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Named after the "Master of Darkness" in Nick Perumov's Chronicle of Hjorvard, Russia's Rakoth formed in 1996 and began playing literary black metal infused with J.R.R. Tolkein-inspired folk mysticism. Unlike most European black metal bands, Rakoth does not simply unleash an album-long rant of blistering riffs and evil vocals. The group's music is more dynamic, and by being so, creates a multi-hued Middle Earth filled with lore and legend, light and dark.
Rakoth dealt with several line-up changes before settling on Rustam on keyboards, P. Noir on vocals and flute, Dy on guitars and Leshy on drums. Rakoth's first demo Tales of the Worlds Unreal was recorded in Rustam's garage and distributed by the band in August of 1997. Their second demo, Dark Ages Chronicle, was recorded live in four hours later that year. In October, drummer Leshy suddenly left the band and was never replaced.
By February of 1998, positive reviews for The Dark Ages Chronicle began to appear, and several Eastern European distributors were able to sell the tape in large quantities. The group went in the studio to record their first full-length, Superstatic Equilibrium, which was released to critical acclaim. Rakoth signed to Italian label Code666 and recorded Planeshift in 1999. Upon it's release in 2000, the album was given perfect scores by Holland's Aardshok Magazine and Norway's Scream Magazine. The record truly confounds expectations of metal, entirely reframes the genre and proves Rakoth closer kin to Current 93 and Godspeed You Black Emperor! than many metal groups.
In 2001, the Code666 released Jabberworks, a collection of re-recorded versions of the band's old demo tracks. In late 2001, Rakoth signed a four-album deal with metal giants, Earache Records. The label promptly reissued Rakoth's phenomenal Planeshift to American audiences in July of 2002.