Darekest Era - Severance - (9/10)
Published on June 3, 2014
From Belfast, Northern Ireland, I’m very pleased to present to you, Darkest Era’s sophomore album, Severance. Their debut, The Last Caress of Light was received with much praise when it was released in 2011 by Metal Blade Records and they’ve now switched over to the Italian label, Cruz Del Sur Music. Other than that, there’s also been a slight line-up change, but the core of the band has largely stayed the same since forming in 2005.
I’m somewhat hesitant to call this folk metal because as far as I can tell no traditional instruments were used on the recording of this album, but themes of Irish folklore and mythology is unmistakable. This is why I was more inclined to classify this as pagan metal in our classification system and it nudges them very close to the same camp as fellow Irishmen, Primordial. However, the band describes their style as Celtic metal, which I do think is a good catch-all description of their sound.
The comparison to Primordial seems to be inherent of their Irish roots more than anything and there’s something about Krum’s vocal style that’s so similar to Nemtheanga’s that I can’t help but think it’s something in their Celtic blood. They both have the same tone of haunted grit and sound like their soul is the tamp behind their mesmerising vocals. Krum really excels on “Beyond the Grey Veil” where he sends his chords soaring over the slow-drifting mist created by the slowly riffing guitars, this song has quite a spooky atmosphere and it’s placement takes the album’s tempo and intensity down a notch.
The guitars generally have a very melancholic tone and this is another attribute these Irish fellows have in common; The Last Caress of Light have often appeared on the same playlist as the two later Primordial albums. From my comparisons here it might sound like these bands sound very much alike, but Primordial really is a very different beast. Darkest Era has a more melodic undertone and doesn’t have so much of black metal influence that I think helped sculpt Primordial, although I think I detected the tremolo picking technique in “Sorrow’s Boundless Realm” and maybe a few others. Guitars play a major role in the overall structure of the music and the dual guitar work in the middle part of “The Scavenger” sounds like it came directly from Iron Maiden’s playbook. It gives the song a fantastic melodic lift and the band cites them alongside another Irish band, Thin Lizzy as being among their influences. A band with two guitarists is nothing new in the metal scene, but Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Wieghell’s back-and-forth dueling give the album a lot of energy and punch, but I never felt they were dominating the show.
Fans of their first album might wonder how they’ve progressed since then; they’ve definitely gone darker on this album and I think one reason perhaps is that the melodies on The Last Caress of Light sounded more traditional and – I hesitate to use the word – cheerful, as is a property of most traditional Celtic music that I’ve heard. They’ve also shaken off a lot of the old-school that cloaked them, which could be a side-effect of the more darker approach they’ve taken to the compositions on this album.
Severance ends off beautifully with the enigmatic “Blood, Sand and Stone,” it starts off rather quietly then takes a bold stance that once again creates a sense of grand storytelling, the ending becomes suitably epic and left me with the impression of a very full and complete album. It’s slightly demanding to listen to because you have to engage with it, but there are enough folky nuances and soft touches to open up the sky a bit to let in some light.
There isn’t really much I can find fault with on this album and I don’t really feel the need to look for it. I think this up-and-coming band will start getting a lot more attention really soon. 2014 has seen the publication of some real good albums and I’ve been privileged to review a few of them, I wholly expect Severance to be one of the best and that a lot of Celtic/pagan/folk metalheads will agree with me.