Hailing from Northern Ireland, Darkest Era looks to be following in the footsteps of fellow countrymen, Primordial. Both acts travel similar territory, with Primordial having done it over a longer period of time, both share a label in Metal Blade Records, and have the unfortunate ac of inevitable comparisons thrust upon them. Fortunately, there are writers like me whose collective experience with these two bands amounts to a couple Primordial tunes coming up in a shuffle mix and my listening to Darkest Era's debut release, The Last Caress of Light.
With that said, I have to say that this album is deceptively good. It is no extreme or outrageous in their metallic execution, what they are is solid with a unique style (a least to this guy with the admitted Primordial deficiency). The riffs are nice, easy to groove with and have a heavy bend to them that gets the head rocking, I can imagine a crowd watching them live with near identical head movements as they play. The rhythm section is solid, solos are technically precise and fit the son structures. Then there is Krug, the vocalist. He has a strong clean voice that does not appear to have the greatest of ranges but is certainly a welcome presence over top the instrumental metallic performances.
Prior to the release of The Last Caress of Light, Darkest Era had only releases a pair of EPs. They caught the label's eye pretty early on. To help introduce the band to new listeners, like me, the album kicks off with a remastered version of a song that first appeared on their debut EP, that song is "The Morrigan." It is a really good tune that gives you a good idea of what the band is about.
I have see them labeled as Celtic metal, and while They seem to have moved a bit away from the traditional instruments that were apparently prevalent on their early releases in favor of a more traditional metal approach, but without a good deal of folksiness. You can hear it in their arrangements, the song structures have a very old world folk feel to them while the method in which they are performed is distinctly metal in nature.
The biggest problem I have with the album is that after "The Morrigan" the bulk of the middle of the album is really good Celtic/folk metal but one song is indistinguishable from the next. While it is all quite good, if one were to shuffle them up you would be hard pressed to tell them apart. Fortunately the remastered old song and the closing pair show that this and is truly creative and willing to experiment and do wens may be a little on the unexpected side.
The second to last song is pure Celtic folk called "Poe to the Gael." It is an epic tune that is driven by sparse drums and acoustic guitar with vocals that are often harmonized by the rest of the band. This son is truly a joy to listen to and shows that Darkest Era is more than metal. It is followed by "The Last Caress of Light Before the Dark." The song begins as an acoustic piece that builds into a glorious metal fury and covers an epic 11-minutes.
The album when taken in it's entirety is good to really good. Focus on the first and last two songs and it takes a turn towards really good and excellent. No matter how you slice it, this is a record that is well worth your time and effort.