The Great Silk Road
posted on 11/2008 By:
Epic black metal has gotten its fair share of underground attention recently, particularly since the 2006 release of Drudkh’s masterful Blood In Our Wells, which utilized huge, hypnotic drumbeats and a thunderous guitar sound to create a sense of tragic grandeur that really struck a chord with people. Darkestrah take this basic framework, inject a healthy dose of Graveland and Moonsorrow-esque Pagan elements and deliver it with tight musicianship and a slick production job. The end result is The Great Silk Road, a powerful black metal release that totally took me by surprise in its quality.
What makes or breaks albums like this is pacing, and Darkestrah have a knack for getting the absolute most out of their lengthy compositions. The four main tracks on The Great Silk Road are all heavily riff-focused affairs that don’t need to lean on keyboards or samples to create an intense, epic atmosphere. At times slow and sorrowful, at others strong and triumphant, this album never feels boring in the least and in fact only seems to get better as it goes on, with the enormous eighteen-minute climax of “Kara-Oy” rivaling Moonsorrow in terms of sheer scope. While the length and depth of the tracks may put off casual listeners, those with a taste for Pagan sounding riffs and long narrative songs will be grinning from ear to ear throughout the duration of this beast.
Anyone who heard these guy's excellent release Epos knows that Darkestrah is a tight, complete band who have no shortage of highly catchy riffs and are just as comfortable rocketing along with dark Wolves In the Throne Room style blasting as they are pulling back the reigns for slower, more atmospheric sections. Vocalist Kriegtalith (who just happens to be female) narrates the songs perfectly with a ghostly sounding rasp, bringing to mind a lonely hermit residing on a hillside, commenting on the huge smoldering battlefield that lies before her. When the outfit does utilize acoustic folk passages, as in “The Great Silk Road” and “Cult Tengri,” they function merely as a means to build tension, gathering the listener’s anticipation for the epic riff-workouts to follow.
And I’m pleased to report that that’s ultimately what makes this album so great; the fucking riffage. This is usually a given in metal music, but I've found that many folk-oriented bands rely so heavily on aesthetic touches that the actual riffs can be lost in the shuffle. But this is where Darkestrah truly make their mark. The warlike stomp of the title track is immense, the emotional folk melodies of “Cult Tengri” are magnificent, and the sweeping dirge of “Inner Voice” is certain to bring Drudkh to mind with its driving beat and towering tremolo riffs, though the Middle-Eastern sounding keyboards are unique to this band. And it bears repeating that closer “Kara-Oy” is a monster of a track that really takes you breath away the first couple of times you hear it.
There’s already been a ton of great black metal this year, but The Great Silk Road manages to be a must-own album despite the stiff competition its faced in 2008. Darkestrah succeed in all the right ways here, from the atmosphere to the musicianship to the riff work, and it makes you wonder why these guys aren’t on the tips of every black metal fan’s tongues these days. Very impressive.
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