Let the end times rage!
It might be said that a style that cleaves to an established orthodoxy will eventually go stale like unsealed bread, but it’s near impossible for anything to come to such a state in the frigid tundra where black metal’s 2nd wave first spread its decrepit wings. The stalwarts of Norway’s scene may have a claim as chief progenitors of this highly parochial and mysterious craft, but their eastern neighbors have been giving them a good run for their money from the beginning, and few among Sweden’s adherents can boast the level of consistency that Dark Funeral has displayed since their 1994 eponymous and debut EP hit the shelves. In similar fashion to their fellow pioneers Marduk and Setherial, their niche leans a tad closer to the impact-based, militaristic, death metal-like yet highly streamlined trappings that were held over from the booming Stockholm sound of the early 90s, and little has changed leading up to the release of their 7th LP “We Are The Apocalypse” apart from the obligatory production upgrades.
As with many of the old guard, the passage of time and some heavy lineup shifts have done little to blunt the spirit of sonic rage boiling above this band’s midnight bonfires. Held together by the foundational pull of guitarist and founder Lord Ahriman, the sound that comes together via this newest incarnation of Dark Funeral has all the familiar traits, even with the band’s entire rhythm section receiving a complete overhaul. For their respective parts, former Grave bassist Fredrik Isaksson and heavily occupied drumming maestro Janne Jaloma check all of the boxes of a seasoned and solid auditory foundation, with the latter raising the concept of controlled chaos to an art form via a calculated cacophony of blasting, thrashing, and the occasionally pulled back respite. Likewise, relative newcomer front man Heljarmadr reprises the cold, garbled ravings that he committed to 2016’s “Where Shadows Forever Reign” to chilling effect. But when all is said and done, this is an album built of riffs and atmosphere, and both Ahriman and longtime fellow axe man Chaq Mol deliver the goods something fierce.
Nargaroth may have popularized the saying Black Metal Ist Krieg by putting out an album by the same name, but when it comes to setting the concept to music, Lord Ahriman and his flock of blackened conjurers are ones to be reckoned with. Forsaking any notion of exposition or buildup, this album goes right for the jugular with a raging storm of sepulchral fury dubbed “Nightfall”, starting things off on a high note and burying the unsuspecting in a flood of frost-steeped darkness. Yet amid the bombardment of rapid fire riffing and blurring percussive mayhem is a highly symmetrical song structure that is quite accessible, bringing some degree of comparison to the catchier niche that Immortal had carved out for itself in the early 2000s. This duality of a blinding execution bottled in a digestible container is reprised brilliantly on rapid fire bangers like “When Our Vengeance Is Done”, “Beyond The Grave” and the closing hurrah of a title anthem “We Are The Apocalypse”, each a standout moment unto itself.
Naturally even the most berserker-prone of extreme metal affairs can’t cook at full speed at every turn, though the moments of actual respite that are found here prove to be few and fleeting. The quasi-balladry and atmospheric character of “When I’m Gone” stands as the most blatant departure from the norm of furious arctic blasts and a storm of icy riffs, though it also proves to be among the more compelling performances out of Heljarmadr, whose ugly yet largely intelligible interpretation of the blackened scream fits the more controlled stride of this comparatively laidback chapter to a tee. The sorrowful, yet often forbidding rage of “Leviathan” sees some occasional quieter moments as well, and even when reaching daunting speeds, has a slow sense of melodic contour that stands apart from the legion of unfettered crushers. Even the generally fast cruiser “Let The Devil In” offers some interesting groovy counterpoints here and there, largely via a more nuanced drum performance out of Jaloma and an almost melodeath-like sense of melody to the guitar work.
Whether one wishes to chalk it up to the newly acquired rhythm section, or to the fact that it’s now the 2020s lighting an arctic blaze under this band’s proverbial backside, they’ve managed to conjure up a collection of morose anthems that are a cut above their previous two studio ventures and even rival the classic moments of 2001’s “Diabolis Interium.” It’s an open question as to whether this will win over those who are lukewarm to the older and less flashy character of old school Swedish black metal, but anyone who has fond memories of what Marduk and Naglfar were doing back in the 90s will definitely want to hear this. It’s the sort of measured and polished offering that can appeal to those not normally drawn to the extreme low-fidelity character of recording practices typical to the early days of the style, but it retains enough of that underground sense of ferocity that puts it in darker territory than many of the newer melodic acts that have been cropping up of late.
Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: March 18th, 2022
Genre: Black Metal
- Lord Ahriman / Guitars
- Heljarmadr / Vocals
- Chaq Mol / Guitars
- Jalomaah / Drums
- Adra Melek / Bass
“We Are The Apocalypse” track listing:
2. Let The Devil In
3. When Our Vengeance Is Done
5. When I’m Gone
6. Beyond The Grave
7. A Beast To Praise
9. We Are The Apocalypse
Orders for “We Are The Apocalypse” can be placed HERE>/strong>
Storming through seas of morbid darkness, one of the elites from Sweden’s formative era of the blackened arts unleashes a torrent of frostbitten fury on their first studio LP in 6 years.