You may have noticed recently that I’ve not been very nice to Irish folk metal. Perhaps I’m secretly a dirty xenophobe with nothing better to do than slag off the Emerald Isle, you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking so. Darkest Era, however, have come up with this little beauty, a wondrous mix of folk and stoner metal.
The tone is incredibly varied across the album, although all the subject matter takes a firm grip on the mysticism of at least one Pagan religion. Titles like Heathen Dawn and An Ancient Fire Burns brood as their relentless riffs support the strained urgency of the vocals. I said in a previous review that they seemed to be playing folk songs with an added metal element, and Darkest Era seem to be doing something incredibly similar, albeit not covering traditional folk tunes. Poem To Gael, would have you think otherwise with a dutifully melancholic tone as atmospheric as it is melodic.
The vast majority of the album carries on as opener The Morrigan begins; with the subtle folk melodies before dropping to a ravaging sea of overdriven guitars while the powerful vocals pierce through. Compared to Primordial and Cruachan, Darkest Era are streets ahead both in songwriting and melodic capacity, the lament of Beneath The Frozen Sky is almost Gregorian before crashing into a jilted guitar riff, as the drums smash like waves upon a storm-battered cliff.
Darkest Era are epic, in the ‘we write eight minutes songs as standard’ epic. As the final track begins, laced with contempt and sorrow with the line “What curse is this, that dwells in me?”, Darkest Era are aiming high brow in historical fantasy. The lyrical madness coupled with some harmonised rhythms through the album give The Last Caress Of Light a fantastically maintained sound throughout.
As a final point, Darkest Era have a made a pretty damn good folk/stoner record, a combo that’s not often heard. If it was all this standard, it should be.