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Limelight Oct 3rd

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Darkest Era | ‘The Last Caress Of Light’

Another high water mark: another Irish metal band signed to no less an institution than Metal Blade.

I have to admit to a little incredulity on first hearing the news. This band’s demos were solid, both as Nemesis and later Darkest Era – but surely not interesting enough to warrant the attentions of an international record titan.

A legion of more established, more appropriate bands could reasonably have been expected to be at the front of the class with their hands up in expectation.

Yet through the good offices of a local agent provocateur, Slagel’s crew have taken notice. That’s heartening in a time when many bands are only getting picked up off the back of thanklessly touring every stinking, graffitied toilet in the land. It means the music really must be good.

Darkest Era have come a long way in their short existence, not only in terms of who’s paying attention to them, but in terms of the music they’re writing.

There is a depth now that wasn’t necessarily there before – I might even go so far as to say a yearning quality. Unsurprisingly given their new patronage, it’s a sonic line that comes directly from Primordial.

Many of the tracks here hark successfully to them. Chordally and rhythmically, tracks like ‘Beneath The Frozen Sky’ and ‘An Ancient Fire Burns’ hark to the ‘Spirit The Earth Aflame’ era of their forbears. Longtime Irish metalheads will recognise the feel in these tracks almost instinctively.

There are of course other influences. A deep feeling for the modal Thin Lizzy twin guitar line runs through here, which leads immediately to influence from, on some occasions, Solstice and on others the mighty Slough Feg.

This album’s best track is ‘Heathen Burial’.

Its verse is strident, purposeful and dignified. Its harmonised chorus has the feeling of wind blasting into you hair, while that invigorating, powerful and haunting brace of lyrics – ‘By the will of the Gods may it be / The dead are cast to the sea’ – just oozes class. It’s a phrasing and an atmosphere that bands like Tyr have tried for aeons to catch, and only done so in snatches.

Beautiful chorally, superb harmonically and powerful atmospherically, it’s a track many bigger bands would kill to have on their books.

The album’s speedier and more familiarly metallic numbers – ‘Morrigan’ and ‘Visions Of The Dawn’ – are also great. Harking solidly to everything thats great about two guitars, double kick and a story, they’re emphatic and charging. I guess a slightly criticism is that vocalist Krum stays round about the same note a lot of the time, particularly in ‘Morrigan’, but it’s not a problem of any kind.

Besides, the rest of the vocal performance on here is a huge boon for the band. Particularly in the straining harmonies of ‘An Ancient Fire Burns’.

It’s an album of variety both in pace and timbre. Hear ‘Poem To The Gael’, which despite its close to cloying title actually paints from perhaps the same palette as Opeth’s ‘Apostle In Triumph’ from ‘Orchid’. That’s down to more good chord work. Nice.

So it’s an album of almost exceptional metal maturity from a band who’ve clearly busted their balls both in practise, songwriting and recording – even the girls.

And that’s a note I’d like to leave this review on, because I feel it’s particularly noteworthy.

Drummer Lisa Howe deserves special mention. Let’s speak plainly – girls don’t get it easy in metal bands, meaning they either feel they have to tart up (every Napalm band) or just basically become a boy (Cerebral Bore). Neither situation is ideal.

To bring this review back to the start, much of the reason this band are now sounding nearly as good as Primordial is Lisa’s drumming. When I said that older heads will recognise the feel, a huge amount of that is because of her drumming. It takes huge influence from the signature style of Simon O’Laighoire, and I’d be extremely surprised if Lisa hadn’t put in a lot of time engrossed in it.

The open hi-hat accents are in just the right places, while the typical viking/pagan metal lilting gallop is handled with total confidence, including great kick work.

So in a genre that neither supports nor talks to ladies on any kind of equal level, Darkest Era are a fantastic example simply for being themselves – and for the girls providing the lynch pins of the whole sound, as opposed to simple vocal confetti.

All of the above means that they have a great future. But mostly the music. It’s an album of quality tone, confident songwriting and real character. Also, it’s unashamedly and uncomplicatedly metal.

Could you want for more, Irish metalheads?

