Darkest Era were formed in Enniskillen (Northern Ireland) in mid-2005 under their original name Nemesis. After one demo tape they changed their name to Darkest Era. "The last Caress of Light" is the band's first full-length album. The limited High Roller vinyl edition comes with their 2010 "Oaks Session" EP as a special bonus.
In the 1980's, Northern Ireland was home to a few very underrated New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, like the mighty Sweet Savage, Ezy Meat and also Predator. Nowadays, The Answer and Glyder are pretty successful in what they are doing "So is metal on the way up in Northern Irleand? Ade Mulgrew, guitarist of Darkest Era, thinks so: "Northern Ireland has a pretty healthy metal scene at the minute I have to say. There are plenty of active bands and gigs are generally well attended,
plus we have more and more touring bands stopping by here now. Metal wise, it's mostly hardcore bands or death metal bands here in the north, but there are also quite a few hard rock bands hoping to follow in the footsteps of The Answer, who have really become a huge band over the last few years. It's at a strange kind of point where there are a lot of really good bands putting out good releases but very few are breaking through to the international scene, for whatever reason. There are next to no N.W.O.B.H.M. here in the North at the minute, not really sure why but I think Sweden has all the cool young bands in that genre at the minute."
Darkest Era formed in 2005 under their original name of Nemesis, as Ade explains: "We all met while still in school, in a relatively small town where everyone playing in bands knew each other. Our early days were like most; we played covers initially while working on our own material and trying to find our own style and sound. We played small pubs and clubs before releasing a demo under the name 'Nemesis' before we changed our name to Darkest Era. Initially our sound was quite raw and more in a N.W.O.B.H.M. style than it is now, but our sound was constantly growing towards something more unique and individual. Our first EP as 'Darkest Era' was released by the German label Eyes Like Snow which was a huge boost for us. We played some small European festivals after this and kept building our profile, to the point where we came to the attention of Metal Blade and recorded our first album.
It has been a great journey so far and it's been fantastic to move forward and see our audience grow!"
Darkest Era cite Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden as their biggest musical influences (with a bit of Warlord thrown in for good measure). However, Ade is being a bit more precise: "Well, it's probably more accurate to say that there are elements of each of those bands present in our sound and it's a good representation. Thin Lizzy
and Iron Maiden are two of our biggest influences and ones we all share collectively, but there are other influences brought to the table that aren't collective, which I think adds to making a unique and interesting sound. For example Warlord put out one of my favourite albums of all time with 'Deliver Us ...', but some of the other guys are influenced by folk music, black metal, American Country, and so on. There are many influences which dictate how a band sound but certainly you can find traces of those three somewhere in our music."
Darkest Era's music is indeed a melting pot, including traces of doom metal, pagan metal and even some black metal. Again, Ade is very specific about all those different influences: "When black metal is mentioned in terms of our music, it's normally the riffing style; some of our songs have this kind of fast paced tremolo style picking which you often get in black metal, and some of the darker atmospheres I guess could be linked as well. But the lines between subgenres are so blurred, and if something from the sound of black metal inspires me, it might have a completely different manifestation when brought into the context of Darkest Era. Primordial certainly influenced the kind of atmosphere in our songs to a certain extent but again it's a different context; we are both taking the kind of melancholy and catharsis from Irish folk music but in different ways. For us, it's putting it into a much more epic heavy metal style. In regards to pagan metal. I don't know if that's really a 'sound' per se but I suppose there are bands that fall under this banner that we share musical similarities with."
Sabbat and Martin Walkyier's Skyclad are regarded by some as the forefathers of modern pagan metal and folk metal. Ade Mulgrew shares this opinion: "I think Sabbat are well enough cited as forefathers of the pagan metal genre, and therefore Skyclad with folk metal. I think Martin Walkyier was a little ahead of his time, but then there were a number of folk metal bands in the 1990's that followed from Skyclad who were maybe trailblazers too but didn't last very long. Folk metal just seemed to explode about five years ago, with bands like Eluveitie who took direct influence from Skyclad. Some of those early bands maybe didn't capitalise on
the sudden popularity of the sub-genre as much as they could have, I feel. I've met Martin a few times and he is a really interesting guy, he's long moved on from Skyclad but he is still involved in some pretty interesting projects."Cruachan is another band who laid the foundations for the current development of the pagan and folk metal scenes, a band Ade is also familiar with: "Yeah; we know the guys from Cruachan quite well, they're a great bunch! They were also one of the forefathers of folk metal and I've enjoyed them anytime I've seen them live. Mael Mordha are also a band who shouldn't be overlooked; they play a more doom-laden kind of folk metal and they've got some really killer albums out. It's a small enough scene in Ireland so we all kind of know each other and end up on the same bills!"Of course, in the end it all comes down to the mighty Thin Lizzy as the biggest influence for Darkest Era as their guitarist explains: "Yeah, as I said we are all Thin Lizzy fans, in fact we've covered songs of theirs before. I haven't seen the new line up with Ricky Warwick. Although I'd be interested to see it, to be honest it's never going to be anything but a tribute act for me. Phil Lynott was the heart and soul of Thin Lizzy. I have mixed feelings about the previous incarnations which have been touring over the last number of years " I think maybe it was better to let the legacy live on, but people keep going to see them, so it's fair enough I guess. Although I saw a tribute band recently which was made up of guys in their late teens/early 20's; the frontman was a dead ringer for Phil Lynott and they had so much energy it was unbelievable! That kind of show probably interests me more!"The last Caress of Light" is the band's debut album but before that they recorded two EP's. All in all, Darkest Era's first longplayer is a more polished, more elaborated and more rounded effort in comparism to their earlier efforts. Ade Mulgrew shares my evaluation: "I think those are fair things to say. Our previous releases have been demos and EP's, so an album is naturally going to sound more rounded, but I think the material on there is more mature and more confident than previously. You can tell that we're becoming more confident in our style and also that we're moving towards a sound which we can truly call our own. The last three songs on the album in particular stand apart for me as an indication of our strengths and what future material might sound like. We're always trying to grow and develop artistically, and I think on that album you can hear the sound of a band who are really starting to find their feet. At least I hope so!"As mentioned earlier, the High Roller vinyl edition of "The last Caress of Light" does include the "Oaks Session" EP as a bonus. Ade explains: "Basically we released that EP in March 2010. It was a self release which we printed on a lovely digipack with some fantastic artwork, and the release was designed basically to give fans some new music but also to use to send to labels. At this point we were eager to record our debut album, but we wanted the right record label to release it. It has gritty, honest production and beautiful artwork. It's comprised of two songs which ended up on the album, and one song which was on our original 'Nemesis' demo. This song was written when we were 16 or 17, so you can really hear some youthful energy and enthusiasm in there. So it was an extremely important release for us, and we ended up receiving numerous offers from labels from it."Darkest Era's lyrical concept is not limited to pagan Irish topics. Far from it, as Ade knows: "No, the lyrical concept is not limited to this; in fact on the album there is only one song which is exclusively written around Celtic mythology; 'The Morrigan'. The rest use the kind of language and imagery found in this literature, and is inspired in some ways by it but the actual content deals with completely separate themes. Some of the songs on the record are more about soul searching, inward reflection, expressing feelings about the changing tides of the world and how we deal with weakness and internal conflict. The listener just needs to scratch the surface and look past the imagery, the meanings aren't totally hidden. I definitely see the potential topics for lyrics in Darkest Era as broad, but they will always be written in a certain style - using certain language and imagery. That's just what works for us and feels right, really."