To grow, it is often necessary to change. When Darkest Hour were laying the groundwork for their sixth album 'The Eternal Return,' the Washington, D.C.-based melodic death metal band decided musical evolution was their goal, so they set out to challenge themselves and their fans by growing and modifying their sound. "We like all our records, but we've been doing similar kinds of things for a while," guitarist Mike Schleibaum tells Noisecreep. "To me, our new album redefines this band. It's got little elements from all the other records we've done combined in a way that sounds fresh, but is obviously the same band."

One way Darkest Hour achieved new perspective was by returning the production throne to Brian McTernan (Thrice, Senses Fail), who had worked on the group's first three discs. Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Bleeding Through) manned the controls on 2005's 'Undoing Ruin' and 2007's 'Deliver Us,' which increased the band's visibility but sort of hamstrung its creativity.

"We went on a sort of journey with Devin and those two records have a lot of his sound and influence on them," Schleibaum says. "They're super metal and super ethereal, which was great. But we wanted this one to be a little faster, a bit heavier and a bit more badass without losing the elements Devin brought. We wanted to mix everything we've done up in a pot like a new kind of gumbo and serve it up as Blue Plate Special Number One."

The other major change in the band's new sound has more to do with their current lineup. In September 2008, after eight years in Darkest Hour, guitarist Kris Norris left the group and was replaced by Mike "Lonestar" Carrigan, who filled in on guitar on the 2008 'Thrash and Burn' tour before being asked to join.

"He's a great player and a great guy," Schleibaum says. "He's also younger than the rest of us, so he has a different perspective on music that's really helpful. It gives us the opportunity to break old habits and try new s---. And when you do that, you tend to get some really interesting results. And that has a lot to do with how the new record came out."

According to Schleibaum, Darkest Hour's relationship with Norris just ran its course. "For a while, things just weren't right with the entire group," explains Schleibaum. "We'd been doing this a long time and it had built to a point with Kris where we were all like, 'Hey, I don't know if this is working out anymore. We've had a really long run, but it's time for it to come to an end.'"

But while Norris is officially out of Darkest Hour, he's not out of their lives. The guitarist – who is now the touring axeman for God Forbid -- recently met up with his ex-bandmates at a Summer Slaughter show, and they all got along better than they had in a while. "There's no animosity or anything," Schleibaum says. "But there never was. It was never like, 'Get the f--- out of here. I never want to see you again.' It was more like, 'Hey, man, this collaboration's time has run its course. So let's accept that and move on.'"