Northern Irish band Darkest Era are all set to release their second album in June and after the well received debut 'The Last Caress Of Light' in 2011, it is interesting to see what they have come up with this time around.
Since that release, they have toured with Alestorm and Gloryhammer bringing their brand of Celtic Rock to more and more people, raising awareness and their profile.
If you haven't come across them before, there is a Celtic feel throughout their material but in a lot harder edged direction than your average celtic rock, delving more into what you could call the darker side.
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So to the actual music...
It all kicks off with 'Sorrow's Boundless Return' and as if to prove a point it launches almost immediately into the heavier end of things, drums dragging it all along at breakneck speed, breaking into the thrash locker before Krum's vocals come into the mix. He has a lot of power in his lungs and instead of letting the music drag him along, he is in charge of his own destiny as the music settles down behind him.
Good melody, nice bass line in the middle (a la early Maiden). Talking of them, it easy to see straight away how much of an influence Maiden have had on the band musically, but there are definitely no copycat crimes at work. This one has a big chorus to top it off, a good opener.
'Songs Of God And Men' comes at you with a killer riff, anthemic feel to the track, a lot more of the celtic in this one and very Lizzy and Emerald influenced guitar solo. A very good track, twin guitars in perfect sync and harmony giving it's feel and impetus.
'The Serpent And The Shadow' is nothing at all to do with David Coverdale's battle against the powers of evil. Instead, it is a very well crafted song, emotive guitars starting things off before they start crunching with the best of them, rhythm section again pulling everything along with all the energy of hyperactivity on speed.
Again, great vocal melody sitting alongside the vocal power, this is more towards the classic rock vein than the thrash end but it is still heavy, don't fret. And once again the Lizzy influence is very clear to see (well hear to be exact). Another winner as far as my ears are concerned.
'Beyond The Grey Veil' brings dark, moody guitars, vocals joining the mood, passionate and feeling, this at the beginning almost has the feel of something approaching a ballad – a proper old fashioned rocker, not the girly variety.It is melodic, melancholy and rocky all at once, menacing guitar throughout, beefing up in the latter part.
'Trapped In The Hourglass' shifts back to the heavier end of the spectrum, well their spectrum at least. But again the standout ingredients are the twin guitars and the melodic vocals, beautifully in tune with each other, literally and metaphorically. Rhythm behind the guitars almost military in its precision, although more a regiment of stampeding rhinos. The mid section drops off into a Maidenesque refrain before turning all Celtic again with the guitars.
'The Scavenger' is a definite galloper, drums and guitar in competition for tempo, but cleverly settling down when the melody demands it. Talking of melody, I have mentioned it once or twice but it is rather a vital musical component, mysterious though it does seem to be to some. The vocal one on this is probably the best of the lot, subtly changing nuances and emphasis, but never getting away from the music behind it.
'A Thousand Screaming Souls' is next up and could refer to the first thousand people who were unfortunate enough to hear a new Coldplay song. Ok, in reality it may be about something else entirely... musically it is another quickie, and more Maiden influences jump out at you.
But obvious as they are, they never let them take over the song too much and the mix of that with the more Celtic side creates a different sound. Drums stand out on this track, some interesting fills going on throughout but a good all round song.
So to the last one on the album and it is a lengthy one. 'Blood, Sand And Stone' comes in at over eight minutes long and the good news to those that aren't great fans of the long epics is that it doesn't seem to go on too long. A different beginning to anything else on the album, thoughtful probing guitar, drums rolling offbeat in the background before the heaviness kicks in.
Great guitar melody before vocals jump in with customary power. This is though a multi layered piece, a lot more to it than first meets the eyes, or ears. Not quite on a par with longer epics like Helloween's 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' but a very classy affair nevertheless and there really are many tempo changes going on, mood changing shifts adding to the atmosphere and behind it all for much of the song is the rolling drums. A great way to sign off and one you will remember.
And that ladies, gentlemen and everything in between, is that. Eight high quality tracks and it is different enough to hold your attention throughout, which as we all know isn't always the case. The twin guitars and vocals will be the parts that stick most in people's minds but if you pay attention to what is going on behind them, none of that would be possible without the driving force of the rhythm section.
You may not get any Geddy Lee madness from the bass here but without it the drums couldn't do what they do and without that a lot of the sound is lost. Cameron Åhslund-Glass's drumming is superb, intricate fills, clever rolls when the space is there but never doing the egotistical drummer thing.
Up front the guitars of Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Wieghell are perfectly in sync (well they have known each other since school days) and carry off the Lizzyesque side very well especially – they manage to get that Celtic feel without using a load of technical wizardry and instrumentation. And Krum's vocals compliment it all perfectly. He has power, feel and can certainly hold a tune but he never tries to take over and always remains in control.
All in all a very good album which will have appeal right across the rock and metal board – there literally is something for everyone.
And if you are itching to see them live the good news is they are on tour starting on September 25th.
You can check out the band online at www.darkestera.net and on Facebook.