Blazing out of Bolton, UK, Unknown Refuge make good on some ridiculously delicious metal. Weaving influences from Alter Bridge to Iron Maiden (vote through May 7) into a flawless debut album is a hell of an achievement. From the Darkness bursts with passion and energy. This album is a perfect example of why rock and roll is still going strong.
A four-piece, Jack Tracey shreds as the lead guitar player. Morgan Deveney, the self-proclaimed “Basher of Skins” lives up to the moniker. Harry Skinner playing rhythm guitars works naturally with Jack to create that classic two-guitar sound. Who doesn’t love a bass player on vocals? I give you Alex Mancini, capably representing the legendary line of frontmen on bass and vocals.
Question: What comes From the Darkness? Answer: Metal
From the intro to the final track, From the Darkness is a metal album through and through. No subgenres here, just serious metal played by creative, passionate, and energetic young musicians.
There are some among the heavy metal community who aren’t big fans of a short instrumental intro track. “Nobody listens to albums anymore,” they say, so they’re really just a waste on a shuffled playlist. But many rock and metal fans continue to buy and listen to full albums. The bands creating music now grew up listening to full albums and it definitely shapes their approach. I have no problem with an opening track like “From the Darkness“. It invites you in, lulls you a little, just so you can get punched in the face by “To the Light“.
The first 45 seconds of “To the Light” are the best 45 seconds of metal in 2021. I first saw the video being shared around Twitter in January and February. It was muted and I was immediately struck with how young they looked. Unmuting and blasting that riff blew me away and I was totally hooked. Morgan is an absolute monster on the track and the guitars are amazing. I wrote more about this song when we added the single to the rotation on February 23.
“Kicked to the Floor” has a bit of an Iron Maiden feel to it. Again, Jack, Harry, and Morgan take center stage for the first quarter of the song. For such a young band to have the confidence needed to craft their songs with long instrumental starts is really great to see. Taking even more confidence, at the chorus, Unknown Refuge drop a huge hook into the song, leaving the Maiden sound behind and making it completely theirs.
With the March 31st edition of the Beaver Buzz we added the second single “Battle Hymn” to the CGCM rotation. It’s another absolute banger. Morgan kicks things off with an almost punk beat, then Jack‘s fast and catchy riffs guide the song into anthem territory. Comparisons of Alex‘s singing to Michael Poulsen of Volbeat are unavoidable in most songs, but especially here in “Battle Hymn“. The voice is definitely similar, but where Volbeat can drift in other musical directions (usually in a good way), Unknown Refuge stands firmly in the metal territory.
I could easily go play by play on this album and try to explain why it’s so great, but you should have a listen yourself. If you have any doubts, make sure you check out the hard-hitting “I’m Not a Bad Guy” or the heavy anthem “Palace Walls“. Lyrically, Unknown Refuge sounds like a mature band with thoughtful writing seemingly born of experience well beyond their years. The musicianship these guys display is really impressive and Jack is well on his way to being a guitar hero.
I just want to reiterate, this is a debut album. I don’t know how old they are, but these guys remind me of another young and hungry band. From the Darkness sounds like a band hitting their stride on a third or fourth album. I’m not sure if I’m ready to put this up with the all-time great debuts (Van Halen and Appetite for Destruction), but it’s certainly a more than worthy effort. It’s more of an Appetite type debut (or Too Fast for Love), not a complete revolution like VHI, but more of tweaking an already existing sound in a completely different, compelling way.
I love this album, and I think you will too. It’s comforting to know that passionate, hungry, and energetic young bands are out there keeping the rock flame alive.
Also, find more of my CGCM reviews here: Dave Wilks
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