4.6 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 20/02/11

  1. Thoroughly deserved, all the best for the next 40 years!

  2. Eoin McLove Says:

    I picked this up at the weekend and I more or less agree with most of that review. I think it is a step up from the demo but I think that the debt to Primordial is still a bit too obvious. Not a huge criticism, really, but I reckon it’s the band’s future material that will be the clincher in terms of them really solidifying their own style. Still,a very good album and mention must be made of the super classy artwork and layout. Yum. Oh, and Krum’s vocals sound super.

  3. Wasn’t familiar with these before this album.Only a few spins in,but sounds really good so far.As was said, vocals sound great.good solid Metal.

  4. Fair point Andy, that was always something we were prepared for. But I think it’s interesting to point out that out of the entire press/reviews/comments the album has received so far across Europe and the US, it is only Irish folk that seem to think the Primordial influence is too prominent. Haven’t come across it a single place elsewhere. And we’ve been looking!!

  5. Miotal Trom Says:

    From the tracks I’ve heard, the review seems spot on. The one thing I’d disagree with somewhat is the Primordial comparison (again based solely on the two tracks I’ve heard, which are excellent). I find it’s one that all too easily made in Ireland, and as Ade has pointed out, one that doesn’t necessarily jump out at those beyond these shores. I think some of us Irish metalheads consider certain elements of a far broader and far more general heavy metal sound to be automatically Primordial-esque, when in truth they may strike us as being so simply because no other Irish metal band had those elements come across so clearly in their music as Primordial did for so long. That’s not to say certain sounds are not unquestionably the trademark of Primordial, I just think the lines aren’t as black and white as they’re sometimes made out to be.

  6. open face surgery Says:

    i’d say that it’s probably the drums that bring the most similarities and comparisons just as ct pointed out.only heard it once a while ago but i automatically thought there was a bang of primordial off it.not a bang thing.will make a more informed opinion once i here it again.

  7. I’ve spun this one several times now and it sounds like it’s influenced by quite a few bands and metal sub-genres. Yeah there’s some Primordial in there but I wouldn’t say it’s too predominant – unless it’s all you’re looking for. Great review and great album – looking forward to the launch in the Limelight!

  8. Eoin McLove Says:

    Well, the Primordial influence is certainly not a bad thing and for an Irish band that deals with Irish lore it is perhaps to be expected. Either way, the album sounds great.

  9. Well simon of primordisl is probably the most unique metal drummer in europe so i doubt thats a comparison. he has an uncopied style.

  10. I think that’s a bit of an overstatement, isn’t it now.

  11. open face surgery Says:


  12. Andy/Bottle of Tonic Says:

    Picked this up today in Fopp in Edinburgh, which doesn’t exactly have a massive metal section. Good to see the album is getting out there.
    The packaging is nice and all, but if I end up listening to this a lot I can see it getting a bit damaged. The cd and booklet are quite tight in their respective pockets. I hate having to prise cds out of those things. Headwrecking if you fancy a listen when you’re a bit monged.
    Still, the musics the most important thing of course and I look forward to getting deeper into this album. Well in guys.

  13. Eoin McLove Says:

    The last track is the best. Really fucking cool.

  14. Dark Stranger Says:

    Just finished listening to the full version there – I’m absolutely blown away. Love it to bits and I’m so impressed. ‘Poem To The Gael’ is the perfect prelude to the final track which is indeed a beast.

  15. Mike (Leather Mike) Says:

    Deadly stuff, lethal band. Waiting very impatiently for the release gig, seeing this material live will be absolutely mighty.

    Just as an aside, I live for the day when a release gets reviewed on this site without mention being made of how much the band owe to/are descended from Primordial.

    That’s not a dig at Primordial in any shape or fashion by the way. That they are one of the most successful and respected metal acts to come from Ireland cannot (and should not) be denied, and it’s doubtless that they do indeed influence a lot of acts. A lot, but not all. It just seems like every damn thing that is released is compared to Primordial in some fashion, and it seems a bit redundant now.

  16. […] the last one was anything to go by – remember it? – it should be total killer. This from the […]

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