a favorite for black metal and some of the darker sounding stuff is just that; evil and gloomy. And then there's white. Well, white is the most confusing one of all. With the exception of a couple including Deranged's High on Blood and Deicide's Once Upon the Cross, white album covers represent change, and recently it's been a bold change that often disappoints fans. Examples of this include Soilwork's Natural Born Chaos, In Flames Reroute To Remain, and the brighter, whiter, more recent Dark Tranquillity work. Though I don't believe all of these albums are bad (in fact I really enjoy all but Soilwork's), nearly all of them do fit this description.
The point of writing all this psychoanalytical, artsy-fartsy, color-scheme bullshit is because the new Darkane album Expanding Senses has a very white cover. In addition, the top of the CD is white, and the music is a fair amount different than Insanity and Rusted Angel (incidentally, the red and blue covers, respectively, illustrate my point quite well!). Does this mean that Expanding Senses is bad? Not necessarily, but there are some definite changes.
The foremost of these is the band's intensity. Whereas on Insanity, Darkane did an excellent job keeping Peter Wildoer restrained enough so that the rest of the band could keep up, much of the new material is tamer. At first it even sounds docile. The result is slower songs, fewer blasts, less cymbal work and songs that focus more on the guitar/drum groove dynamic than on blinding speed, razorburn riffs and fiery leads. For some listeners, this is a dream come true, and for others, surely a disappointment. Regardless, Expanding Senses is somewhat less chaotic than the band's first two masterpieces.
The second difference is that Darkane no longer utilizes an orchestra or choir for those killer Gotham City style intros before blasting our heads off with a sawed-off in the form of "Third" or "Convicted". The band has opted for a brass-tacks approach. Though this is expedient for most thrash bands, Darkane has unnecessarily sacrificed a bit of its uniqueness by forgoing the extras here. Expanding Senses is a no-frills, nine-track effort in thrash, and the band wants it to be seen as nothing else.
Enough of the negative, or at least "different" that resides in excess on this album. There's plenty of good material here, and it needs to be fleshed out. Starting where the disc does, at the beginning, we get a very cool opener in "Innocence Gone". It's clear right from the start that Darkane is taking a more relaxed approach, yet sacrificing nothing when it comes to choice and execution of material. The second song, "Solitary Confinement," is on par with earlier material in regard to speed and brutality, though it doesn't really leave a permanent mark. By the middle of track four, "Imaginary Entity" however, one will realize that Darkane is still atop its game. The guitar/drum/tempo engineering is the band's best to date, meaning that the result is no less than breathtaking. The last five songs roll along somewhere between mid to fast-paced, all perfectly executed and for the most part quite engaging and enjoyable. In fact, the slower, crushing "Chaos vs. Order" features lyrical contributions by none other than former vocalist Lawrence MacRory.
In all, after my warnings about Expanding Senses being a departure from their previous two works, little seems to have changed for Darkane. The band is the same slick, thrashing Swedish monster it always was. I'll still hold firm in my caveat, especially since this disc does have a white cover, and whether you believe me now, or find out for yourself, there's something different, though not necessarily bad, about the music on this album. Hardcore fans of Darkane will not likely be disappointed, and neither will thrash fanatics, it's just that both groups may be taken a little off guard by the band's new, self-assured sense of calm.