If you have ever seen macabre looking lead singer Animæ in action before, Italian cult act Darkend are not a name you are likely to have forgotten. He popped up in London at the Dome and did some guest vocals for someone, who it was does actually escape me (possibly Gaahls Wyrd) but the performance by the dreadlocked and bizarre alien looking chap was certainly striking and I have been keeping an eye out for material by his main band ever since. It’s taken four albums into their career till I finally manage to hear the band and their brand of ‘extreme ritual art’ (essentially symphonically based black metal) has definitely lived up to expectations. Not only does the singer’s scary presence enthuse the listening experience but the rest of the sextet prove equally formidable musicians making this an overall frightening and dark listening experience akin to a very nasty Italian horror film.

There’s something positively ghastly about these 6 tracks and 40 minutes worth of music. It could be the subtle use of samples such as a demonic buzzing of flies that hatch from maggoty malevolence at the end of one track, perhaps it is the spluttering, grunts and death belches vomited up by aforementioned Animæ or even the near baroque use of vintage keyboards and fantastical melody. Whatever it is it is quickly acknowledged that there is something rather special about this album.

‘The Three Ghouls Buried At Golgotha’ is enough by title alone to feel you with the cold clutch of vampiric dread and some low intoned chants are a call from beyond the cold grave itself. Creepy organ work wafts out the tomb and we suddenly are thrown headlong into a fast and furious blackened barrage which is as savage as the likes of Marduk going into all-out war. Guitars hellishly grind and furrow away and strange clangs reverberate in the background. The vitriolic and bloodthirsty vocals match and this exercise in fire and brimstone really takes your head off at the roots. Groans and croaks calm the torrent and the underlying orchestral elements come to the fore with majesty and cold icy melody superbly handled. Antarktca may well be responsible on paper for “Spiritual ambience & Night mist” and although you may well think that’s a pompous description that is exactly what we have here and a perfect song of two contrasts, venom and stealth. Talk about grand-guignol! The regal commandeer seizes crown on ‘Scorpio Astraea High Coronation’ with dictatorial clamour before the song shows the slow and oozing atmospheres of the band. Low bass tones and strimming guitars enrapture us as they slither out from the tomb, timpani drumming crashes and there is a real evil vibe about it all. Beelzebub the lord of flies is enthroned. The track that is going to get a lot of attention is no doubt ‘With Everburning Sulphur Unconsumed’ partly due to a visual accompaniment in form of a video (like a ghostly tour of the catacombs of Père Lachaise Cemetery) and also due to some retro keyboards, strange sounds from the vocalist, ominous backing chants and the sublime guest spot from the unmistakable Lindy-Fay Hella of Wardruna. who very much plays the part of enchantress in proceedings.

The second half kicks off with another injection of speed ‘Vessel Underneath’ is full of ungodly mantras to dark olden gods before the song is calmed by some neo-classical piano work. The sermon from the singer is deadly and convincing and although I am only touching on inner narrative and meanings behind tracks, they are all fascinating and worthy of exploration. There’s accomplished ambition flowing every step of the way here ‘Hereafter, Somewhere’ is the longest track and has a strangely calming and sublime melody running through it, one that’s progressive and almost psychedelic, a bit Hawkwind even, matching the more dark and devilish elements of the song perfectly. Another grim tale ‘The Seven Spectres Haunting Gethsemane’ is a biblical and spectral conclusion of what has been a captivating and fascinating album both musically and narratively. All I need now is to explore the back-catalogue and see the band live.

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)