Darksworn's style of metal is firmly rooted in the Gothernburg spirit of bands such as Dark Tranquility with heavy emphasis on melodic riffs using synthesizer and keyboard supporting melodies yet supplanted by the common metal-core elements which inevitably seem to work their way into projects of this style. Rhythmically, riffs are more in this vein and the movement and transitions feel much more similar to the parasitic bastardization of the great Swedish style that prospered stateside in the early - mid 00's. Rogue is the second album under the Darksworn heading by sole force Alan Blaisdell or "Adam Darksworn" as he uses in Darksworn. Perhaps the switch from Alan to Adam for whatever reason made sense to him but for me, I don't see any reasonable excuse to change stage monikers from a regular name to a similarly regular name, especially for this genre.
Regardless, Adam handles all instrumentation on the record. It's very obvious where his strengths lie. He's a fairly competent guitarist but the material lacks the subtle flourishes which different members bring. This is very noticeable in the interplay between the guitars and bass playing on the album . Across the record, the bass never veers into anything beyond following the rhythm guitar. It's not used for any composition or arrangement effect at all. The drums are tough for me listen to and judge. Apparently he plays the drums but he might as well have programmed them. The sound replacement software he's using just doesn't sound natural in any way and if he's snapping to grid in post it just further mechanizes them. Vocally a monotonous low death metal growl grumbles across the entire recording, burping out lyrics about a planet coming to destroy the earth.
"Slow Death By Poison" stands out to me against a lot of the other material, with attempted Necrophagist flourishes and much heavier overall sound compared to the other tracks. The song's X-files-esque keyboard and guitar combo is a highlight on the album for me, but it's a rough transition into the body of the track. "Inferior" shows a capable ear for writing memorable segments. Early on the track leads into a catchy bridge where Cynic styled vocal modifications and effects are layered behind everything at times. Of the two instrumentals, "Lost" and "Through Defeat," the former is much more mature, shifting nicely through a singular vibe while the later is a mishmash of riffs. "Lost" also gives the impression that the electronic and synth elements have a purposeful place. It still sounds cheap, but it's not as bad as what we're given elsewhere for this reason alone.
The keyboards across the album are easily the most conflicting component of this entire effort. The quality of the effects is just not up to par for a professional sounding recording. It's more like the soundtrack to a Nintendo game than an effort at crafting a metal album. Listening to "Through Defeat" represents the entirety of their usage across the album. Instead of say, using the bass to add the melodies which the keys provide - in a way akin to Carcariass on Killing Process - we're giving childish sounding keyboards. But at times, they also add an otherworldly nostalgia which could be associated with 80's and 90's sci-fi and video games. Perhaps this was the goal but it's done in ways in which don't leave me interested in revisiting the material.
I feel that Adam is in his formative stages as a composer and musician and without hearing the other material he put out, it's tough to say where exactly he's heading. I empathize with his usage of electronic programs to round out compositions, as I've used numerous programs myself to write and compose. It's easy to rely on them for completing a project but it truly comes at a cost of an album's perception. I'd like to see more of where Adam takes this project, but he needs to either upgrade to software which provides a more professional result or choose to use guitar effects to mimic some of the elements he uses the keyboards and synthesizers for before having his material taken seriously. I just need to get more emotion and feel from the recording which is tough on such a mechanical recording. Rogue has some ideas that can be expanded on but the execution needs to be a better quality to grab the ears of fans who simply have too many options to listen to.
p.s. Artists, don't prove 18MB image files for your cover art... what a pain in the ass for those of us with shitty old computers.