Darkestrah - _Epos_
(No Colours Records, 2007)
by: James Montague (8.5 out of 10)
Formerly known as "that black metal band from Kyrgyzstan", the official web page sees Darkestrah distancing themselves from potential gimmick hunters by explicitly associating themselves with their country of residence, Germany. However, their music has always celebrated their origins, expansive usage of traditional instruments and shamanistic lyrical themes leaving no doubt as to the reverence they feel towards their spiritual and ethnic roots.

With this, their third full-length release, Darkestrah apply their unique form of Central Asian paganism in ever more ingenious ways. The album consists of just a single 33-minute song dedicated to the Kyrgyz lake Issyk-Kul, source of many legendary underwater cities that inspire the lyrics. The lake is also reputed to be the source of the Black Death due to its location on the Silk Road, though this possibility is excluded from the lyrical content despite its inherent scene cred. The music vividly portrays the chosen subject matter, the legends rising from the tranquility of the lake on distant guitar waves, building to a frenzy of black metal riffing and settling into an epic vastness before subsiding beneath the surface. A storm ensues and the shamans gather to summon forth the lost empire; a forlorn cello evokes the ancient spirits, and the majesty is restored on soaring melodies as the shamans chant in reverence.

Aside from its immaculately constructed storyline, the song beautifully conveys the natural splendour of Issyk-Kul, a lake that never freezes despite its location amidst snow-covered mountain peaks. The crystalline guitar riffs soar upwards like sheer cliffs of ice, while the cello and subtle synth provide a warm undercurrent. The comfort provided in this otherwise hostile and forbidding environment is heard in the music and helps the listener engage in the spiritual importance of the place.

_Epos_ shows Darkestrah at their peak of maturity and musical substance, and is just about the perfect black metal song. The only criticism I can level at it as an album is a slight sense of incompleteness: when Kriegtalith (who, incidentally, is a female vocalist, like the one from Chinese label mates Be Persecuted) brings matters to a close with a stunning shamanic chant, it feels like she is heralding a second chapter that never materializes. I can't help but think the album needed a part two that would draw it to a satisfying conclusion. However, the brevity of _Epos_ should serve as no deterrent for those wanting to hear black metal perfected and enhanced with genuine spirituality and exoticism.

Contact: http://www.darkestrah.vze.com

(article published 4/8/2007)

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