Symphonic Black Metal… And there you go, half of you reading this have just thought, “Oh, another load of Cradle Of Filth/Dimmu Borgir wannabes”. Fair point. It feels like in the last 10 years the term has been synonymous with those two bands and a polished, over-produced slickness.
But it wasn’t always like that.
In the late 90’s those bands were still in their relative infancy (compared to their output since) and there were many other bands that were lumped in to a similar style. Emperor were in there, but on the other hand, so were Moonspell. Many bands consequently chose to plough a different furrow and their experimental fledgeling Black-ish Metal roots (symphonic or not) were all but forgotten. Dark Man Shadow remind me of those kind of bands from around that time. Which makes sense really as Dark Man Shadow were formed in 1998…yet this is only their third full-length release. They are effectively a duo of Sorroth (guitar/vocals) and Samotha (keys/vocals) with the impressively solid drumming talents of Nocte Obducta’s Matze helping out.
The overall musical approach certainly leans more towards the Dark/Symphonic side of Melodic Black Metal. Vocally I quite like the approach that, given neither vocalist are particularly prolific singers, Sorroth goes from speaking, to a low growling shout to his favoured theatrical almost-singing-shout (not far from the style of Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl to be honest!) and Samotha is slightly operatic, low in the mix and generous on the reverb. They try and mix many styles though which gives the album that edgier feel that again was prevalent in the late 90’s. Dark Man Shadow have certainly got the hang of blending intricate, sometimes over-blown keyboards with driving drums and riffy guitar. ‘Betrayal of Trust’ is a fine example of this at it’s best. On the whole it reminds me of Lunaris or maybe Agathodaimon. These similarities crop up elsewhere on “Victim Of Negligence” amongst others – there’s a bit of mid-period Emperor in there, but as in the grandiose-but-maudlin female vocal dominated ‘Len Dopis (Just A Letter)’ there is actually considerably more Peccatum than Emperor. And as I name-checked two bands earlier, I might as well mention that ‘Dying In The Corner’ massively reminds me of Moonspell. There’s some early Old Man’s Child moments at times as well as strong touches of Catamenia. There is a really good mixture on here as well as an underlying sense that the band never just play it safe in the songwriting. However, just to bring the review full circle and mock how I started it, the closing track REALLY reminds me of Dimmu Borgir. Maybe they did it on purpose…
OK, long-time devotees of Symphonic Black Metal aren’t going to hear anything new on “Victim Of Negligence” and some may even recoil at the almost naïve qualities of some elements. But these are qualities that give a band identity and sometimes it’s just nice to hear something familiar and harking back to a different time, a less commercial style. There is plenty to keep your interest on “Victim Of Negligence” (each song has something that hooks you in – the blast beat with overlayed female vocal lines in ‘Slur’ for instance) and though certainly not ground-breaking (the blast beat with overlayed female vocal lines in ‘Slur’…), it’s really cool that there are still bands around just playing what they want, how they want, and just as cool that there are labels releasing it.
(7/10 Andy Barker)