Much as I’ve come to terms with cookie monster growling et al it makes a nice change to hear someone actually singing their heart out. And on The Last Caress of Light, Darkest Era’s excellent debut album, we get heart as big as a house.
The band are from Northern Ireland and their Celtic roots provide the foundation to everything they do, infusing the music with passion, honesty and conviction.
First track “The Morrigan” teases before a rousing roar kicks things off. The double-bass drums pound along merrily and there’s a great guitar break. A morrigan appears to be a “a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility”, giving a clue to where Darkest Era’s lyrical inspiration comes from. This is the perfect opening statement.
Next track “An Ancient Fire Burns” launches straight in and already you realise that this band believe implicitly in what they do and they do it superbly.
The middle three tracks contain more soaring guitars, pounding drums and convincing vocals in an immensely satisfying way but then Darkest Era pull out the stops for the final three tracks.
The epic start of “To Face The Black Tide” is full of fire and brimstone before settling back into a more reflective passage. Then the band really hit their straps. Krum’s vocals are superb…best new rock vocalist I’ve heard in a long time; plus we have a new female-drummer hero. Stand up Lisa Howe…not literally though.
“Poem To The Gael” is a traditional Irish folk song and its beautifully done. It paves the way for the closer, “The Last Caress Of Light Before The Dark”, all 11 minutes of it. An acoustic start continues the feel from the previous track but then the guitars and drums fire up and we are on a journey, drawn along by the force of Darkest Era’s will. Its an adventure, fraught with danger but with redemption and glory in sight.
The playing by the whole band is exemplary and this is a magnificent way to finish. I will have to pootle along to the Barfly in September if they are half as good live as they are in the studio.
Other reviews have mentioned Thin Lizzy, in particular Black Rose, but I think the band that this album most reminds me of is Amon Amarth. Not that Darkest Era are remotely black metal but because it is obvious that they, like Amon Amarth, are very proud of their heritage. I read that Darkest Era remind other reviewers of Primordial, another Irish band, but I know nothing about them so I’ll have to leave that one hanging.
Furthermore, Darkest Era are rousing and jolly in much the same way as Amon Amarth are. Jolly is probably not a cool epithet for a metal band but what the hey.
Its pointless to predict that a metal band is going to be “big” because it doesn’t mean much anymore but I reckon Darkest Era will be a hit with metal heads around the world but are also accessible enough to have a more widespread appeal. And I mean that very much as a good thing.
This is splendid, epic rock music played with an passion and intensity that is remarkable for a first album.
Darkest Era have made their mark.