I've always held a fondness for the more catchy strains of Gothic metal keeping the fires lit for the genre's popularity across Europe, and Darkseed have always been an act I've kept my eyes and ears on. The band has followed a very similar course to the British gods Paradise Lost, though the Germans' origins were slightly more upbeat. Albums like Midnight Solemnly Dance, Spellcraft, and Give Me Light all featured memorable songcraft, but beyond that the band took a turn for the more accessible, radio ready fare that very much mirrored your Draconian Times or One Second. The same use of mid paced rockers, big choruses, and Hetfield-like vocals were dominant in these eras, and still...these were not bad albums.
So really, I was not taken aback when I first listened to this record and thought of Paradise Lost's 2002 album Symbol of Life, which I truly adored. Darkseed's got a new frontman here named Harald Winkler who reminds me a lot of Nick Holmes, with perhaps a touch of accent leading off as he winds through the deeper, masculine baritones and the upper range with its slightly swerving melodies. Do not mistake me, he is not a carbon copy, he just uses a similar inflection, which to be fair fits the music perfectly. The remainder of the band have returned from the previous record Ultimate Darkness, five years ago, with the exception of a new bassist, and it is just Thomas Herrmann sticking around from the band's early 90s period.
Poison Awaits does not lead off with its best piece, of that I am certain. "Roads" is a pretty standard chord progression which is merely a warm-up for far better material to come, eclipsed even by the second song "Incinerate", which weaves cutesy keyboard lines through the steady if predictable, rocking chords. If you love Paradise Lost's late 90s or 21st century material before reverting back to their heavier side in recent years, or if you fancy the Finnish male-fronted Gothic metal scene of Charon, Entwine, To/Die/For and the like, you're probably going to like this one. If you don't love that style, then you will have already have fled from the album from "Roads", so carry on. It's pretty catchy, and I'm also reminded of fellow Germans Crematory, although Darkseed does not make use of the guttural vox. Title track "Poison Awaits" is the next at bat, with waves of electro body music morphing into some desperate, melodic synthesizer lines over an even harder driving rhythm.
"Seeds of Sorrow" sees Winkler in a deeper tone not unlike Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell, but far less cryptic and far more accessible. It seems somewhat like a Dreadful Shadows track, with the slow build to the surge of power chords. "All is Vanity" ups the ante with some rasped vocals that accompany the pre-chorus lyrics, and "Black Throne" is pretty pure Paradise Lost worship with more silly putty synthesizers dreaming beneath the crushing guitar tone, but its once again very catchy. The latter half of the album features a handful of ear-catchers like "A Dual Pact" and "Striving for Fire", and I really liked the melancholic piano gone metal ballad "Torn to Shatters".
Poison Awaits is nearly an hour long, but most of the tracks deliver the mopey Gothic goods, especially if you're into their past few efforts like Diving Into Darkness or Astral Adventures. "Roads" is probably the least interesting here, so I'm curious why the band wanted to shove it up front. The mix is well done, modern and clear studio sound which hangs at the standards set by many other bands of this genre like Theater of Tragedy and Charon. There is very little ambition in the guitar playing or song structure, and in fact they are preened for verse/chorus song sensibility to a fault, rarely venturing forth beyond some slightly tasty bridge segments. But these are not common traits for the style, and thus Darkseed are preaching to the choir. If you tend to hate this genre of male-fronted, Gothic metal with deep vocals and keyboards, then I see no reason your opinion would be changed by this latest effort. But if you keep a closet full of Crematory, Dreadful Shadows, and the less doomy Paradise Lost records, this is clearly for you. It's still not a Spellcraft or a Give Me Light, but it will have to suffice.
Verdict: Win [7/10]