Darkestrah Nomad

Darkestrah - Nomad


With their distinct sonic palette highly recognizable, Darkestrah releases an album 25 years after their inception that does the impossible as it seems to surpass their previous impeccable full-length albums.

Darkestrah originated in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, but settled down in Germany. After a couple of demos, the band came out at full flare with their first full-length Sary Oy in 2004. The album showed that the musical heritage and folklore from their home country was (and is) an important part of their take on Black Metal. Then throughout the next decade, they continued to drop one flawless full-length album after another and also dropped some EPs of high musical quality. After a hiatus of eight years, they are back now, honing their exceptional musical style on their new full-length.

Not a complete hiatus though, they popped up in 2021 releasing an EP, Chong Aryk showing they still had it in them. Since they formed the band in 1999 there have been changes in the line-up, but the musical visionaries and their distinct trademarks are here in full force. The engrossing melodic themes keep you captured with how they are orchestrated, heavy tremolo and arpeggio riffs, the temir komuz (jaw harp), the strong clear female vocals, throat singing, traditional Central Asian acoustic instruments, and the ever-undulating riffing music with subtle shifts in the flow. Every note of the music is deeply immersed in pagan nomadic pre-Islamic Kyrgyz and the history that it stems from.

This way, they bring Eastern musical folklore, shamanism, and paganism to a Black Metal scene that is very Eurocentric. They have always done that and are in good company with acts like Vallendusk, although on a partially different musical scope. Darkestrah´s music is rooted in Black Metal with all the genre’s harsh aggressiveness and blast drums, rumbling bass, arpeggios and snarling growls. The epic, sometimes cinematic sense of the music, is made up by the prolonged riffs paired with synths in both choral and string mode often harmonized with shamanic chants from clear female vocals rising in the layers of the music. This also purveys the impression that this music is also inspired by ancient traditions of living close to and in harmony with nature.

The short opening track, “Journey Through Blue Nothingness” sets the tone and transfers you to the vast plains of bygone times when humanity lived close to nature. Dark ambient sounds emerge behind acoustic string instruments. The sinister rumbling is fading out while a melodic theme is vocalized by throat singing. The wind begins to blow across the plain and widens below the throat singing as distant voices are heard.

This first song is like an overture to the next four songs that are clocking in between eight and ten minutes. These long songs, as usual, make Darkestrah able to develop and elaborate on their musical themes. Every song has its captive musical theme that rings in your ears long after you have listened to them. They sound familiar, but that is just because they are so catchy, to say it bluntly.

We are drawn into the familiar sonics from the dense riffing and heaving guitars on ”Kök-Oy” and the subtle, almost elusive shifts within the music. There soon emerges sublime melodies formed in the flow of music supporting hoarse angry screams. There are some nice changes in this song as it sometimes pans out, just to tighten into blast mode. It streams forward at a high melodic pace as it traverses with strong female vocals rising singing a melodic theme that will to the listener be unforgettable. It is sung with an engaging power and emotion while dipping deep into the folklore that this music is inspired by. The clean and the growling vocals vary their take on the leading part in the closely woven song. Then the music tightens even more, tremolos and arpeggios float forward, there is a burst of throat singing and the screaming hoarse vocals take over as the melodic theme pushes forward.

Compared to the previous song, although just as engaging, ”Nomad” is immersed in darker sonics and filled with traditional instruments and vocalizing. You are brought back to ancient times when horse hooves and squeals open the track, not at least when the temir komuz joins the track that gallops towards the coming musical that seems taken straight from the well of folklore songs from ancient Central Asian culture. There is a wonderful shift in the flow of music when it pans out and synths in violin mode form another unforgettable melodic theme with the temir komuz and the strong female shamanic chanting emerges and is joined by triumphant male shouts.

The triumphant album continues to delight with ”Destroyer of Obstacles” that opens with walking horses accompanied by synth violins, string instruments, and an angry female voice before the hard and heavy riffs in blastbeat mode. When the synths tuned to orchestrated violin become prominent in the song, it is a strong nod to melodic Symphonic Black Metal until it pans out and acoustic string instruments appear immersed in the heavy sounds as the melodic lines spread out. The harmonic female vocals that also appeared earlier in the song are back, but now shift between clean and growls spitting out anger as the music tightens. It is immensely well done.

On ”Quest for the Soul” the synths are used to create extra ambience to the undulating riffs. And somewhere in the song, it turns into what seems to be a swirling organ that drowns out, overtaken by heavy tremolo riffs. The music morphs into violins supporting the flow and in part a choral begins to soar above the dense music as the drums hammer along together with the bass. ”The Dream of Kojojash” is shorter than the previous track and based on an epic archaic story that has been orally delivered through Kyrgyz history. The song has a slower pace than the previous ones with snarling growls pushing the song forward and acoustic string instruments appearing to lighten the dark music.

The coda of the album is ”A Dream That Omens Death”. It is a short ambient coda to an amazing album with heavy throat singing and a bell with dark sonics accompanying a shaman chanting.