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Review: Darkenhold - Echoes From the Stone Keeper
Echoes From the Stone Keeper

Label: Those Opposed Records
Year released: 2012
Duration: 41:00
Tracks: 10
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: December 13, 2012
Reviewed by: Memnarch
Readers Rating
Echoes From the Stone Keeper

Rated 2.8/5 (56%) (10 Votes)

Darkenhold initially came to my attention with their collaboration last year with compatriots Aorlhac on the La Maisniee du Maufe split, a band that they share many attributes with. Both draw their influences heavily from the old Norwegian black metal scene with the likes of Emperor, Satyricon and Taake forming the bulk of their sound, a heavily riff-centric strain of melodic black metal. They’re also both from roughly the same area in South/South Eastern France, and most importantly with the release of Echoes of the Stone Keeper, they’re both fucking awesome. The tracks off the split were decent but nothing outstanding, similarly their debut release A Passage to the Towers... was a modest release that had all the echoes of a band who were yet to hit their true stride.

So enter their sophomore effort, Echoes of the Stone Keeper, with its pummeling, semi-melodic tremolo riffs and expansive patchwork of synth based atmospheres draped behind, it has all the hallmarks and qualities of a band who have really worked hard to hone their sound and create something very distinguished and memorable indeed. If you know Darkenhold already, you’ll know they have a fetish for all things medieval and fantasy, more specifically, wyverns and castles, so you’d expect the music to reflect this then, right? Correct, the atmosphere has been kicked up a notch or two and the arcane keys of which Echoes... is comprised of really emphasize that eerie, haunting and medieval atmosphere Darkenhold are striving for. Atmospherics-wise, oft overlooked Norwegian act Wallachia I suspect play a huge influence in this, while the ‘metal’ itself is drawn from the same pool that gave us Satyricon, Emperor and even Abigor among others.

Like Wallachia, the album sounds like it was composed in some crusty old ancient dilapidated castle in the middle of Transylvania. It’s melodic black metal constructed and delivered exactly the way it should be, huge immersive swathes of synth/key driven atmosphere at no expense to the fundamentals of black metal whatsoever, and getting that appropriate balance is a difficult thing to achieve. The guitar is in fact arguably the strongest element of Echoes.., the riffing is utterly scathing as it should be, and suitably diverse as no two riffs ever sound similar. Tracks like "Under the Sign of Arcanum" and "Chasm of Asylake" even have a sprinkling of acoustics just to mix things up a little and further compound that mystic and archaic atmosphere. The Satyricon influence in the riffing is painfully obvious, they could be very well lifted straight off Nemesis Divina itself, but that’s no bad thing, for just listen to the absolutely devastating introduction to "Castle Ruins Anthem" or one of the many riffs in "Wyvern Solitude Chant" and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Aboth turns out an extremely impressive performance behind the kit as well, a thoroughly assorted affair refraining from the typical flat out blasts and unrelenting hi-hat abuse, a good drum performance being a rarity in black metal. A special mention must go out to "Nightfall and the Fire Doom" though, the out and out standout track here which can only be described as majestic, a sprawling behemoth of a track drenched in esoteric chanting, sepulchral riffing and an enthralling, enchanting atmosphere which lasts for six very brief minutes before fading out to something not unlike Wongraven. "Caslte Ruins Anthem" as well it must be noted is an absolute bulldozer of a track with that opening riff and it’s staunch medieval sway which what I imagine the perfect combination of Satyricon and Wallachia to sound like.

The really full production does wonders for the music here as well, not exactly clean but thankfully not ever entering ‘bees in a biscuit tin’ territory. Echoes of the Stone Keeper is exactly what I expect ‘medieval black metal’ to sound like, like it was recorded in a colossal and grandiose gold-littered throne room from the depths of some far fetched fantasy novel. It’s distinctly unrepetitive and broad enough that there’s always something going on that your mind never wanders. Darkenhold have really stepped up to the plate with this one and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the future. This is majestic and melodic black metal performed about just as well as you’re going to hear all year, and an album that will definitely be up there in my end of year list. Highly recommended.

Other related information on the site
Review: Castellum (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Echoes From the Stone Keeper (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Memoria Sylvarum (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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