Friday, September 27, 2013

the world of Darkestrah

Darkestrah (Germany[now]/Kyrgyzstan [early])
Darkestrah in 2013 propels its music into literary-historical and folk dimensions, framed within the band’s established sound of epic black metal, with dark symphonic overtones. “Manas,” the new album, focuses on the Kyrgyz national poem “The Epic of Manas,” considered amongst the longest verse works in the world. Musically, Darkestrah’s use of harsh and melodic vocals, and long songs makes for an aesthetically-pleasing listening experience. Deeply rooted in black metal, and committed to making creative songs-recordings, the band continues refining its art, as drummer Asbath expounds in this interview. --
Greetings, Darkestrah! I liked your previous EP "Khagan" and I think that "Manas" is a very strong follow-up. Is Darkestrah just three people or five? Is it true that Asbath (guitars) and Kriegtalith (vocals) have been on all Darkestrah recordings, since the album “Sary Oy” (2004)?
Greetings! Asbath here. Thank you for your interest in our music. Concerning the line-up, during “Manas” recording session Darkestrah was a three-piece band (Kriegtalith, Resurgemus and me) plus a session bass-player. Right now Darkestrah is a five-piece band. Ragnar (guitar) and Cerritus (bass and shaman drum) have joined us as session members directly after of the last album was finished, but right now they both are full-time band members. Me and Kriegtalith are the only constant members of Darkestrah, who have played on all records, except for one old demo tape. Concerning the songwriting. “Manas” and “Khagan” are for the most part the results of creative effort of Resurgemus and me. However, in the earlier days the role of main songwriter was often taken on by other band members.
The album is based on the epic poem "The Epic of Manas"? Are your lyrics in Kyrgyz? Did you use the poem itself for lyrics or did you write new verses for lyrics?
The lyrics of “Manas” and of “Khagan” are in Russian. Vlad Paranoid who wrote most of the lyrics on these albums is native Russian speaker. “Manas the Avanger” and “Manas-batyr” outline the plot of the poem whereas “Memory” and “Victory” are rather some kind of reflections on such topics as war, enemy yoke, loneliness of an exile and the bloody price of victory. All these topics have strong connections to “The Epic of Manas”. We also used some recordings of manaschi, professional reciters of the epic, who recite original verses in Kyrgyz.
Concerning the epic itself. For Kyrgyz people “Manas destani” is not only a key element of traditional culture, but also a kind of gospel of national pride. Both because it tells the story of proud warriors who liberate their lands from enemy occupation and because it is the largest epic poem in human history. There are Manas monuments in Kyrgyzstan, an airport, a military base and university are named after him. Maybe it is somehow too much promoted by official propaganda to the detriment of many other beautiful things in Kyrgyz culture, but still its role is not to be underestimated.
Towards the end of "Manas the Avenger" there is a spoken-word section. Is someone reciting "Manas Destani"?
The spoken parts are the recordings of manaschi I mentioned in my previous answer. Manaschi have an old tradition in Kyrgyz culture, the training starts in the early childhood, one has to learn the poem by heart, learn to use special intonations and the melodic style of reciting and to train the artistic skills, since mimicry and gesticulation also play an important role in manaschi performance.
By the way, does Kriegtalith do all the harsh and clean on "Manas"? Does she still play the temir-komuz?
Yes, Kriegtalith does all harsh and clean female vocals on “Manas”. We didn’t use temr-komuz on this album, but she sometimes plays it during our shows.
The song "Kyrgyzstan" is an ambient, folky number. Did you use acoustic guitars on this song? Yes, the main melody is played on acoustic guitar. We like to use acoustic guitars, and also use some other acoustic string instruments, like komuz or mandolin on almost every record. A cello, played by our friend and ex-member Sharthar, has also become our tradition.
Have you finished the epic poem as a project now or will there be an album called "Manas II"?
Since “Manas” is one really huge piece of poetry it would surely be possible to do ten albums based on it. It is somehow a tempting idea to do so, since we’ll be forever free of the pain of thinking out any new lyrical concepts, haha! But, well… Right now we are slowly starting to compose new material, the concept is still not clear, but it definitely won’t be “Manas II”.
