Review: Darko – Bonsai Mammoth

Hailing from Guildford, UK skate-punks Darko are taking no prisoners on their debut album Bonsai Mammoth! Exactly as the title and album cover suggest, this album consists of eleven powerful tracks of full-on melodic and hardcore punk crammed into a raucous half-hour. Released on 3rd February via Bird Attack Records, produced by Daly George (Creeper, Milk Teeth, Giants) and mastered by Brad Boatright (Iron Reagan, Poison Idea, Stranger Things) and following a string of EPs, this album sure packs one helluva punch!

Heavily laden with extremely technical guitar duels (Rob Piper and Chris Brown), relentless flogging of drums (Andy Borg), distressed bass grooves (Karl Sursham) and fast, brawling vocals (Dan Smith); Bonsai Mammoth encapsulates everything you’d want from a thrash punk album.

Opening track “Life Forms” begins with a dainty tease of an intro lulling you into a false sense of security. In fact, I had to double check I’d clicked on the correct link. However twenty-five seconds in and I was under no illusion as to which direction this song was going! Fast and furious, it has an incredibly catchy chorus.

The next few tracks however, waste no time launching into a barrage of louder, harder and faster guitars and harsher vocals. In fact this is pretty much the entire concept of the album, the only concept of the album. Don’t get me wrong it’s great if that’s what you like, but I find little distinction between tracks and this slightly lets Bonsai Mammoth down for me.

There are some hidden gems within this album; “I Knew I Should Have Taken That Left Turn at Albuquerque” is heavily riff-laden and then takes an unexpected turn midway with a refreshing intricate, guitar solo making way for a furious, hardcore rock ending to the track. It’s one that makes you wanna throw some horns in the air.

Mid-album there’s a thirty second breather with “The Chernobyl Effect” a short but sweet (and much needed) acoustic piece, before being slammed full throttle into track seven and their latest single “Hiraeth” a real album-pleaser. The opening hook has your ears pricked up instantly, more melodic vocals show off Dan’s versatility, layered with savage drumming and vigorous guitar combats, this is one track I wanted to play over and over again.

“Lifeblood” oozes with passionate lyrics and has me wanting to catch a live show, coming to an intense crescendo with catchy gang vocals; it is another album highlight.

Album closer “We Can Stand For Something More” is full of punk attitude and has Dan Smith full of angst repeatedly screaming these words to slowly fading instruments. I’m really liking this track; it demonstrates some of the band’s diversity.

Overall fast-paced and furious, passionate and fun. Darko have pulled off some great thrash punk tracks here with a few stand out pieces. Well produced but not overly mastered, you still get that raw, sweaty mosh pit feel when you listen to it. It’s got me hungry for a live show!

Bonsai Mammoth is out 3rd February

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