It might seem to regular viewers that I’d use any old excuse to crowbar my favourite albums from the 1980s into reviews whenever possible. But this year is the 30th anniversary of nearly everything ever, so it’s time to brace yourselves, folks. And hard. So bite down hard on those bits of stick while I rummage in my record collection – because this week’s shameless moment of self indulgence is Nightfall. At least there’s a more-convenient-than-usual excuse this time round. Medieval maniacs Dautha offer more on this EP than a cursory genuflection to the power doom gods Candlemass – some inspired use of Edling-style melody; pained, monastic vocals; super-cool use of folkloric lyrics and er, coming from Sweden. What more do I need? Den Förste is an EP but what a mournful ode to times past it is – weeping copiously like the very scars of flagellation through your hessian robes at Vespers.
Dautha are more than just mere Candlemass clones shuffling forth to keep my pathetic dreams alive, however. The storytelling here is more Reverend Bizarre than the high fantasy of Candlemass. And the dark folk vibe puts this lot closer to Tom Sutton’s The Order Of Israfel than the clean cuts of Ancient Dreams. Dautha members gather from a host of Swedish doom acts including Griftegård and Wardenclyffe and this EP does feel like something that’s the product of skills that have been well honed and carefully considered. Clearly label Ván thinks so too – snapping up last year’s demo (release on CDR and on Bandcamp almost a year ago) and now slugging it to us in vinyl form. Scar Symmetry vocalist Lars Palmqvist does an excellent job of setting the plague-ridden medieval scene (and also provides some atmospheric violin backing) while the riffs feel as fresh as the willows brushing against the surface of a newly laid grave.
The lyrics shine through – with the first of the two main tracks, Benandanti, telling the story of peasants that, through their dreams, took part in nightly battles in the astral planes with malevolent spirits and witches (it goes without saying that the Catholic Church eventually discovered this Northern Italian tradition and put a stop to it – in typically ugly fashion). The first few minutes acts like a gravitational field hauling in all your favourite doom legends with a bulldozing finale whose full effect only strikes home after a few listens. The second 8-minute track is, at least initially, more memorable – a driving, violin drenched ode to dark paths. But each of the tracks on Den Förste is about as solid an EP as fans of powerful, hollering doom could ask for. The only question is how long we’re going to have to wait to find out whether this is the key that unlocks the door to a doom legend in the making. Expectations will be high on the strength of this. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy a journey into the dark, misguided and fucked up world of medieval Europe. Who knows? The rate we’re going on the outside world, we might all be back there before we know it.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)