Hail Asbath. Let’s start from the very beginning, back in 1998 in Kyrgyzstan. What was Darkestrah’s ambitions and expectations, and how do you see your journey that lead you to where you are today?
Asbath: Hail Hypnos! Well, Darkestrah began as a temporary project; all founding members were involved in different acts at that time. Than we saw that the band has a lot of potential and decided to go on with it. But even than nobody intended to do something apart from recording a couple of demos and playing live a couple of times. Furthermore, the band practically ceased to exist after I and Kreigtalith moved to Germany, and it was only when we reformed it on German soil that it became clear to us that we could do something bigger than just a local act.
Once you moved to Germany, how did you come in contact with Kanwulf? Since your first album written away from Kyrgyzstan, “Embrace Of Memory”, is an unique episode in your discography, being very close to the classic Black Metal sound, could it have been influenced somehow by this encounter?
Asbath: I met him at a metal gig; it was one of my first days in Leipzig. We chatted for some time and it turned out that he was looking for a drummer. And I had no band at that time. So it was just a coincidence. At that time I had no idea what is Nargaroth, never even heard that name. But I’m proud that I was a part of such a great band. Concerning “Embrace Of Memory”, well, I don’t really think that Kanwulf’s influence was that critical. As I told you in my previous answer, it was a fresh start; Darkestrah was practically a new band. We just didn’t know exactly what direction we were going to take. By the way, I also don’t think that the difference between this album and other ones is so striking. The sound was really dirty, but Darkestrah-riffing is rather recognizable. “Akyr Zaman” and Pagan cover song “Marching of the Hordes” are in our set list even now.
Aside from this album, all your other works are full of fascinating sounds from your country mixed with Black Metal patterns. During the songwriting process, how do these elements unify?
Asbath: Well, there is no standard scheme. Some songs rise from a riff, some grow from a memory about a traditional melody, and “Khagan”, for example, emerged from an evening meditation in a local park.
Another distinctive characteristic of your albums is they are conceptually focused on tales or historical events from your homeland. In particular, your last full-length “Manas” is based on “Манас дастаны” (“The Epic of Manas”), a Kyrgyz traditional epic poem. Can you explain to us more about it?
Asbath: “Манас дастаны” is Kyrgyz national epic. The story begins when Kygryz tribes are driven away from their lands, scattered and enslaved by the enemies. Than Manas, a young batyr whose birth was predicted, unifies the Kyrgyz into one tribe, and together they defeat the enemies and reconquer Ala-Too, the Motley Mountains, the land that is sacred for Kyrgyz. “Manas” is also the largest epic poem ever written, so it is hard to reduce the plot to a couple of phrases, since a lot of side-stories, flashbacks and so on are incorporated into the text. Both the story and the unique size of the epic make it a key element of Kyrgyz traditional culture and a kind of gospel of national pride.
“Manas” is also very interesting from a musical point of view. Comparing it to your previous albums, it seems to even further emphasize epic and atmospheric tones in your music, allowing more room for clean vocals and overtone singing. Was this a conscious choice or a natural evolution? Can we expect further changes in the future?
Asbath: Well, it is hard to say now. As I told you before, we have no standard songwriting scheme, so there is always an element of chance in what we are doing. But I’m pretty sure that the path we chose on “Manas” is the right one and we’ll try to go on further.
To support the release of “Manas”, have you performed any live shows? What’s Darkestrah’s on stage dimension and how do you manage to capture the complex atmospheres of the albums?
Asbath: We’ve played a release show in Leipzig and are planning to do a couple more till the end of this year. Darkestrah on stage is a five-piece metal band plus sampler operated by our keyboarder Resurgemus. We also use shaman drum and sometimes temir-komuz. Also, our last show was accompanied by a background video and it was a very successful experience, so I think we will continue to use it in the future.
Now, what are your immediate plans to follow? Have you already written anything?
Asbath: We have a couple of new riffs, but right now it is still hard to say what will become of them. 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.
That was the last question. Thank you for your willingness to speak to Hypnos Webzine. Any last words to fans?
Asbath: We would like to thank our fans for supporting us, and thank you for your questions. Darkestrah will never stop, so keep following us!