Within the frontiers of modern day black metal where global exposure to every genre of music is at the click of a mouse the sinister, malevolent world of black metal that unfolded some 20 plus years ago is meaningless even though some bands go to great lengths to shroud themselves in mystery. Why am I babbling about this you may ask, well in 1996 Sweden’s Dark Funeral landed one of the most influential black metal albums ever released called “The Secrets Of The Black Arts” and I can remember being utterly blown away by the album and handing out some taped copies to some of the students I was teaching at the time. The well documented trials and tribulations to get the album released read like a saga of epic quality as I urge you to check out the reissues that detail the strife endured.
Surprisingly despite the long history of Dark Funeral this is only the sixth full length album and the first since the 2009 effort titled “Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus” making comparisons immaterial as the line up has had the proverbial revolving door strategy be it consciously or subconsciously leaving only Lord Ahriman as the sole original member. The striking cover art (similar in style to the debut) by Necrolord adds to the aura that unfolds within the songs. The moment “Unchain My Soul” opens the album with its doleful riff and spoken vocal piece there is a prickly feeling about what is about to erupt forth as I held my breath in anticipation for what would follow. Exhaling gleefully the riff and burst of power combined with consummate melody is absolutely devastating as the tune evolves into a monumental blast courtesy of Dominator who has been afforded a mix similar to Inferno in Behemoth.
Inherent throughout this album is the balance between melody and outright nihilistic barbarity as “As One We Shall Conquer” similarly begins with a morose riff before Heljarmadr stamps his authority on the album with his insidious vocal violence. Rich in tone his inflections add considerable theatre to the blasting carnage of the song and throughout the album. I really liked “As I Descend” with its clichéd church bell toll and solemn melody with drum thump. The tune is the longest here and references to Bathory are inevitable but pertinent. Steeped in perverse malice the tune is wrapped around the varying vocal styles with spoken pieces linking with croaking harshness but with faultless clarity. As the tune develops I was left with my head ringing with Dissection due to the deft guitar work. The intrinsic creepiness this album beholds enables it adopt a melodramatic flavour that “Temples Of Ahriman” wondrously displays. Again we get a metamorphic transition from slow poignant riffing with the double kick cranked up riding on a wave of obsidian hatred.
“The Eternal Eclipse” has some of fastest double kick I’ve heard for quite a while and sends the tune into controlled pandemonium in places. Like other Century Media releases a single preceded the album in 2015 with “Nail Them To The Cross” and was a good indication as to what the album was to be like but when situated within the whole album the sheer assailing wickedness is amplified hugely. Closing with the title track you are left with the feeling of being completely ravaged as the track has an epic flavour but delivered at breakneck speed. Caustic and exuding stygian malignity this is an essential purchase.
(9/10 Martin Harris)