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Darkestrah - Sary Oy CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.31 | 4 ratings

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5 stars There aren't too many well-known metal bands from Kyrgyzstan. I can only think of Darkestrah (they've since relocated to Germany, but their core membership for most of their existence was originally from Kyrgyzstan). Their debut full-length is an intriguing slab of folk-influenced progressive/post-black metal that features a surprising amount of musical variety given the genre's reputation for monotony. The music is extremely dynamic; the band have obviously listened to a lot of post-rock and have learned lessons from it.

The album, which runs for nearly forty-eight minutes, consists only of three tracks, the shortest of which, the instrumental "Jashil Oy", is still nearly eleven minutes in length. The album is apparently a concept album about three sisters; I don't know that much about it, apart from that it comes from pre-Islamic Kyrgyz myth. The band seems to be aligned with Tengrism, a form of Central Asian paganism, so it's probably not surprising. I don't usually do track-by-track reviews, but since there are only three songs here it's almost mandatory.

The opening song, which also serves as the album's title track, opens in a suitably dramatic fashion, sounding a bit like a spaghetti western soundtrack as filtered through the lens of black metal. All three of the songs have a fairly serene opening that eventually builds in intensity until the black metal parts come in. It's a bit of a formula, but it works, and why mess with it?

"Jashil Oy" is actually almost bouncy for a lot of its running time. The song uses some strange metre signature (I think it's alternating 7/4 and 8/4) for the majority of its length, which is built around a clean electric guitar riff that is surprisingly catchy. The obligatory black metal section is still less intense than is usual for the genre thanks to the lack of vocals on the song; the band uses a mouth harp to add the obligatory ethnic atmosphere. If you're not sure about black metal, start with this track.

"Kysil Oy" closes the album out on a truly epic scope. At twenty-five and a half minutes in length, it's practically the "Close to the Edge" of black metal, and I'm not just saying that because it's long. The song is heavily based around a church organ, which helps give the song one of the most dramatic build-ups in the history of the genre. The song also recapitulates a theme from the first track to give the whole album a coherence it might otherwise have lacked. It's the standout track here and if anyone reading this is inclined to listen to only one song from this album, it should be this one (unless, as mentioned above, you're not sure about black metal).

If the album has a significant flaw, it's the erratic production. It's to be expected that a then-obscure black metal band recording its first album would have amateurish production, but the upper frequency presence is pretty weak throughout the album, as if some of the instrument tracks were mixed from MP3 files, and the first two songs are examples of "loudness war" clipped masters, with the first being painfully so. What's odd is that the third song, which takes up more than half the album's running time, is completely free from any dynamic range compression shenanigans whatsoever. The difference is immediately noticeable, and kind of jarring given how loud the first two songs are in comparison.

I can't mention the band without noting the performance of their original vocalist, Kriegtalith, who performed on all the band's releases through 2014, when she left. There aren't too many female vocalists in black metal, and she performs a mixture of the traditional shrieks of the genre with some strange kind of throat singing that I can't exactly describe. It's strange, but it works with the music.

This release won't be for everyone, but fans of adventurous post-metal and black metal should definitely check it out. It's a unique and almost consistently fascinating album. I also strongly recommend their 2007 effort Epos.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |


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