Darkher Realms Cover 2016When you think about the month of August, what does your mind conjure up? Afternoon swims in your background pool? Grilling your favorite killed prey on the barbecue with an ice-cold beer clutched in one hand? Unbearably hot heat waves? Whatever it is, I’m sure you are not thinking of one-person doom metal, and yet I am seemingly bombarded with just that this year. Earlier this month, Spirit Adrift impressed me with their (err, his) debut, and now singer/guitarist/songwriter Jayn H. Wissenberg, aka Darkher, is throwing her gauntlet into that particular ring with her debut full-length, Realms.

Many of you will dispute whether Realms can easily classify as a doom metal record, as there are also whiffs of Portishead and slight tinges of folk here. What’s not in dispute is just how well this album is put together. Plainly put, I’m having a difficult time putting Realms down long enough to write this review. After an ambient opening, “Hollow Veil” gently lulls the listener into a My Dying Bride-like crawl, with Wissenberg’s quivering voice recalling both Beth Gibbons (Portishead) and Loreena McKennitt. In fact, that latter comparison holds firm throughout Realms, as Wissenberg’s haunting voice easily matches McKennitt’s ethereal wails. With ambient guitar effects supplied by Wissenberg’s husband Martin and simple-yet-effective drumming by Shaun Taylor-Steels (Vestige of Virtue, ex-Anathema/My Dying Bride), “Hollow Veil” sets up Realms for a beautifully eerie jaunt for the next 38 minutes.

One thing to note is just how bare the songwriting is on Realms. Wissenberg paid careful attention to the songs’ construction,  allowing the songs to breathe and take lives of their own. “Moths” features just a lone acoustic guitar sparsely plucked, allowing her alluring voice to carry the song to its somber end. “The Dawn Brings A Saviour” follows the same blueprint, except this time with a fuzzed-out guitar humming and generating feedback from behind, as if to signal a soul’s flame extinquishing. Darkher coats Realms with breathtaking moments, but it’s the closing one-two punch of “Foregone” and “Lament” that lingers far after the album’s expiration. The former sensually saunters forth like a jilted lover, intensifying with Wissenberg’s wails during the second chorus and Taylor-Steels’ progressively heavier drumming towards the finale. “Lament,” in comparison, fades in with a beautiful guitar melody, soothes with Wissenberg’s voice, and builds to an emotional climax with her wails and cries fading back out, laying the album and the listener to rest. Emotional and draining, in the absolute best possible way imaginable.

Darkher Band 2016
Produced by Jayn Wissenberg, there is little to find fault here. My complaint is that some of the drums sound just a bit flat here and there, and there are some noticeable moments when the electric guitar sounds a little fried (“Foregone” being a prime example). Mind you, that’s the only fault I can find with this album, as Realms stuns from beginning to end. The songs don’t overstay their welcome, the run-time is perfect, and there’s not a single clunker to be found. In fact, I’m listening to “Lament” for the eighth time today as I type this. Don’t be surprised if this song ends up as my Song o’ the Year winner come year’s end.

Much like Myrkur and Sylvaine before her, Darkher staked her claim as a force to be reckoned with in doom metal. Realms, with its ethereal songwriting and emotional singing, impacted me like few other doom metal releases this year. If she continues to grow with her songwriting, I see a long, fruitful future for her. As such, Realms is a great launchpad. Color me impressed.

 


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: darkher-uk.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/DARKHERMUSIC
Releases Worldwide: August 19th, 2016

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  • GardensTale

    You know, doom metal is probably one of my least-favorite metal genres, and one of the only ones that does not have any representatives in my playlist. But with such a spirited review I feel like I should give this a try anyway.

    • Grymm

      I was hunting for a quality version of “Lament”, but “Wars” is also a great indicator of how great Realms is.

    • sir_c

      Problem with doom is that if it’s badly executed, it not only sounds bad, but also is utterly boring.
      However, if you do find a gem, it goes straight through the roof.

      It requires a lot of skill to make slow, repetitive music sound interesting and original.

  • Dethjesta

    I think I can explain why August is the Doom month (at least in this album’s case), because this is a British album. We don’t have backyard swimming pools (unless you are super-duper rich). We like barbecues (but usually have them in the rain). We often drink warm beer/ale. We generally get drizzle rather than heat waves and absolutely love to complain about the weather (it’s always too hot/cold/wet/etc).

    If feel that this demeanor fits Doom Metal rather well.

    Also, I love the sound of this album from the review/embedded track. Think I’m looking at a must purchase next weekend (oooh look, rain is forecast).

