Pick Your Rock and Metal

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Northern Ireland's answer to Amon Amarth

ARE Darkest Era Northern Ireland's answer to Amon Amarth? Now before you raise a steeply arched eyebrow at such a bold claim, hold on to your cup of ale, still that whiskey that was about to caress your lips with its golden bite, and draw closer to where an ancient fire burns...

Amon Amarth draw deepy from the well of ancient Scandanavian culture, using the past and present influences. Before 'With Odin on Our Side' they were struggling to break out of the niche media and audiences. All that has changed and now they are an international metal force, still with their roots in the fjords and dim winter nights.

In Ireland, north and south, bands have became comfortable expressing their gaelic roots (and for pedants Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster led the resurgence on the Gael influence long before it was politicised thanks to dissenter presbyterianism). Perhaps it is the peace process that has led this comfortable expression of Irish culture in metal. Perhaps it is because all true rock and metal sees religion and sectarianism as interruptions to drinking time. Perhaps it is because Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher led the way...

The crop of bands with a tint of the Celtic culture in their metal is growing ever stronger, from Primordial and Waylander through to the likes of Mael Mordha, who kept proceedings going last night in Belfast's Limelight after opener Celtachor.

As co-headliners, Mael Mordha entertained with their tin whistle take on journeys through misty swamps and dark journeys, where the gods and goddesses of ancient Ireland bring forth an air of menace and an air of joy in proceedings. A surpride Bathory cover of Vinterblot off a forthcoming tribute CD raised the proverbial horns.

Amon Amarth claimed in their song Cry of the Blackbirds that they had routed the Irish, but bemoaned the fact that the king of the Irish had slipped away before total victory. Well the kings and queens of the Celts have risen from the mystical lochs and byways of Enniskillen, where tales of far off times seem all too close as the tendrils of fog slip across the land of bogs; where a misstep can leave you in a place where ancient, vengeful princesses await the unwary traveller...

From this land emerge Darkest Era, a land where you can be just one step away from a Heathen Burial.

Recently back from a piratical cruise with the Alestorm rogues, a journey described pre-show by vocalist Krum as both "scary and exciting"; the experience has tightened the Darkest Era set and performance.

The interrlinked work across the rhythm section of Lisa and Dave nails down a landscape that allows Ade and Sarah to punch out the celtic chords and runs that emerge like Lizzy's Emerald on steroids.

With the Last Caress of Light album to the fore, Krum is ever more confident taking the audience on the lyrical journey, where a matriarchical ancient culture kept the dreams alive of re-birth.

Standing out  in the set were An Ancient Fire Burns and title track The Last Caress of Light Before the Dark. But there can be no doubt that set closer and album opener The Morrigan rose head and shoulders before many a Celtic contender. As for the Vikings, they'd really stand no chance if there was to be a re-match.

Is it then a bold assertion to compare Darkest Era with Amon Amarth? Amarth are still to approach the zenith of their career. They are on a climb. Darkest Era? Their still down the slopes, but any realistic observer will see that the upper slopes may still be a way off, but the rumbles and stirrings are shaking the Trolls from their dark Scandanavian slumber, and the Trolls are shaking lest they have To Face The Black tide that surely must be the rightful ascent of Darkest Era.

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