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Early Innovation - 94%

Nargodath, November 11th, 2006

I'm always interested in metal from out-of-the-way places, and when I started to hear about Darkestrah, I was intrigued--not only were they BM from Kyrgyzstan, of all places, but they were actually good. Good enough to play with Nargaroth and generate some serious interest in the worldwide BM scene. Anyway, even at the early point of this demo, Darkestrah easily transcend the novelty of their origins.

The production on Pagan Black Act is kvlt in the old sense--a wall of static that begins before the music starts, and surrounds everything that goes on. In fact, the sound on this demo leads me to wonder if it wasn't recorded on a boombox, as were many old punk demos. Boombox recordings have a strange echo-y, tinny quality, and the drum sound here conforms to that. However, the production suits the style of music that Darkestrah have chosen to play.

As the tape starts, there are a few seconds of typical ambience, but instead of a three-minute keyboard plonking excursion, Darkestrah bring the thrash. Not to compare this to thrash metal, exactly, but the sheer energy put into every aspect of their playing is very impressive. The guitars stick to a simple but talented brand of original BM, the drums at the same mid-pace, and the singer has a tuneful screech. There are very subtle keyboard lines that work very well to enhance the music--the way the keyboards are used reminds me of Ashen Light, even though the latter use them much more heavily. Again, the endurance of the musicians is quite impressive, since they keep up a furious buzz for ten minutes into the demo before seguing to a few minutes of well-composed ambience.

As the demo goes on, the band tries out other styles. There are moments of punk-ish aggression, followed by buzzing dirges with scalding, too-close-to-the-mic speechifying vocals. The guitar lines during this part are particularly well-composed, and about as epic as Darkestrah ever get on this tape. Since the vocals are turned up higher than the guitars, the solo that comes around the 19-minute mark is a nice standout.

This is obviously a first demo, but it shows a talented band trying out plenty of interesting ideas, and usually succeeding. The mastery of composition and the unusual combination of styles and instruments (especially the organ that makes itself known near the end) are already clear. If the demo flits between ideas too quickly, it can hardly be blamed.