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(Those Opposed Records)

jools green

Jools Green


French melodic black Metal trio Darkenhöld have been consistently prolific with their releases since they formed in 2008, bringing out three splits and three full lengths; 'A Passage To The Towers' in 2010, 2012s 'Echoes From The Stone Keeper' and this latest offering 'Castellum', a mystical and legendary journey through ancient times with lyrical themes of ancient haunted castles and medieval forests which makes a change from the more usual Satanic and blasphemous themes of their contemporaries.

Soundwise they also have an interesting edge, described as Medieval black Metal, which comes from a slight ancient folk influence encompassing flutes, folk drumming and orchestration to give that desired medieval feel as well as a lighter more melodic, atmospheric and evocative edge to the sound whilst still keeping it safely within the confines of what is expected from melodic black Metal with traditional riffs, the darker edge coming from the vitriolic and broad ranging rasping vocals of Cervantes.

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This ten track forty-two minute release is a fascinating and engaging listen end to end, evoking mental imagery of misty ancient landscapes overshadowed by dark strongholds, housing heroes of old and if black Metal had been around in the dark ages, this is how it just might have sounded.

I don't have a favourite track, it's just press play and immerse yourself in the release as a whole album, sufficiently varied in pace and tempo to keep your mind absorbed. It flows smoothly with no harsh aspects and with a huge depth and fullness to the sound.

The album captures your interest immediately with 'Strongholds Eternal Rivalry' a great opening choice and longest track of the release at over seven minutes duration starting as one of the more intense, up tempo and traditional sounding offerings but expanding into a more folky feel as it progresses, setting the theme and feel of the album.

The interesting 'Le Castellas du Moine Brigand' repeatedly switches form dark and brooding to light and reflective while 'Majestic Dusk Over The Sentinels' has a dark brooding opener and powerful, deep, blackened vocals but the feel is lightened with the arrival of the more folkier elements.

'Glorious Horns' is given a defined medieval feel from the keyboard sound that opens it. Midway there is a brief ambient instrumental interlude in the shape of 'Feodus Obitus' before the dark plodding 'Le Souffle des Vieilles Pierres'. I love the pace and the plodding blackened repeat riff of 'L'Incandescence Souterraine' which sits so well next to the blackened rasping vocals and dark melodies, making it an atmospheric and engaging track and if the rest of the album wasn't so good this might just have been my favourite.

'Mountains Wayfaring Call' starts in a very classic melodic black metal style developing subtle folk influences after the midpoint drop away; a well executed track.

'The Bulwarks Warlords' is plodding, blackened and very deliberate in its rhythms, softened again with folk elements and symphonics that become more pronounces as the track progresses, there is also a surprising amount of tempo and direction change for a track of under four minutes making it a very interesting listen.

Final track 'Medium Aevum' is an ambient and atmospheric instrumental.

The production is by live bassist Aleevok. I think overall 'Castellum' is an enjoyable and uplifting listen and with the trio expanding to a quintet for live performances 'Darkenhӧld' are a band I am more than interested in seeing live to find out if this sound translates well as a live performance and if this atmosphere achieved in the studio is replicated.

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