Album Review: Varials “In Darkness”
Written by Zac McDowell on November 13, 2019
Title: In Darkness
Record Label: Fearless Records
Release Date: October 11th, 2019
The Philadelphia based metalcore outfit Varials recently released their sophomore record In Darkness. This album incorporates a much =-7ifferent sound from the precedent Pain Again, as the band is starting to truly find a sound that they are happy with. In Darkness takes influence from alternative metal and nu-metal groups like early Slipknot and most notable, Deftones. This album’s lyrical themes touch on subjects like depression, anxiety, hypocrisy, alienation, and disorder of society. With the new sounds being presented, it was a nice surprise to hear something different as they melded the clear influences into their music without sounding like a “ripoff” version of another band. Varials does a fantastic job with this record at keeping with their heavy aesthetic, but sounding different and standing out from their colleagues.
The record begins with a blaze of glory with the track “Wound”. It is heavy in all the right places with just the right amount of build-up. Many songs like this one feature melodic, yet hard-hitting lead-ins. One of the album’s singles “I Suffocate” is easily one of the best metalcore songs I have heard all year. The mix of dissonant harmonics during the breakdowns, as well as pinch harmonics and the solo use of the bass, makes this such a heavy and diverse track. The drums incorporate complex rhythms, china cymbals, and the unique use of the hi-hat during breakdowns. With these elements, it really shows the musicianship and the chemistry of the band on this record. One thing I have always loved about this band is that they incorporate every instrument/element to do its own unique part; the bass does not play the same thing as a guitar the whole time. Every element stands out and makes every song different. This was also abundantly clear on Pain Again.
Travis’s vocals pack a punch for only being a mid-range vocalist. This was apparent in all of the other Varials releases, but it remains true again on this record. The grit in his voice makes the songs so much heavier, and the urgency and stress that the listener feels during heavy parts are unmatched with many vocalists of this caliber. He is easily one of the best vocalists in this genre right now.
There are transition tracks featured on this record, and to be honest, I was never a fan of these types of tracks because I feel like it is just a wasted opportunity for more music. Nevertheless, it is also implying that the album tells a story and that no track on the album is filler and should be listened to front to back. This is, of course, open for interpretation, but it kept me engaged as a listener, and for that, I applaud the band.
One of the tracks (“South of One”) features Brendan Murphy of Counterparts, which was a very nice addition to the already amazing song. The songs that delve the most away from their usual heavy sound are “Romance” and “The Love Machine”. These tracks take obvious influence from Deftones and Slipknot, both from vocal style and the melodicism of the instrumentals. Another example is their track “Deathsong”, which is my personal favorite off of the record. The band implemented effects into the music and created something that sounded like a heavier version of Death Grips. The static and distortion effect on the vocals and reverb being placed in the right moments make it exceptional to the rest of the album.
The only song that I did not enjoy as much as the title track itself, “In Darkness”. It is not as musically proficient as the other tracks on the album, though it features a slow, heavy breakdown towards the end of the song that is nice to hear after a “just okay” track. Other than that, In Darkness was a very solid release. Varials changed the game with this album in the world of metalcore. If you are a fan of heavy music of any sort, I highly suggest giving this record a listen as it is one of the best heavy records of this year.
Favorite tracks: Deathsong, South of One, I Suffocate, Splinter, Romance
Least favorite tracks: In Darkness