Let's face it; any band born of another band's drama (in this case Fear Factory) may produce music that is well and good, but isn't exactly going to blow anyone's minds. Sadly, this is the case for Arkaea's good but ultimately forgettable debut.
There's no denying that Years in the Darkness ultimately does what it sets out to do; it rocks hard, it thrashes, hell, it even has some good grooves to go with it. It's fun to rock out to, but being that as it may, it's just Fear Factory with a few metalcore traits, which makes for a frustrating listen, given the powerful potential. With the opening Locust, which fans were treated to via Myspace (this reviewer is unhip enough to overlook a lowercase s in Myspace), there is a lot of promise; Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera as usual work in impressive conjunction, thrashing away with Threat Signal representatives Pat Kavanagh supporting on bass and Jon Howard taking over vocal duties. Immediately, Howard justifies the comparisons to the Deftones' Chino Moreno and Linkin Park's Chester Bennington with his high registered, yet powerful voice. It is really he who adds the metalcore aspect to the group, which is essentially the only thing keeping Arkaea from sounding like a tired Fear Factory side project.
As heavy and energetic as this song is, the most substantial quality was promise, which is quashed immediately upon hearing the full record. Every song employs this same exact formula, with the exception of songs like Break the Silence, on which Howard does his best Burton C. Bell impression, or the closer Away from the Sun, an out of place semi-ambient piece seemingly tacked on at the last minute. It is not inconceivable for someone listening to suddenly think, "wow, this is a long song," only to look and see the fourth cut Gone Tomorrow playing.
It has been revealed that at least half of Years in the Darkness had been written beforehand for a new FF album, which is painfully evident not only in its reminiscence to Wolbers' and Herrera's band (or former band, the matter of their personnel is somewhat puzzling these days), but more so to the lack of their strengths. Initially, one thing that made Fear Factory so good was not just their crushing sound, but their willingness to experiment with it, which slightly dissipated with (perhaps not coincidentally) the departure of founding guitarist Dino Cazares. Here, we are shown a bare bones paradigm without the trademarks that make the style special, with outside influence added for flair; and regrettably, the Threat Signal members' input does fundamentally appear as such.
Years in the Darkness feels hackneyed and rushed, though satisfying in the fashion of being a decent metal album. Hopefully Arkaea will write their next effort together as a group, develop more of a style, and deliver on the promise they gave us with Locust; after all, the makings are most definitely there.