One no doubt unintended outcome of this work is that if you show photos of people in corpse-paint over a ten year period, there’s no ageing process. So before I started to listen to this French band’s historical collection, I found myself studying the photos and concluding that other than line-up changes, they all look the same.
The sleeve notes list in detail what was recorded when and who by, but essentially this is a compendium of every piece of nasty black metal you’ve ever heard. It might have been different if the range had been 1995 to 2015 but it’s not. That’s not to say that “Victorious March” of 2008 vintage, which opens up this collection, isn’t worth listening to. Sparks fly and evil rebounds. No pattern is allowed to ensure maximum discomfort. It’s just a black ball of fire with some death metal elements mixed in. The production is rawer than the later tracks, which is odd really as by 2008 bands had moved away from the impression of using kitchen utensils and maximised production techniques to expand the malevolent aura. “Black Blood”, also a 2008 track, has a strong whiff of Marduk about it. “Total Devastation”, which comes off the Victorious March” (2009) album starts in Endstille fashion with machine-gun fire, warfare and, unsurprisingly, devastation before blasting off into territories of extreme violence.
Each track blazes away in a cloud of fury and anger, occasionally breaking down, but as it progressed on its dark and horrible journey, I asked myself what I was getting out of this. Maybe I’ve listened to so much black metal that I’ve developed an immunity. “Diva” has a particularly sharp-tongued vocal line but I’m clutching at straws here. The riff line and overall ambience of “Attila” off the “Brotherhood for Blasphemy Split” (2012) with Nemesis Irae and Goat Perversor, “Underworld Glorification” and “Blasphemic Humiliation” (both 2013) then suggest that Dark Managarm went through a Dark Funeral phase. The hostility continues without abatement but tracks like “Back from Hell” just left me cold, but not in a frost-bitten black metal way. “Possessed”, which falls somewhere in tone between Marduk and Impaled Nazarene, has more burning spirit than most. The highlight for me was the two live tracks at the end, which had a really earthy underground feel. So at least there was a highlight.
I can’t fault the intensity of this work which has all the hatred, evil and associations with hell that you could want, but equally I can’t say that Dark Managarm do anything to distinguish themselves from a long list of black metal warmongers.
(5/10 Andrew Doherty)