How much touring are you willing to do?
How much touring? As much as possible! Right now we only do some occasional shows, but it would be really great to go on a real tour. This is also our main objective right now. The most important obstacles are activities apart from the band like work, studies and so on.
Would you say that your music promotes Kyrgyz nationalism? As you know, nationalism/patriotism are political tools that governments, corporations and religions use to deceive people into supporting wars, racism, exploitation and violence.
I strongly agree with your view on nationalism as a tool of decision and instigation. Darkestrah promotes no political values but cultural ones. From this standpoint we see our mission in presenting the reach and deep Middle Asian culture and history to the world.
Do you have views about politics in Kyrgyzstan? Do you follow the news there? Do you still have family there?
To Erlik with politics and the news! Kyrgyzstan had two regimes overthrown by revolution in the course of the last 22 years. And you know what? If the current one will suffer the same fate I won’t be surprised at all. Here in Germany if you watch or read the news about Kyrgyzstan you either see some crowd kicking some police ass, or some idiots snuffing someone because he is Uzbek, or at best some strange guy mumbling some half-esoteric, half-pseudo political rubbish in broken Russian. When Aitmatov was still there, one could at least see a cultivated intellectual and a deep writer representing our country in the EU but alas, he is dead. Personal ties are what matters. Some of our family members and a lot of our friends are still living in Kyrgyzstan or moved to some other countries and to stay in touch with them is what is important to us.
Kyrgyz people live in Kyrgyzstan, but also in China, Afghanistan and other places. Do you know if the Kyrgyz people in China and elsewhere speak a language that you (in Darkestrah) would understand?
Well… When we in Darkestrah speak with each other we use German or Russian. Right now Darkestrah are five people hailing from three different countries and having four different ancestries, none of the band members that joined us in Germany ever learned Kyrgyz language or set foot on Kyrgyz soil. As for the Kyrgyz language itself, it is generally the same everywhere, but as any rather archaic language it adopts some vocabulary from the surrounding languages, for example Kyrgyz people in Kyrgyzstan use some Russian words and I believe that in China they use some Chinese words. But there must be no striking difference.
Now, in 2013, what would you say that you have learned in your life's journey in metal music from your youth in Kyrgyzstan to now living in Germany? The idea of turning to someone’s cultural roots was always especially strong in black metal. That is why when we’ve got in touch with this kind of music the whole Kyrgyz thing came in somehow very naturally. There is also an aspect of maturity. We reflect more on what we are doing and why we are doing so. We’ve learned a lot about making music and about being a musician. Well, we are still learning, to tell the truth. With each step, each gig, each new song some new aspect becomes clearer to us.
What motivates you to make music? Do you feel an inspiration that tells you to keep making music? Do you hear riffs, vocal lines, drum patters in your mind that you feel that you need to record?
You know, this really happens from time to time. For example the roots of “Khagan” grow from an evening mediation in a local park when suddenly it became very clear what has to be done.
What else would you like us to know about the plans of Darkestrah for 2013 and 2014?
Thank you for the interesting questions! As I told you before, we have already started to compose some new stuff, but I don’t think that it will be recorded any time soon, we prefer to take our time and make the final output into something special. Also, our last show in Leipzig was filmed and recorded semi-professionally and at least a part of it will be published somehow, most likely through free streaming services as a kind of official bootleg, but since we are doing all the editing ourselves this could also take some time. Apart from it we are now looking for gigs and I strongly hope that we’ll hit some stage in the next moths, as I told you before the more the better. Best regards! Asbath. THE END.


  1. Great Interview. Thank you very much. Small mistake in the beginning: Asbath is the drummer, not the guitar player.

    1. Thanks for the correction!! The correction has been made. Take care.