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Darkhaus – “My Only Shelter” [CD] (2013)

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“Open your eyes, now buckle up and enjoy the ride, but don’t close your eyes”

Mr. Kenny Hanlon surely has some great advice for those who are going to listen to this album. The multi-national band Darkhaus introduces itself to the rock scene with a wide range of songs that go from highly energetic, crowd pumping anthems to more mellow and emotional rock ballads, which take the listener into a journey through a whole spectrum of sound. Darkhaus welcomes the inclusion of electronic elements to their repertoire, which intertwine seamlessly with the crunching guitars and give more depth to the music, preventing the songs from falling into conventional territory.

Although Darkhaus is a new band altogether, its members are no strangers to the life of the recording-and-touring musician. The lineup features two members of the legendary American hardcore band PRO-PAIN in Gary Meskil (bass) and Marshall Stephens (rhythm guitar), the über-talented songwriter and composer Rupert Keplinger (guitars), who has collaborated with renowned German artists such as Peter Maffay and Eisbrecher, well-known drummer Paul Keller and versatile vocalist Kenny Hanlon. The diversity in nationality, influences and vast experience within the band makes “My Only Shelter” a conscious and calculated effort into delivering a rich plethora of songs, transcending the musical borders in the same manner as they did with their geographical ones.

My Only Shelter” features 14 tracks plus a bonus of two remixes for a total of 62 minutes, which is impressive for a debut when you consider that the average length of albums as of late have been 10-12 songs.

The album opener “Life Worth Living” quickly introduces the concept of diversity to the listener, it features Hanlon singing over a smooth synth-bass line and a calm beat creating an industrial-like atmosphere during the first verse, exploding into the powerful guitar-driven chorus and raw energetic vocals. As the song progresses the vibe becomes almost dance-like when Marshall and Rupert add a new layer to Kenny’s verse.

The lead-single “Ghost” delivers an emotional charge, with lyrics dealing with the self-questioning, doubts and haunting feelings due to the grief after a loss or departure of a loved person. Powerful bass, low-tuned guitars and even piano help create that dark atmosphere, and an interesting progression occurs during the bridge that seems to evolve from melancholic to hopeful before blasting into the last chorus.

Breaking the Silence” is bound to become a classic and fan favorite. Kenny’s voice floats over a commanding drum beat that will have the crowd clapping along with it, and the chorus’ energy will surely have everyone jumping and singing the tremendously catchy melody like a battle cry; the song has an “IT” factor that makes it almost impossible to describe. Along with “Grace Divine“, “Break Down the Walls” and “Son of a Gun”, this song will surely get the crowds going when Darkhaus tours in support of their debut album.

Another highlight in the album is “Looks Like Rain”, a title that contrasts with its smile-inducing rhythm, which makes you snap your fingers along with the music and dance like nothing can ruin your day. “Our Time” offers another flick into the music style with its almost whispered “come hither”-like vocals that lead to a thumping chorus, a very nice and unexpected touch.

Apostle” is probably the softest song of the bunch, but no less inferior than its high-tempo counterparts. Beautiful acoustic guitars, marching drums-styled percussion, a soulful electric guitar solo and a vocal display that will surely draw quite a few fan girls to Hanlon’s feet and guys will use to dedicate to their sweethearts.

Overall, “My Only Shelter” is a solid body of work that compiles different influences into the rock-core of the band with alternatives coming from all angles, from Hanlon’s vocal versatility, to the hardcore style-experienced Stephens and Meskil, the synth-industrial mastery of Keplinger and the talent of Keller.

If you’re one of those who are desperately looking for a breath of fresh air in the modern rock department like me, then you should definitely check Darkhaus.

This is our time, if not now, then when?” – It’s definitely right now for Darkhaus.

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