Darkest Era – Wither on the Vine Review

Talk about making fans wait for a new album. Way, way back in 2014 I was gobsmacked by Severance, the sophomore release by Irish epic doom act Darkest Era. It had a near-perfect blend of doom, black, goth and Viking genres and felt like a heavy-duty emotional journey through dark, trying times. It stitched together the best parts of Primordial, Atlantean Kodex, Ereb Altor, and Iron Maiden to create an album grander than the sum of its parts. There was a brooding, melancholic beauty and power to it that few albums could equal. I was very anxious to get a followup, and nearly 8 long years later, it finally shows up. Wither on the Vine finds Darkest Era where we left them, still toying with their mixture of genres and striving to create epic moments full of emotion and weight. This one feels a bit lighter and more open than Severance but all the same elements are present. Did these last eight years give the band time to devise a way to top Severance?

Not exactly, but Wither on the Vine is another powerhouse release loaded with stellar songs and sweeping epic flair. With the entire Severance lineup still intact, Darkest Era wastes no time bringing down the doom hammer as “One Thousand Years of Night” heaves into action. Melancholic guitars trill and toll and frontman Krum’s booming voice sounds as good as ever, effortlessly conveying emotion and despair as only the best doom vocalists can. The song has a rich and downtrodden mood and the Primordial and Ereb Altor vibes still pulse through the slightly blackened guitar phrasing. It sounds larger-than-life and it has a ton of gravitas. As good as it is, follow-up “Floodlands” drowns it under a mountain of Viking-tinged epic doom. It’s everything the band did well in the past extended forward. It’s haunting, downbeat and undeniably beautiful. Krum owns the moment and his vocals seize your soul as the guitars trill and batter you in equal measure. The aggressive energy and occasional blastbeats pair so well with Krum’s soaring vocals and the mood is massively sullen. “A Path Made of Roots” is nearly as good, dialing up the Ereb Altor-esque Viking aspect of their sound for maximum Wotan while also channeling Iron Maiden for a recipe that cannot fail.

The album is dotted with killer cuts such as these. “The Collapse” feels like a collaboration between Maiden, Katatonia and Primordial, and you know you need that in your ear tubes. It’s depressing but oddly hopeful and damn it’s good! “With Tragedy in Our Blood” blends subtle blackened elements with Atlantean Kodex-style epic doom in a way that fills the spirit with ice, steel, and starlight. Even the odd “Tithonus,” which starts off like a power ballad and bears a much greater hard rock orientation still achieves victory because Krum brings so much to the party vocally. “The Ashen Plague” didn’t resonate as strongly with me as other cuts at first due to its slightly more proggy, meandering style, but it too won me over before long due to its Primordial on mega-roids emotion and thunderous power. Wither’s 47-minute length feels ideal and the production by Chris Fielding is pretty much flawless. Everything sounds lush and full and there’s still a touch of rawness to the mix to give it an icy edge.

I cannot say enough good things about Krum’s vocals. He has that rare kind of voice that just works on anything and draws you in. Whether he’s in full doom mood or pushing his delivery closer to Primordial’s A. A. Nemtheanga, the man can do no wrong. He’s the glue that holds Darkest Era’s roadmap together and he shines as bright as the sun on every song. Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Wieghell once again deliver the goods with rich, textured guitar-work full of black and doom metal staples. They play with genuine passion and create some exquisitely beautiful moments that linger in your mind. The entire band is razor sharp and I especially love the way Cameron Åhslund-Glass pounds away on his kit with anger and nuance as the songs require. The drum sound is really great too!

I felt like we would never get another Darkest Era album and if we did, it would pale compared to Severance. I was wrong on both counts. I don’t think Wither on the Vine tops Severance, but it’s almost its equal and a great companion piece. If you’re unfamiliar with this band, you best get real familiar real quick. Darkest Era is one of the best eras in metal and it’s great to see them back and in top form. Hail Krum.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: NA | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Candlelight
Websites: darkestera.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/darkestera
Releases Worldwide: September 30th, 2022

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