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DARKESTRAH

Experimental/Post Metal • Germany


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Darkestrah biography
DARKESTRAH are an experimental black metal act formed in 1999 in Germany. After releasing a couple of demos the band released their debut full-length studio album "Sary Oy" in 2004. Their second full-length release "Embrace of Memory" was released in 2005. In January 2007 DARKESTRAH released their third full-length studio album "Epos" which consists of one 33:33 minute long track. Their fourth full-length studio album "The Great Silk Road" was released in August 2008. DARKESTRAH play an epic and experimetal black metal style with folky elements. Their songs are often lengthy and progressive.

The inclusion of DARKESTRAH to the Prog Archives database was approved by the Progressive Metal Team.

( Biography written by UMUR)

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DARKESTRAH discography


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DARKESTRAH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.23 | 3 ratings
Sary Oy
2004
2.67 | 2 ratings
Embrace of Memory
2005
4.75 | 3 ratings
Epos
2007
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Great Silk Road
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Манас
2013
4.00 | 1 ratings
Turan
2016

DARKESTRAH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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0.00 | 0 ratings
Pagan Black Act
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Through the Ashes of the Shamanic Flames
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Way To Paganism
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Khagan
2011

DARKESTRAH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sary Oy by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.23 | 3 ratings

BUY
Sary Oy
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars While black metal has found its beginnings as primarily a European musical expression, it really didn't take long at all after the initial second wave explosion of the 90s to drift far and wide like a cloud of radioactive dust after an initial impact to blanket the entire globe. Bands like Kekal from Indonesia, Inquisition from Colombia, Shub Niggurath from Mexico, Taarma from Afghanistan and Deiphago from the Philippines have all experienced varying degrees of success on the world's stage but perhaps one of the most unusual of black metal bands to emerge was DARKESTRAH which came into existence in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, a nation even in the 21st century still remains off most people's radar.

DARKESTRAH, a portmanteau of dark and orchestra, was formed in 1999 by drummer Asbath in the capital city of Bishkek and released two demos "Pagan Black Act" and "Through the Ashes of the Shamanic Flames" before catching the attention of the German lane Curse of KvN Sadistic in 2003. The band would relocate to Leipzig, Germany and released its first album SARY OY in 2004 to critical acclaim in the underground world of black metal for its innovative mix of kvlt black metal sounds with the traditional folk music of Kyrgyzstan which implements the unique sounds of instruments such as the kyl-kyjak, a two-stringed upright bow instrument, the komuz which is an ancient fretless stringed instrument like the flute, the temir-komuz better known as a jew harp. In addition to the black metal raspy vocals set below the caustic din, the folky segments exhibit the sygyt which is a form of Central Asian throat singing.

Most similar to Romania's Negura Bunget for its homegrown ethnic flavors seeping into the fabric of black metal, DARKESTRAH sounds like no other because the Central Asian folk sounds are in a world of their own and are quite effective in conjunct with the black metal bombast. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of DARKESTRAH is how the band adds highly complex progressive elements which include unorthodox time signature shifts, lengthy sprawling compositions that go through a series of changes as the three tracks narrate the concept of an ancient Kyrgyz tale about three sisters of nature. It's also notable that lead vocalist Kriegtalith is female although in extreme metal gender specific vocal styles are indistinguishable. With only three tracks that make up a full album's worth, DARKESTRAH crafts its compositions like classical scores with various movements.

The first two tacks hover around the 11 minute mark. "Part I - Sary Oy" emulates the wind swept Central Asian lands and introduces the Pagan themes with homegrown instruments that slowly evoke the atmospheric elements and the spirit of the land before the black metal erupts into full fury. While the mix is impressive the one weakness of the album becomes clear from the getgo and that is the rather amateurish mixing job of the keyboards and other elements. While not horrific, it's clear that this band was still learning how to craft an epic sounding album. The second track "Part II - Jashii Oy" is the odd song of the bunch as it introduces a rather frenetic time signature rich guitar sequence that reminds me a bit of John Frusciante's guitar parts in the Red Hot Chili Peppers' hit "Snow" only this has a keyboard taking the spotlight. The track drifts on in a groovy electronic mode for six minutes before hitting its stride in metal turf. This second track is entirely instrumental.

