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2013 has seen already seen a solid trifecta of power/doom albums: Age of Taurus, Magister Templi, and best of all, Magic Circle. Nomad Son's The Darkening joins them as one of the year's best in the subgenre, but the doom in The Darkening's formula doesn't come from the expected source.

It features a singer who's not afraid to use his falsetto and modal upper registers, but he's rough and raw, angry, howling his way through the songs. If he wasn't throwing invisible oranges behind the studio microphone, he sounds like he was.

He's not the only band member going after it, either. The band launches into opener "Light Bearer", with enthusiasm and energy befitting power metal. At 1:12 they drop into an organ and drum heavy jam, spend a minute there, and then get back up to speed. They repeat that trick throughout the album.

That organ break is where The Darkening's doom arrives. This is heavy metal, and we come for the guitars. Stuff like organs is an accompaniment, not the point.

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The songs could've been more icing than cake, gewgaws of lacquer and paint that flake away to nothing. That's not what happened. The guitars are not entombed beneath layers of keyboards. The organs move across the riffs, setting the emotion by enhancing rather than smothering, while the guitars churn and chug underneath them. They work with solid riffs to build something bigger, structural rather than textural.

“Caligula” is the only song that deviates from the formula. It hearkens back to Morbid Angel's “Caeser's Palace”, harsh vocals and some chanting over trumpets and scratchy guitar, but it never fully develops.

Otherwise though, doom from an organ, steel from the guitar, and grit from the vocals. That's how The Darkening works.

— Richard Street-Jammer

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