Release Date: 15th January 2021
Record Label: Sony Music / Music For Nations
For Fans Of: Bring Me the Horizon, Enter Shikari, Twenty-One Pilots
German quartet Blackout Problems have become starlets of the European alt-rock scene over the last few years. Following the signing of their first record deal with a major label, Blackout Problems are setting the benchmark for this next stage of their career by releasing their new album, DARK, which reflects on the alarming headlines from the last few years including the resurgence of right-wing forces and the worldwide triumph of populism.
Given the subject matter, it’s fair to say this is a political record. What Blackout Problems do so well is bottle up all of that political angst and turn it into hard-hitting alt-rock with musical arrangements that are every bit as upfront as the lyrics. What sets this apart from other political albums is that the anger doesn’t take away from the sparkling melodies and emotionally provocative lyricism. The entire album is built on gloomy undertones and a dark atmosphere that’s sonically reflective of the album’s core message. Within the sullen tones present throughout much of DARK, there are also moments of genuine vulnerability in the vocals, especially in opening track ‘MURDERER’ as the subdued intro to the record allows the vocals to cut through with a damning attack on right-wing politics.
What makes DARK such an interesting record is the vast number of influences on display. The album perfectly walks the line between commercial and alternative, drawing on aspects of rock, dance, pop and even hip-hop with a style reminiscent of Bring Me the Horizon, Enter Shikari and The Hunna. Title track ‘DARK’ is a classic summer driving tune that slowly morphs into a dance-like alt-pop breakdown, while ‘HOUSE ON FIRE’ incorporates some hip-hop influences with sharp snares and booming 808s that brilliantly contrasts the purer alt-rock songs like ‘BROTHER’. The end of the album adopts a more sombre tone with ‘FIREMAN’ and ‘HEAVEN’ giving way to the fuzzy guitars in favour of luscious alt-pop atmospheres, though closing track ‘GHOST’ introduces a grimy synth bass and hectic beat to the ambient pianos to create a rich sonic explosion that ends the record on a high.
From start to finish DARK contorts the concept of genre as it ebbs and flows through powerful rock and stunning alt-pop. The result is an album full of suspense, lingering on the passionate lyricism that comes to the fore with every twist and turn. Although this is already Blackout Problems’ third album, it feels as though it’s the start of something big, and despite their adoring fan base on the indie scene, DARK could very well see them receive the recognition they deserve on a much wider scale.
Rating – 9/10
Recommended Tracks – BROTHER, DARK