The most epic track is the closing "Part III - Kysil Oy" which at nearly 26 minutes swallows up 2/3 of the entire album's run. This track is also the most progressive as it drifts in and out of varying motifs that begins with the ambient sounds of howling winds accompanied by traditional Kyrgyz instruments but then around three minutes the black metal guitars kick in only is a drifting sort of sustained chord sorta way until it ramps up into a fast tempo fury accompanied by some keyboards that unfortunately sound a bit cheesy due to the mixing inadequacies however this sequence also delivers some of the most progressive constructs of the whole album with labyrinthine proggy workouts at breakneck speed. A piano sequence remnant of the previous track briefly kicks in at nine minutes or so before around ten minutes all the bombast drops out and it becomes an ambient track for several minutes. The rest of the running time sounds more like a church organ rich ritual along with a more demented version of Philip Glass around the "Glassworks" and "Koyaanisqatsi" era.

SARY OY has been a decisive album for sure as it will not appeal to black metal purists for its lengthy excursions completely out of the metal realms however for those interested in amazingly original experimental and progressive music then DARKESTRAH delivers all the goods on this one. The only pitfall with this debut album is the production and mixing job which are not horrible by an means but there are moments, most notably the keyboard oriented ones that things just don't sound as tight knit as they should. If you base your musical happiness on production then this will most likely disappoint but if you can forgive the inexperience and focus on the music itself then this one is completely satisfying on many levels. Steeped in Western classical undercurrents and decorated with ethnic flavors and black metal bombast, SARY OY is quite the satisfying experience of experimental Pagan black metal emerging from one of the most off the radar regions of the planet. Blackened folklore metal rarely sounds this sophisticated and DARKESTRAH found a way to stand out from the very start.

 Epos by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.75 | 3 ratings

BUY
Epos
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

5 stars Kyrgyz-German black metal band Darkestrah took a huge risk with their third album by making it a single track. Granted, that single track is thirty-three and a half minutes long, so they've in good progressive rock company here, but it's a risk that could backfire tremendously if the song turned out to be boring. Fortunately, that proves not to have been the case.

The album opens with samples of waves, which is a bit clichéd but works nicely to set up the atmosphere of the album. After a few minutes of this, some black metal riffs begin to fade in before the full band starts to play. The album utilises a cello, which is excellent (my only complaint is that I wish we could hear more of it), and the vocals of Kriegtalith deserve mention here as well. It's pretty unusual to hear female black metal vocals, and she is one of the best female black metal vocalists I've ever heard. Her vocals give the music a distinctive flavour that helps their music stand out from the crowd.

Lengthy passages of this album are completely instrumental, though. About halfway there's a break for thunder and rain sound effects, and then an acoustic guitar builds a riff that the band then constructs a Kyrgyz folk-flavoured black metal passage over. No other black metal band that I'm aware of has ever crossed these disparate elements in their music, and Darkestrah here are better at it than they've ever been. The passage builds in intensity in true post-rock style until the melody shifts again and Kriegtalith's vocals come back in shortly thereafter. The musical shifts are done intelligently; it doesn't feel like a collection of songs that the band stitched together, but rather one very consciously composed opus. A few shifts later (one of which brings in the lovely cello again) we get another acoustic passage which works fantastically before introducing a new black metal theme.

After a few more shifts the album eventually recapitulates the original theme with some beautiful clean singing in what sounds like Arabic or a Central Asian language (my ear for these is not terribly great). The album closes off with wave sounds again, as I suspect not much else would have provided appropriate closure to the album. With the sound effects, we really have only slightly under thirty minutes of music here, but what's here is of such high quality that I don't expect many listeners to mind. This album is an unqualified masterpiece and fans of post-black metal and folk metal are strongly urged to check it out.

