Originally a solo project for Thomas Bergli of Khold and Old Man’s Child, he has long since abandoned the lone approach. Now comprising a full line up of some very familiar and talented faces, Sarke are well established purveyors of frostbitten, doom-laden black thrash. With their third album ‘Aruagint’, the intention is evolution rather than revolution, and their sights are set on dark, epic and groovy death rock madness with a 70’s twist.
Straight out of the box Sarke waste no time in laying down a dark and dirty groove which may have the simplest of riffs, but it’s the dark, slightly downtuned nature of it that really sets the tone. The ever reliable Nocturno Culto lends his grim, frosty vocals to this project and really who could be better to carry off this sort of sound than a black metal singer that was raised on rock? The sound is a mixture of later Darkthrone and Pandemonium era Celtic Frost, with Nocturno Culto really only needing to add the odd “urgh” for complete authenticity. Opening track ‘Jaunt of the Obsessed’ never really deviates from its initial pace and groove, but that is no bad thing here as it immediately catches the attention and gets the head nodding. The Celtic Frost influence really takes hold on ‘Jodau Aura’ and with its much more deliberate pacing it captures that crushing weight that CF were so good at. The lead break midway through the track has a very definite 70’s feel about it, invoking images of early Sabbath and Purple.
Despite the various songs having their own individual primary stylistic influences, (some rock, some doom, some punk), this doesn’t sound like the mish-mash of an album that it certainly could have been and instead hangs together in a very coherent manner and by the midpoint of the album the styles have successfully merged together into one sound particularly identifiable with Sarke, so it’s definitely job done on that front. Whilst Sarke (Bergli) himself has a very prominent bass line throughout it is never overbearing and never overshadows the rest of the music, a fact I find quite refreshing as the majority of initial solo projects retain the focus on that particular musician’s contribution to the detriment of the overall sound when other artists are brought into the mix. I think particular praise must go to guitarist Steinar Gundersen who, along with drummer Asgeir Mickelson manage to play in a number of different styles, often within the same song, yet manage to keep everything together in one very solid and honest musical package.
Sarke certainly have an interesting and varied style although there is clearly something lacking in the songwriting. There are not quite as many hooks as I expected and for a relatively short album I found the going to be a little bit sluggish in places making it seem quite a bit longer than it actually is. That being said there are a few standout tracks such as ‘Jaunt of the Obsessed’, ‘Strange Pungent Odyssey’ and ‘Icon Usurper’. The comparison with Celtic Frost’s ‘Into the Pandemonium’ counts not just on a musically stylistic level here, but also on a satisfaction level. With Pandemonium there was always something really lacking in the songs themselves and this is exactly the same. Enjoyable and definitely worth a listen, but you’ll be left wondering why it wasn’t better than it was.
(7/10 Lee Kimber)