Album Review: DARK DESIGN – Prey For The Future

Heaven And Hell Records – Out Now.

Young bands are the lifeblood of any music scene and innovations in recording technology have only seen their numbers grow in recent years. Sadly, easy access to said technology does not always guarantee success in the field of musical production.

Power is often taken away from the capable hands of professionals in order to satisfy tight recording budgets and skill alone is simply not enough to compensate today’s increasingly demanding listeners. A case in point is “Prey For The Future” – the debut full length of the Raleigh– based Thrash/Power Metal quintet Dark Design.

In the short bio provided by their label Heaven and Hell Records, Dark Design are described as a group of veterans whose love of all things fast and technical brought them together in early 2010.

I am not sure whether the title “veteran” is really fitting, especially since there are times on this album when you feel that attention to detail was not always their primary concern – problems that are further exacerbated by the album’s below-par production.

What does eventually save the day for these lads, however, is that for every moment where you feel that a certain theme is slightly unrehearsed or that a vocal part has somehow lost its pitch, there is a solid bass line or a flamboyant guitar solo whose quality is such that will simply blow your mind.

Following a short harmonic intro, entitled “In Media Res”, the album truly kicks off with “Dark Design” – a five minute Power/Thrash tune whose riffs lack depth as a result of an appalling sound but whose various solos are testimony to Mike Joyner’s unique skills on the six string.

Many interesting ideas converge in both the Maiden-meets- Death Angel piece “No Death” and its successor “Abiding Contempt”, but they both seem to somewhat suffer from bad sound and overreaching on the part of their composers. “Welcome To Your (Doom!)”, however, is the one song where the lads got everything right.

Opening with a bass line, reminiscent of the main theme of the all-time classic Metallica opus “Harvester Of Sorrow”, and featuring numerous meaty riffs and melodic solos, this song stands as proof that these guys are capable of great things – something that cannot be said of the less inspiring “Dragonmount” which soon follows suit.

Though both “Meditations” and the oriental-themed “Spice World” offer some inspiring moments, especially where solos are concerned, they could have used a bit more polishing, while the band’s riff-focused version of Kansas’ classic “Dust In The Wind” is clever and entertaining in equal measure.

As far as debut albums go, “Prey For The Future” may not be the most well-balanced or polished of releases, but it is a product of a band whose passion and talent, if properly harnessed and encouraged, is capable of producing great tunes in the future for all of us to enjoy.

If these guys manage to come up with the formula that will allow them to translate their inspiring individual ideas into coherent songs and, most importantly, find a good producer to help record them, then there is no reason why they should not have a long and bright musical career ahead of them.

For the time being, however, focus and more hard work should be the order of the day.

John Stefanis

Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)

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