With two EPs and a full-length album to their name, Darkest era have a strong history behind them, but it has been three long years since their last effort, a gap that can easily kill a band’s momentum in these fast-moving times. However, with a loyal fan base and exceptionally positive reviews for 2011’s ‘the last caress of light’, ‘severence’ sees the band moving to take their place as one of the great modern folk metal bands, drawing upon the Celtic lyricism of their native Ireland and infusing it with a raging metal heart that sees iron clad riffs meld perfectly with Krum’s rich, warm vocal tones.
Kicking off with a strong opening track is always a good idea and Darkest Era grab attention from the off with ‘Sorrow’s boundless realm’, a heady brew of folk-infused vocals (courtesy of the wonderfully talented Krum), snarling guitars and an undeniably powerful rhythm section in Daniel O’Toole (bass) and CameronAshlund-Glass (drums). What makes the track so much more satisfying is the band’s exploration of light and shade, not being content to simply batter the listener into submission with a metallic assault, they strip the track back for a progressive, lyrical mid-section which helps to emphasise the fury of the assault unleashed elsewhere. Memorable, thanks to a strong melodic touch, ‘Sorrow’s boundless realm’ perfectly introduces the band’s lush and varied sound and hooks you into the album effortlessly. The second song, ‘Songs of Gods and men’, is a massive epic that evokes images of bare chested warriors fighting to the death in the pouring rain and forking lightening and as the harmonised guitars of Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Wieghell gallop roughshod, so the track draws you into a world of valour and honour far removed from the shallow manipulations of modernity. As with all great heavy metal, the band has a story to tell, and so dense is the song-writing that the listener finds themselves utterly immersed within it. A faster paced track, ‘The serpent and the shadow’ is an adrenalin soaked charge that emphasises the band’s metal credentials with a sound that recalls the theatrical antics of Edguy, Nightwish and Powerwolf. It’s a blazing slab of vintage heavy metal that sets the blood pumping furiously around the body with its massed vocal harmonies and blazing riffs. Opening with a stately riff that hints at the gothic grandeur of my dying bride, ‘beyond the grey veil’ is a doomy piece of music awash with romantic lyrical touches and rich melody, not least upon the chorus which is velvet clad and to die for, but the real highlight is the protracted climax which will leave you open mouthed with awe at the band’s musical prowess. ‘Trapped in the hourglass’ is a heavier, more full-bodies affair that sees the band blazing away as Krum’s voice soars above it all, the lead work of Sarah and Ade a constant highlight over the course of the album.
Keeping the pace fast and frenetic, ‘the scavenger’ is one of the album’s fastest songs, the razor sharp guitars underpinning Krum’s perfectly harmonised vocals. What really sets the song apart, however, is the melodic breakdown that roots the song in folk melodies without reducing the metallic might the band bri8ng to bear. It highlights the skill that lies at the heart of Darkest era and it keeps the music endlessly interesting even after repeated listens. Hints of Iron Maiden abound on the monstrous metal of ‘a thousand screaming souls’, the band clearly revelling in their theme as they charge headlong through the track and on into the final piece, ‘blood sand and stone’ which rounds out the album on a suitably epic note. Spread over eight minutes, ‘blood sand and stone’ is a slow burning slab of metal which employs a lengthy introduction before exploding into life, the band crossbreeding the rich narrative of vintage Candlemass with the raging riffs of Iron Maiden. It’s a fitting conclusion to an album that consistently impresses and it highlights the band’s intrinsic grasp of composition, the song as intricate and varied as the other pieces on the album.
Darkest Era’s ‘Severance’ is a brilliant, beautiful piece of work from start to finish. From the stunning, attention-grabbing artwork of Costin Chioreanu to the pristine production work of Chris Fielding, the band do not put a foot wrong. In melding elements of classic doom, NWOBHM folk and even progressive, the band risk losing their potency and yet, seemingly miraculously, the band pull it off, melding the individual elements into a seamless whole that is as varied as it is consistently exciting. The whole band are, without doubt, exceptionally talented, but in Krum they truly have an astounding talent, the vocals delivered with passion, energy and precision. Always memorable, the vocals soar above the music and it is clear that Krum is a charismatic and talented individual indeed. Overall ‘Severance’ is an album that any metalhead should be proud to have in their collection, and for fans of folk-tinged classic metal this is damn-near essential. From start to finish ‘severance’ is a captivating listen, don’t let it pass you by.