Release Date: 20 September 2013
Record Label: Indie Recordings
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XII: 7:45 Saturday at Edison Lot A
Maryland Deathfest XII starts next week! Our annual Maryland Deathfest Survival Guide will be up soon but leading up to the big post we’ve put together some reviews of albums by some of the less well known bands playing Deathfest this year that you will not want to miss seeing live. These posts have a lot of background on the bands to help you become an expert on them before you see them, and of course there’s a few songs at the end of the post that you can stream to get acquainted with the bands too. This is our fourth and final review but we’ve covered at least one band playing each day on the big outdoor Edison Lot stages (the main festival stages that will not sell out). You can check out the rest of our MDF XII coverage here but until then take a few minutes to learn why you shouldn’t miss Sarke if you’re at Deathfest on Saturday.
If you’ve heard only one thing about the Norwegian band Sarke you’ve probably heard that the band features Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone on vocals. This is true and since Darkthrone refuses to play live shows seeing Sarke at Maryland Deathfest is a rare chance to see one of Darkthrone’s two members in a live setting. What most people don’t know about Sarke though is that the band is actually the solo project of a guy named Sarke (his real name is Thomas Berglie). Sarke, the musician, is best known for being the drummer of Khold though he’s also the drummer for the (very underrated) black metal band Tulus. On the first Sarke album, Vorunah, he played all instruments aside from the vocals that Nocturno Culto recorded. These days Sarke only plays bass and has brought in other musicians to fill out the band’s line up, though he continues to write all of the band’s lyrics as well. While not as big of names as Nocturno Culto, the other members come from bands like Borknagar, Ihsahn and Lunaris, so the band as a whole has quite the resume.
As far as Sarke’s actual sound goes, they’re often described as black/thrash metal but that’s a bit off as they don’t sound much like the standard bands of that style such as Aura Noir or Absu. Sarke is slower than most thrash bands and sound something akin to older bands like Venom, Motörhead and Celtic Frost combined with a primitive style of early 90’s Norwegian black metal. The first two Sarke albums are a bit more thrashy than Aruagint but what their latest album lacks in overall speed it makes up for in coldness. This sense of coldness isn’t just the chill of the Norwegian winds that permeates their sound but also emotional coldness, neither happy nor sad, just empty. We’ve gotten this sense of cold from many straight up black metal bands over the years but Sarke is different, they have a certain groove to their sound. Calm and calculated they often raise the tempo to breathe life into a song when it is needed, such as on the track “Icon Usurper” where they use this technique perfectly. The band does a good job of keeping a sense of tension throughout the album and Nocturno Culto’s voice has no major effects done to it. The recording itself has the band sounding good without being overproduced. You can hear each instrument distinctly and the keyboards are in the background where they should be, but you’ll find no flashy studio tricks here. The song “Ugly” with its chorus line of “Cause I’m ugly/Ugly as Hell” and punkish main riff brings a bit of that dark punk vibe that Darkthrone has been doing lately and Nocturno Culto seems perfect for this song in particular.
Sarke isn’t the most technical band by any means but they do come up with some pretty fun grooves, combined with that sense of coldness, that makes it just plain fun to listen to them jam. Their songs are well thought out though and every note sounds like it is right where it should be. Their studio sound comes across as very rehearsed so I’m guessing they’ll be pretty tight when they play Deathfest. It will be interesting to see what kind of performance they put on live as Nocturno Culto doesn’t appear to be a very wild front man in most of the live footage I’ve seen of them, however he does seem to get more energy from the crowd depending on how energetic they are. This will be Sarke’s first ever live performance in the US so let’s hope everyone is as psyched to see them on Saturday as I am. Be sure to check out the following songs from Aruagint and start getting psyched for Maryland Deathfest XII next week!
The Drunken Priest (live):
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