  • Luke_22

    Nice find Grymm this sounds great based on your review and the embedded song. It’s a pretty mild winter in my neck of the woods at the moment but the melancholic vibe fits the mood well.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    In many ways, this style feels like the next natural step on the doom train. The crunchy, more melodic stuff like Pallbearer and the aforementioned Spirit Adrift are quality material, but when I think of doom, I think of MDB on lonely train rides on a chilly, gloomy day. This feels like exactly the type of spin that I’d reach for on a similar day.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Ohhh I get it, Dark-her, because it is a female!

    This sounds terrific so far.

    • sir_c

      Ain’t that an euphemism for PMS?

  • Really looking forward to this one.

  • lennymccall

    Bought the Spirit Adrift today, love it! I’ll check this out but I’m curious, are we not mentioning Chelsea Wolfe now for some reason?
    Last live set I saw her do (2015) was insanely heavy. Full band, it was totally a doom show.

    • Feytalist

      My first thought when listening to this was Chelsea Wolfe.

      This is, quite simply, stunning.

    • Grymm

      I need to get on the Chelsea Wolfe bandwagon. I have no excuse not to.

      • lennymccall

        Yeah sorry to be that guy it just seemed weird to not mention in this context. I don’t listen to her all the time, it takes a certain mood. But oh man her live shows are astounding!!

      • Ferrous Beuller

        Check out Abyss for a pretty good analogue to this. It’s good stuff, man.

      • Aydn

        I’ve seen her twice, both shows in my top 5 all time. Abyss was superb, but I think my favourite of hers is Apokalypsis. Her acoustic collection is a really cool listen too

    • Ivan Kuptsov

      I was surprised that she was not mentioned in this review…

  • herrschobel

    yeah..this is good !

    *EDIT very very good actually

  • Huck N’ Roll

    The embedded track bends me over and calls me Judy. Great review, Grymm, good comparisons to McKennitt and Gibbons. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the record!

  • ricin_beans

    Dammit AMG I was just telling myself “no more new music until I digest all the stuff I have” and now this!

    • basenjibrian

      LOL. It is just so very, very easy to be bored at work while reviewing environmental impact documents and to find one’s fingers hovering over the bandcamp or iTunes website. One click…the bank account is just a little bit more drained.

    • Fuzzybunny

      This site is becoming more of a problem to my bank account than I like.

      • Innit Bartender

        It’s been that way for years for me!!!

  • Westpaceagle

    Sounds nice, but…is…it…metal? (prepares for wrath)

    • Grymm

      BUT WILL… IT… BLEND?!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    A drummer, a husband supplying guitar effects… how is this a one man band?

    • Grymm

      It’s written and produced solely by Jayn. Her husband and Shaun are hired, so to speak. Kinda like with Myrkur and her albums.

  • Meat Tornado

    Excellent stuff. Best thing reviewed in awhile honestly.

  • madhare

    Is this some conspiracy?! Yet another one-person doom record that I have to buy. Damn you… no, thank you! Okay, both!

    • [not a Dr]

      Exactly what I was saying…

  • Wilhelm

    You got me at Portishead, My Dying Bride, and Loreena Mckennitt …this sounds really good, I just wish the percussion was a bit more dynamic but maybe it is – I definitely need to check out the rest of the album.

  • Hulksteraus

    There goes some more money…

  • Adjudant

    Hardly metal…

    • miradautasvras

      Your opinion , but the closing minutes of the song embedded here have riffs and atmosphere beating almost anything I have heard in metal / whatever in last few years. Most things deemed great here at AMG leave me cold as does majority of music I listen to. This is that rare gem where I got sold immediately; hasn’t happened in a looooong time!

  • RobbinBri

    This makes me miss Dark Sanctuary. :(

  • Jm from nj

    Definitely like it, but seems to have a Chelsea Wolfe vibe (see: Abyss), who I love. This is heavier than Wolfe, but Abyss had some pretty doomy stuff.

  • Pedro Morini Mietto

    Very beautiful music indeed, I’m digging it a lot. Nevertheless, I think this could greatly benefit from a more dynamic songwriting.

  • jamai36

    Haven’t seen it mentioned but she does sound quite a bit like Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes – the mood of the music isn’t even entirely different at times either.

    Bat For Lashes – Two Planets

  • miradautasvras

    What a treat! This song and a few more I sampled on youtube after reading this, have that haunted feel so rarely found in music. It reminded me of Giant Squid’s Mormon Island.

  • robpal

    Just gave it the first spin. If I hadn’t known before, I’d say it’s a new Chelsea Wolfe album. Which is the best quality stamp such album can get.