Crom – The Era of Darkness Review

CROM! I have not heard from you these many long years. I was completely blown away by 2008s Vengeance with its slick blend of epic Bathory-isms and power metal leanings, and I pledged my sword to your service. I was, however, somewhat disillusioned by 2011s Of Love and Death and its dialed-down might and majesty. I confess to being a lowly heretic and completely missing the gospel of the 2017 followup, and I need to make amends for my unholy ignorance. Now we come to the rather unexpected release of the fourth testament to all things Wotan, warrior-esque and wengeancy, The Era of Darkness. No longer a one-man project by mastermind, “Crom,” the latest is the work of a full band and the music benefits from the additional support. What brings great joy to the heart of Steel is how much The Era sounds like a throwback to the Vengeance days. Imagine Hammerheart-era Bathory and Tyr mixed with early Sonata Arctica and you have an idea what to expect. If you think that alchemy couldn’t work, you’d be dead wrong. When Crom hits their groove you get powerful, uber-catchy odes to sword and axe craft, and you will want to build a shrine to it. How much shrine building will their latest inspire? Let’s count the spires.

Crom have a very specific style and sound, and when they get everything right, you get righteous metal. This they deliver on opener “Into the Glory Land” which is, for lack of a better word, glorious. It’s a classic metal nugget with an epic sheen and effective clean vocals which aren’t far from Tyr but also tread into Tony Kakko territory. The hooks bite deep and the chorus is very memorable. This is the kind of thing that got me worshipping Crom in the first place and I’ve missed it muchly. The front half of The Era is replete with songs like this, full of heroic tales painted in grand scale. “Heart of a Lion” has some charming Maiden-isms amongst the grandiose moments, and the very Tyr-like “Together We Ride” is a chest-thumping call to arms to bring out your inner Spartan.

There are no bad songs present, but the album is on the long side at 57 minutes, and the front two-thirds are much more castle-storming than the remainder. “Bridge to Paradise” is upbeat but feels a bit more cheesy than its stoic compatriots, and though I enjoy “A New Star,” it’s like a Viking power ballad and it cools the fighting spirit. Closer “The Last Unicorn” doesn’t do much to resurrect it either, and the lyrics are cringe-inducing. Cut 2-3 tracks off the album and you end up with a nonstop codswallop of Manometal for the chest plate set.

As on past outings, all of this is the brainchild of Walter “Crom” Grosse and he handles vocals, guitar and bass. His voice has a warm, soothing quality to it and he’s able to swing between harsh vocals and clean singing with little effort. He’s not exactly a master vocalist but he knows what he can and can’t do and limits himself accordingly. I wish he used his extreme vocals more though, as they are mostly limited to the title track. Guitar-wise, Crom and Stefan Peyerl do a good job crafting a blend of traditional, epic, folk, and Viking leads and flourishes and they decorate the songs with some very tasteful playing. There are times they evoke the memory of SIG:AR:TYR, and that is a very good thing.

If you love what Tyr do, The Era of Darkness should go down like fine hobo wine after a long day in the office stress dumpster. This is a notable improvement over Of Love and Death, though they still hit a wall due to length and a few overly sedate cuts. I have a big soft spot for Crom, and I’m thrilled they’re back with a quality album. The Era of Darkness is well worth your time, so gird those holiday-expanded loins and squeeze your fat ass into last year’s armor. And if you do not listen, then to Hell with you!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: From the Vaults
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 13th, 2023

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