Sometimes an album hits you just right and the only words that really seem to fit are “convincing, authentic and WOW.” That’s exactly what happened to me upon spinning Darkest Era‘s latest opus Severance. Though this Irish epic metal act was hitherto unknown to me, their cunning mixture of Primordial, doom and black metal instantly knocked me for a loop and now I’m a loyal convert to the cause (read as fanboy). Somber, passionate, dramatic and moving, the music is loaded with rich emotions and though it has deep roots in doom and epic metal, it isn’t slow or boring due to the accelerated tempos and frequent injections of blackened riffing. It’s a tough sound to describe, but if you imagine Primordial‘s To the Nameless Dead and Atlantean Kodex in a head on collision, with Immortal hovering around the wreckage making funny faces and wrestling poses, then you’re on the right track, and what a track it is! This one is something special, folks.
As soon as opener “Sorrow’s Boundless Realm” gets going, you know something good is afoot. Acoustic strumming quickly gives way to big, burly doom riffing, which in turn is swapped out for blackened thrash chaos before Krum’s powerful and commanding vocals seize control and lead you into a huge chorus. There’s a Primordial vibe to the music and Krum does at times channel the manly rasp of A. A. Nemtheanga, but they take that sound to new and interesting places more closely aligned to epic doom. As openers go, it doesn’t get much better than this and it’s a dead ringer for Best Song of 2014.
The big hits just keep tumbling down from Valhalla, with the odd combination of battle hymn, folk song and drinking anthem that is “Songs of Gods and Men,” the Thin Lizzy meets Slough Feg and Argus badassery of “The Serpent and the Shadow,” and the rich melancholy of “Beyond the Grey Veil.” Another big standout is “Trapped in the Hourglass,” which mixes chest thumping epic metal, Maiden-ish gallops and Immortal-esque riffing lifted right from “Tyrant.” The way they blend these disparate styles so seamlessly is nothing short of stunning.
Not a moment feels unnecessary and nary a trace of filler can be found. Even the lengthy closer “Blood, Sand and Stone” impresses with its martial energy, somber moods and stirring vocal work. At a crisp 44 minutes, this is one of the rare albums I wish was longer because it’s just that good.
While you can easily play pinpoint the influences with the riffing, the nods to Maiden and Thin Lizzy sit alongside heavy doses of blackened riffery, and it’s that dichotomy that really sets their sound apart. The material also manages to retain that oddly distinctive “Celtic sound” without resorting to tin whistles or other common tropes. Even the Primordial vibe is generally understated and no one will walk away thinking Darkest Era is a clone or homage band.
The riffing may be key, but it’s Krum’s vocal performance that seals the deal and makes Severance such a revelation. The man has pipes, but doesn’t over sing. He delivers emotional moments without seeming overdramatic and most importantly, he sounds fucking good! His tone and timber is righteous and drop dead perfect for this kind of large scale music. In short, he rules, especially on the choruses.
As a bitter, jaded reviewer who lives to bitch about anything and everything, I kept digging for faults and shortcomings, and aside from an average production, there isn’t much here to complain about. Classy, compelling and catchy from start to finish, Severance is a shiny jewel in the yearly mulch pile of metal. A big frontrunner for Album of the Year, you miss it at your peril and eternal shame (and the same goes for their debut The Last Caress of Light). Find this.