I am not an expert in Folk or Pagan Metal, but this album got me hooked after its first tune called “The Morrigan." It’s intense, it’s epic, and spectacular. I immediately felt those emotions with the voice and dynamic playing that this group provided.
And the best was yet to come. This is a fantastic piece of work considering it is a debut. DARKEST ERA, as I researched is an Irish band claiming themselves as Celtic Metal and what I learned listening to this album is that this genre is full with epic moments. It doesn’t sound heavy or brutal like other 'Battle Metal' bands I heard that sound amazingly well like TURISAS, ENFISERUM or TYR. I must say this was my reference for Folk metal. But these guys were able to bring a Heavy Metal (More likely NWOBHM) essence to this genre, making it a more dynamic production (possibly the price to become a more commercial band when they signed with Metal Blade Records).
My favorite feature is the voice. Just by the name of Krum, the frontman has a very reliable voice, bringing an emotional tune and remarkable performance. His voice is soft and easy to listen to. There are no high pitched screams or deep growls, just a well balanced tune of voice, which seems to recite a poem or tell you a hero’s tale. It is not a voice that will burst your ears, but it might have the power to make your inner hero get excited about heading into battle. All the songs are meant to feel epic. They are long, full of melodic elements that create the perfect atmosphere of a battlefield mixing victory and defeat.
Maybe the most important turndown is the lack of flexibility of the songs. They keep playing in a line that doesn’t sound diverse. The only song that doesn’t keep in line is “Poem to The Gael,” which is an acoustic effort from the band, more focused in the Folk Element. Other than that, we listen to the same riffs and rhythms. But honestly, I can see that as a 'problem' considering how well they are done. I really enjoyed every song even if they 'sound similar.' Another problem is that they aren’t completely Folk dedicated, but this is not a problem unless you are one of those fans who doesn’t allow the purity of the genres to be touched or changed. But the lack of Folk elements is obvious until you reach my personal favorite song in the album, “The Last Caress Of Light Before The Dark.” This is an eleven-minute masterpiece that better approaches DARKEST ERA’s previous influences. It is a song that combines melody and acoustic compositions with lyrics that resemble a great story being told. It is such a great song that I keep playing it a lot lately. I can only close my eyes and let my mind go to wherever these magnificent compositions can take me.
Overall, DARKEST ERA’s debut is a very satisfying one. The combination between their Folk roots and the influence they establish from Old School Heavy Metal is the highlight here combining the Celtic Mythology with dynamic tunes. It was well-managed and executed, making it one of the biggest revelations for this year. Many fans of both genres will enjoy it, and every Metal fan should take a look at it if they are looking for an album that can carry them to an emotional and epic ride like it did for me.
(Online July 1, 2011)