This is an odd one indeed. Basically, Sarke is a side project for Thomas Berglie (Old Man’s Child, Khold) and he handles all the instruments here. He recruitedÂ Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) to do the vocals and together they released Vorunah in 2009 and now they’re back with Oldarhian. Although both men come from black metal backgrounds, Sarke is not a black metal band. Instead they play a mix of traditional heavy metal, Cemetary, Tiamat and new Darkthrone with some extra punk tossed in for good measure. The music is very stripped down, simplistic and not exceptionally heavy. At least for Nocturno, this material isn’t a big departure since it’s similar to Darkthrone albums like Circle the Wagons and F.O.A.D. Keeping their sound fairly consistent with the Vorunah album, Oldarhian offers more of their basic metal-punk fusion and while it has some enjoyable, rocking songs, it doesn’t completely work for me as a whole.
Things start off solidly with “Condemned” which has a greasy, raw, punky sound. Nocturno delivers some amusingly gruff vocals and sounds like Lemmy after a particularly rough night out on the town. It has a simple, garage band, under-produced charm and it’s actually a pretty rocking tune. Sarke’s riffs are super simple and no frills but they get the job done. After a few spins I realized this reminded me of really old Voivod, like their “Condemned to the Gallows” track from the old Metal Massacre compilations in the early 80s. Follow up “Pilgrim of the Occult” is equally rocked out with a memorable lead riff, cool atmospherics and brisk pacing. Nocturno’s vocals here remind me a lot of Tiamat‘s Johan Edlund on the Wildhoney album. Things continue to work well on songs like “Pessimist,” “Passage to Oldarhian” and especially the raucous “Flay the Wolf.” However, by the middle point of the album, things start to lag as the boys of Sarke starts to explore more doomy, somber moods. Tracks like “Captured,” “Novel Dawn” and especially “Burning the Monolith” are low in energy, feel too drawn out and languid. By the time Oldarhian is two-thirds over, things are feeling pretty old(arhian) and tedious (although things end on a high note with “The Stranger Brew”).
The big issue is the one-note style being employed here by Sarke. It’s so painfully simplistic and straight forward that there isn’t much going on musically to engage the ear. When they keep things lively and energetic, it works just fine. When they start to go slower, things quickly become boring. The way the album is structured, that happens around the midway point and the last half is more of a chore to get through. That said, the first half isÂ catchy and enjoyable with some truly fun moments of punk inspired metal.
Production-wise, Oldarhian sounds rough, unrefined and DIY. It isn’t as lo-fi as primitive black metal albums but it’s certainly lacking the usual studio niceties and polish we’re accustomed to these days. I personally like the rough sound and mix since it fits what they’re doing quite nicely. This is a very simple, meat and potatoes concept and the lo-fi sound only helps to emphasize that (as does the stark album cover).
If you found yourself enjoyable the style Darkthrone adopted in the past few years then this may appeal to you. It’s devoid of black metal but it’s heavy enough in a off kilter, punk metal way. I enjoyed half of the album but just can’t get into the slower, moodier stuff. Consider it a mixed bag and sample accordingly.