Darkestrah - The Great Silk Road
Paragon Records
Epic Black Metal
5 songs (54'33")
Release year: 2008
Paragon Records
Reviewed by Alex

If you are tired of my stories growing up in the old Soviet Union, you can skip this, but it is mighty appropriate in the case of Darkestrah. In my formative years, late 70s – early 80s, we were taught that the new entity of people emerged, the Soviet people, that all of those different nations and nationalities populating the old Soviet Union have morphed to love each other based on the communist idea behind it all. (Look how well that worked out with all of the infighting that went on from 1991 till now). To promote the notion, the old leaders (and some of them were really old) wanted to have folk shows on TV where every nation got to represent themselves in a form of a dance or a song or playing their native instruments. Since the TV then only offered three channels, the choices were often limited and, almost as a background, those shows often played out in my parents’ apartment. Russian and Ukrainian folk songs were something I grew up with, so those didn’t bother me much, I could stand the fiery nature of Caucasian dance or a mellow Baltic song. However, whenever a Central Asian person emerged with one of those one-string native instruments to pull on, the bore and disgust surfaced immediately, prompting the immediate TV shutoff. Well, lots of years went by and I obviously grew up, becoming a lot more tolerant to what the other people can cherish.

My story is relevant because Darkestrah was originally founded in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. I know that the band is currently based in Germany, but the mere fact that someone in Kyrgyzstan in 1999 was thinking about heavy, particularly black, metal is astounding, if you realize that Kyrgyzstan is truly the backwaters of Central Asia, the country proudly occupying the 140th or so GDP per capita position in the world, average person earning cool $2,000 annually. Anybody coming out with black metal from that setting piques my interest, anybody coming out with black metal as good as Darkestrah is on The Great Silk Road has my utmost respect.

Maybe it is my age which improved my tolerance for that native Central Asian instrument, or maybe it is the way Darkestrah manage to incorporate it in the flow of their compositions, but the tracks like The Silk Road and the beginning of Cult Tengri do it masterfully. If anything, I would want those quieter moments further expanded and played up on The Great Silk Road. Acoustic beginnings and tribal percussion of The Silk Road and interweaving of authentic Central Asian melodies in Inner Voice and Cult Tengri lead in perfectly into Darkestrah’s otherwise mesmerizing trance-inducing wall of sound – wholly describing the difficult and arduous path of a traveling caravan. Sometimes the envelope broadens beyond the explicitly Central Asian theme, Kara-Oy possibly being an attribute of hardship of any nomadic group of people, its beginning introspective and shamanistic, but reaching a fever pitch along the way. It is mostly at these high riveting levels where Darkestrah resides, their songs being dense with textured tremolos, melodies switching from triumphant to tragic. If Darkestrah is thrashing along, it is never nasty, pain, pride and desperation always felt in their epic compositions. Kriegtalith presides over these poignant and expressive plexuses, these songs made even more emotional and uplifting with her raspy banshee screams. (And I would pay you money if you knew this was a female without doing the necessary research).

Where the band could do better is transitions between various parts of their opuses. Right now this is a fascinating concoction of Windir, early Enslaved, Negura Bundet, native Central Asian motifs, Eastern European black metal movement and early Opeth, paying less attention to how their sections fit together and more to the overall transcending, enthralling effect. The latter they achieve in droves.

Killing Songs :
The Silk Road, Inner Voice, Kara-Oy
Alex quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Darkestrah that we have reviewed:
Darkestrah - Turan reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
Darkestrah - Khagan reviewed by Alex and quoted 75 / 100
Darkestrah - Sary Oy reviewed by Misha and quoted 70 / 100
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