It wasn’t that long ago since we reviewed The Darker My Horizon’s debut Acquiesce so it is relatively unusual to see a follow up so quickly but this is a band that is obviously on a creative peak at the moment and they want to get their songs out there and heard. When Moshville Times reviewed the debut back in February (it was actually a 2015 release) we were aware that they were already working on a follow up, we described the debut as a great hard rock record and looked forward to seeing how they would progress.
My very first impressions of the album were that it was similar in style to the debut and this initially confused me, why rush to send out another album in the same vein? But I was wrong – the more you dig into No Superhero you soon come to realise that this is a much deeper body of work, dare I say it, more mature. This is a band that is finding its stride. Debuts are often that initial enthusiasm and as a result can produce some classic records but it’s not until a band has found its groove and spent some time together that sometimes they really hit that creative peak. So all of this got me to thinking, I’ve reviewed a lot of hard rock records in the past year and TDMH have been at the forefront of these bands but what is it that makes a great hard rock album. So this is my guide to a great hard rock album, thanks to The Darker My Horizon for providing me the perfect album to demonstrate it.
- Catchy Sing A Long Chorus – I think it’s pretty clear that most of the great hard rock records of modern times, have some prey athematic sing along choruses. The simple catchy refrain is a must for any record of this genre. The first stand out track on the album for me is “Dear Olivia” and it falls firmly into this category. It has a great opening riff (and lead guitar see point 3) which opens up into a simple and well done verse with great lyrics. The “Dear Olivia” chorus then burst in and is catchy. The album is full of these songs, but “Dear Olivia” is our first good example of it. Earnest, simple, catchy. What more could you ask?
- Thunder did this so well but Number 2 on the list is clear: Story-telling Lyrics. If the topics cover lost love, unrequited love, the hardships and toils of life even better. If you bought the debut album you’ll already know that The Darker My Horizon are very much in this vein when it comes to lyric writing, every song is a story in its own right, there are no simple phrases thrown around and general songs about love, each song tells its own story but just take “Top of the Class” as an example, like a few of the songs on the first album our main character here is female, its a great a narrative telling us the story of a young mum and sympathetically done.
- Great Lead guitarist. An absolute must. Gun N Roses had Slash, Bon Jovi Richie Sambora. You need someone who can really carry and milk those emotions. There are loads of good examples on the album like on “I Remember”, a slow song that builds into a crescendo and a good solo creating the atmosphere but my favourite and the one that really jumps out at you is on “Change” without a doubt the best solo on the album and something I personally would be happy a little more off, it’s clear they have great riffs, they are their signature on every song but the solos are great and work the songs well.
- The whole band must be able to connect on an emotional level. A melancholy world, where it rains, we go through hardships about ultimately there is hope. We want to be lost in that world, just think of White Lions whole career. Every song would fall into this category. Just take the lead single and title track “No Superhero” this sums up the whole sound of the album. This is without doubt an album and a world you can get lost in.
- The Ballad – You have to have at least one don’t you? There a couple of Ballads on this album but the stand out ballad is “Feels Like Home”. It’s a classic topic, about loneliness and missing a partner / ex partner. It has a classic acoustic guitar intro whilst slowly building the band to introduce a bigger and more emotional sound. Throughout this album singer Pauls voice is strong clear and really well presented, the mix is great, this is lyric driven music and the level work right, the guitar solos compliment but don’t overwhelm, the rest of the band create that atmosphere in an easy style so that they never dominate but only help build the bigger picture
- The Pop single, this is the only way to draw people’s attention to you. Once you’ve got them listening you can blow them away – For me this is without a doubt “Outside The Lines”, this could easily be a huge single for them. Definitely the highlight of an album and there is a lot of competition for this title, Its earnest, has plaintive lyrics, talks of hope and strength in life and it builds into a Bon Jovesque big chorus “Its Ok to colour outside the lines and “When a Door gets slammed in your face, don’t turn away, it’s your life. Brilliant song.
What makes a really great album, when everyone song on the album ticks at least one of the above boxes and plenty tick all. I can honestly say where the debut promised a future where you could fall in love with the record, band or song this record has delivered it and it has an addiction that creeps up on you. You know when a record has worked when you find yourself humming and feeling a vibe whilst doing something else completely and wondering what it is and then realising it is No Superhero… and you find yourself looking forward to getting to listen to it again.