Age of Darkness (originally released in 1991) has been co-released on vinyl with the band’s 1990 debut Your Dying Day. Both are first time ever on vinyl with altered artwork (new title font on cover) and offered in black (200) and colored vinyl (100) versions. Age of Darkness has also been reissued on CD this year. I’m reviewing the blue vinyl version of Age of Darkness here. Neither of the vinyl versions have any bonus content and feature the original tracks only. While I love the layout and new artwork, graphics on the back cover and lyric insert sheet, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the back cover track list is incorrect. Side A actually contains 6 songs – “The Witching Hour” at the end of Side A and not at the beginning of Side B as printed. The final 5 tracks can be found on Side B. The lyric insert once again features nicely legible lyrics on one side (no band listing or credits though) as it does on Your Dying Day, and then the original interview/review from Heaven’s Metal on the other side. While I wasn’t a writer with the ‘zine in 1991 I did agree with Phil Sterling’s Heaven’s Metal review at the time about Age of Darkness which I’ve posted below. Although the subject matter was dark, I really liked the lyrics and loved that these guys were willing (as did Sacred Warrior with Wicked Generation) take on difficult topics – things most within Christian music circles certainly didn’t sing about in those days.
Haven return with an additional guitar player with a classical background and he contributes nicely to the mix with 2 acoustic instrumental pieces. This is still a mixture of classic and melodic metal, the weaker songs actually the more melodic “When You Say Goodbye” and “Spend My Life with You.” But the faster songs here with the more classic metal vibe are really good. “Divination,” “The Séance” and “The Witching Hour” all deal with dark spiritual issues. All three songs share very intricate, hard-driving, dual-guitar riffing and jamming and the drums are syncopated and full of flare, accenting the beat nicely. “Holly” – somewhat reminiscent of “Murder” from the debut – is outstanding in its delivery and lyrical content. This is my favorite song by Haven without a doubt. The closer is a very haunting and progressive sounding ballad with those nice low-register vocals. All in all, I think this is better than the debut but still has some weaknesses. I think Haven would be a better band if they would drop the melodic tunes and concentrate on being a classic metal band with some progressive features. (circa 1992)
As I confessed in my review of the Your Dying Day vinyl, I was a bit critical of Haven’s more “radio friendly” songs back in the day, but when I listen to all this now I have many more years of perspective and I appreciate what Haven was trying to do (they had some really confrontational lyrics) and I enjoy these songs much more in the present. The sound quality on this pressing is comparable to that of the Your Dying Day LP. For me, it is better than the original CD but still “B” quality compared to current day vinyl reissues (surface noise and surface defects present on my LP). Still, I would easily recommend this to fans of the late 80’s/early 90’s Christian metal scene. If you are into collecting and listening to vinyl this is a lot of fun, and the nostalgic value alone of the Heaven’s Metal articles/reviews in print again is an added bonus. [Retroactive]