Since forming in 2020, Darko US has established themselves as one of the most electric supergroups in the scene. With a repertoire of efforts in Chelsea Grin, Emmure, and Spite, Tom Barber and Josh Miller expand upon their expertise to craft a deathcore experience full of brutality and experimentation. ‘Pt. 1 Dethmask’ and ‘Darko’ paved the way for their style, combining aggressive instrumentation with hip-hop influence, leaving little room to breathe with their high-energy performance. On ‘Oni,’ Darko US continues to build upon their previous efforts, but there is something different, something unique with this release. While the other records were a barrage of abrasion (and an enjoyable barrage at that), there is a more refined sense of identity with this record, focusing more on intricate formulas as well as implementing a new-found melody throughout tracks.
For fans of the previous efforts, ‘Oni’ doesn’t shy away from the sheer brutality that Barber and Miller set out to create. The first four tracks alone display this aggression and intensity that Darko US has become known for. With Miller’s ability to produce a beautiful cohesion between low-tuned guitar chugs and double-bass laden drum work and Barber’s wide range of harsh vocal intricacies, tracks like “Looking Glass” and “Dragon Chaser” blaze with fierce aggression that is both unrelentingly heavy and catchy. Along with support from vocalists like Kyle Anderson (Brand of Sacrifice) and Ryo Kinoshita (ex-Crystal Lake), the intensity soars to amplified levels on “Hyper Kill” and “Rosaria’s Fingers.” To further energize these heavy tracks, Miller’s ability to subtly integrate sinister melodies and infectious grooves elevates songs like “Acid Inject” and “Evolving” to even greater levels.
However, perhaps the most impressive thing about ‘Oni’ is not how brutal or aggressive it can get, but rather how well Darko US incorporates their melodic sensibility into the record. “Oni” and “Infinite Beauty” act as brief moments to take a deep breath in. Sandwiched between moments of intensity, these tracks standout as melodic beauties, full of slow pacing and soaring vocal phrases that are just as impactful as the ferocious onslaught of instrumentation from the rest of the record. Yet the most impactful melodic moment lies in the closer, “Come Home.” Mixing both Barber’s cleans and harshes, “Come Home” is an emotionally raw moment that strikes the heart at the very end of ‘Oni.’ Combined with Rory Rodriguez of Dayseeker’s lofty vocals, the closer establishes itself as a unique way to conclude, focusing on the intensity that lies within the passion rather than the ferocity of instrumentation.
With ‘Oni,’ Darko US goes above and beyond expectations, creating a record that not only excels at what they’ve done before, but also expands upon new ideas that help elevate this record. This is more than just an assault of brutality, there is a sense of identity here that combines this aggression with the passion felt within the melodies intertwined throughout ‘Oni.’ Without sacrificing their signature style, Barber and Miller have amplified their sound to an even greater level, further establishing themselves as masterminds within their scene.