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Review: Cage - Darker Than Black
Darker Than Black

Label: Fugitive Records
Year released: 2003
Duration: 58:05
Tracks: 51
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: June 21, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Darker Than Black

Rated 3.66/5 (73.13%) (32 Votes)

So Agent Steel emails me (I’ll get to Cage in a minute, relax) and says they saw my review of "Omega Conspiracy" and want to know if I’d review their new CD, I say sure, send away, and they tell me they are also sending the new Cage CD. I wasn’t sure why that was, but whatever, right? Turns out it’s their agent (Agent Steel’s metal agent. Hah!). I just thought that was a funny way to get a CD. Anyway, this is the much - anticipated third disc from San Diego metalheads Cage and believe me, no one is happier than me to see this band finally get their shit together.

To be honest, I was not much impressed with Cage in the past. I thought "Astrology" was OK, I liked the heavy edge that most power metal bands these days seem to miss, and vocalist Sean Peck has such obvious talent it was frustrating to listen to his vocal lines on "Astrology", at times he seemed to be singing one song while the band played another song altogether. So I had pretty much written Cage off as a decent second-tier power metal act, and wasn’t too excited to get their new CD. I got the album, stuck it in to check it out while I did some housecleaning, and was completely blown away, I mean right through the fucking wall.

While on previous records Cage seemed to have all the pieces, they never managed to put it all together. But with this CD, all sins are forgiven. With "Darker Than Black" Cage have recorded the "Painkiller" of the new century. I know that gets bandied around a lot in reviews and promo material: "For fans of Painkiller!" "The best album since Painkiller!" yadda yadda yadda. You’ve heard it before. No, I mean it. Cage have laid out a disc of songs worthy of the Priest in their prime. The guitar sound is heavy as hell, and the riffs! Oh yeeeaaaahhhh! "Darker Than Black" is chock-full of steely metal riffs that jam in your skull like nails. And vocalist Sean Peck has quite simply never sounded better. Sure, he can hit the highs, but he’s also firmed up his midrange and sounds stronger all around, even conjuring a black metally rasp here and there. The vocal melodies, so disappointing on previous albums, are all gold here, every song blistering with memorable tunes.

With all the bands out there trying to equal "Painkiller", Cage are the only band to have gotten it right. The best tracks here: "Blood of the Innocent", "Philadelphia Experiment", "White Magic", and the stunning album opener "Kill the Devil", can hold their heads up among the best metal songs ever recorded. Even the songs that aren’t quite as strong – "Door to the Unknown", "Secret of Fatima", "Antimatter" – are still beefy enough to hold my interest. The only songs I could do without are the rather plodding "March of the Cage" and the corny "Forces of Freedom" about – you guessed it – 9/11. Even these two can’t spoil the utter magnificence of this album.

The CD case has awesome cover art, and even more cool art inside. The layout is very pro with attractive design and lots of band pics. The lyrics are all included, and they aren’t bad at all, even if I do detect a slight christian slant. My only beef with the CD is that there are no less than 38 six-second tracks tacked onto the end of it – what the fuck? Annoying as that is, I can’t bear to mark the album down for it. Probably the label’s idea as some kind of anti-kazaa measure or something. I certainly can’t think of a good reason for it. Highly gay space waster there.

With this album Cage stake a claim on the top flight of power metal bands, and easily lay claim to be the best in the USA. I’m sure "Darker Than Black" will end up on a lot of ‘best of’ lists for 2003 – mine included. Kudos to Cage for getting it in gear and putting out a killer album that will melt through that euro-candy-metal like a flaming sword. Absolutely stellar.

Other related information on the site
Review: Astrology (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Hell Destroyer (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Science of Annihilation (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Supremacy of Steel (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Unveiled (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
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