 Embrace of Memory by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2005
2.67 | 2 ratings

BUY
Embrace of Memory
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

4 stars Compared to their first and third albums, Embrace of Memory comes across as being a bit musically regressive. It's pretty clearly the band's tribute to the Norwegian second wave of black metal, and it does an admirable job capturing the inhumanly cold atmosphere the best of those bands managed. The album isn't completely comprised of straight-ahead blasting; several songs (particularly the lengthier ones like "Akyr Zaman" and "Primitive Dance") have substantial dynamic shifts throughout their running time, and the album incorporates instruments like violins and various Kyrgyz folk instruments at various times.

However, this is first and foremost a black metal album. It has the atmosphere of old-school black metal and many of the songs have the structure of old-school black metal. It also has the filthy production of the genre; the drum performance is superb, but the bass-heavy drum mix means that it's frequently difficult to hear the bass player at all (though this is nothing new for black metal). It's a solid example of what it is, but whether a listener will enjoy it depends entirely on whether they enjoy old-school black metal. If you like old-school Enslaved, old-school Satyricon, old-school Emperor, and other bands of that nature, this is for you.

 Sary Oy by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.23 | 3 ratings

BUY
Sary Oy
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

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.

 Embrace of Memory by DARKESTRAH album cover Studio Album, 2005
2.67 | 2 ratings

BUY
Embrace of Memory
Darkestrah Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

2 stars This collection of tracks by German act Darkestrah seems to be an attempt to capture that vibe that was abundant from around 1993 to 1995 in Norway. It's typical black metal with some keyboards and a little bit of orchestral sounds & an occasional guest cello; more adventurous than the primitive garage & basement brand of black metal, but certainly no more exploratory than what many groups such as Emperor, Enslaved and Satyricon were doing back then. Probably the most interesting aspect of this group is that the vocalist is female, although her "alley cats fighting" shriek possesses little variation in tone and emotion. She's basically just not in a good mood.

The music isn't particularly complex or technical, with lots of simple riffing and tremolo picking, although on a few occasions there are a few nice melodic guitar passages overlaying the general din. The drums are decent and sometimes creative, and the listener understands this because they are the dominant instrument production-wise. This actually has a negative effect on the music, as much of the guitar chord patterns are muffled and absorbed by abundant double bass drum pounding thanks to some odd mixing choices and too much reverb in general. The bass drum seems to provide the "bass" in general since it's difficult to decipher if a bass guitarist is even present. The sudden moments of cello and softer sequences offer a bit of relief and variety, plus the songs have enough varying tempos so as not to be merely a blur of blastbeats, which actually aren't the prominent velocity levels of most of these songs. There's a bit of folkish touches here and there as well, but these elements are never a focal point and tend to feel like quick little breathers between the walls of sound.

Granted, the band is pretty much a black metal act, complete with each band member possessing a demonic sounding one word alias and corpse-paint. Combined with a creepy album cover and a bizarre band logo, this sort of thing would be sure to terrify soccer moms everywhere who think Norah Jones sold her soul to the devil when she released The Fall, but to fans of progressive rock and metal, this doesn't really have much to offer as far as anything particularly inventive (the song I remember most is the final track since it sounded quite similar to the opening main track but with three minutes of campfire sounds tacked on at the song's end) or unique. I will give the band at least a little credit for being influenced by the age of black metal when many of the groups were branching out to incorporate a few aspects of other genres into their overall sound to add atmosphere to their work, before it became uncool when certain more polished acts achieved some level of fame in the late 90s. Unfortunately, other than that, I can't really recommend this, certainly for those looking for proggish metal, but reading that Epos seems to be much more of a progressive work, I may give that album a shot at some point.

Thanks to UMUR for the artist addition.

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