Another strong year is in the books for heavy music, so strong that making a year end list seemed unfair to every release that we did not include in our lists. The underground continues to thrive with releases from legendary bands such as DARK FUNERAL, VADER, and NEUROSIS that will stand the test of time. Actually, most of the long running bands did not fail to meet or exceed expectations. Thrash metal pioneers, MEGADETH, VOIVOD, and TESTAMENT, certainly released excellent records. What is more important is that 2016 saw a lot of great releases from less trendy, more obscure bands.
This past year is personally notable as lost a dear friend and contributor, Brandon Stratton AKA rocknro11chef13. As a small tribute, we’ve included albums that he would’ve likely picked for his year end list. Life is short, my friends. Embrace it.
The Ineffable Kings of Darkness make a monumental return with one of the best albums of their career. Absolutely no disrespect to the excellent, previous two albums, Attera Totus Sanctus and Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus, but Where Shadows Forever Reign is on another level and unequivocal proof that DARK FUNERAL is only getting better with time.
It was not easy to replace one of the greatest vocalists in extreme metal history in Emperor Magnus Caligula as evidenced by the short stint with vocalist Nachtgarm. However, Heljarmadr perfectly steps into the position. His most distinctive characteristic may be his clear enunciation of each word ala David Vincent, which brings greater communication to the great lyrics.
Where Shadows Forever Reign takes the classic DARK FUNERAL sound of pure darkness, unrelenting speed, and those fantastic melodies, and expands on it with a grander presentation, the most diverse songs of any previous album, and more soul. The songwriting is masterful in that there is always a perfect transition between song sections or a build up of a riffing theme within each song.
“As I Ascend” is a perfect example of the band’s growth as songwriters. This slow, brooding song is easily the most soulful song of DARK FUNERAL‘s catalogue. It perfectly embodies the journey and triumph of overcoming struggle and dark times in life. “Temple of Ahriman” is another doomy song that works well to create the blackest atmosphere.
In a coincidental way, DARK FUNERAL also fills a void left by the mighty DISSECTION in that the melancholic and epic melodies on Where Shadows Forever Reign are reminiscent of the latter’s first two albums. Let’s also give praise to the excellent cover artwork by Necrolord. Another instant classic.
In a time where most of the Sweden’s black metal bands have disbanded or compromised their sound, the importance and relevance of Where Shadows Forever Reign cannot be understated. Long may DARK FUNERAL carry the torch. (Century Media Records)
As the years go by, the original torch bearers of the legendary Norwegian black metal scene travel further down their own unique music journeys. While the spirit, soul, and creativity will always remain intact, the darkness, extremity, and sheer sonic force has often been left in the past. However, THE WRETCHED END continue to redefine and progress not just what extreme metal is but also what Norwegian black metal is in 2016. The Scandinavian super group, featuring Samoth (EMPEROR, ZYKLON, SCUM), Cosmo (MINDGRINDER, SCUM), and Nils Fjellström (DARK FUNERAL, IN BATTLE) have released an ambitious and progressive work that considerably widens the scope of their music.
In These Woods, From These Mountains is arguably the band’s best album to date. The brutal thrash dimension from debut, Ominous, is minimal, and the death metal dimension found through the first two albums are largely secondary. It is decidedly their blackest and most atmospheric to date. There is an emphasis on using just as much clean guitar tone-riffs to create eerie, desolate atmospheres as there are on distorted ones. Many of the clean guitar-tone riffs could easily fit into a SLOWDIVE or MY BLOODY VALENTINE album. Samoth and Cosmo have also focused on creating melancholic melodies that come in at the perfect junctions. In contrast to Ominous and Inroads, the riffing and song structures have more breathing room. It’s less of a barrage of eighth and sixteenth notes and more about longer notes. As a result, Dominator‘s drumming becomes more crucial in providing the backbone, which he does to brilliant effect. Few extreme metal drummers have totally mastered the art of the ride cymbal like he has.
Other interesting aspects of In These Woods, From These Mountains that should not be overlooked are the use of keyboards, samples, and Cosmo‘s clean vocals. He has done fantastic work with WINDIR contributing clean vocals. And while his clean vocals here aren’t as prominent, it’s a welcome new dimension.
Every song provides a different look and highlights can be found all over. And within each song is a full range of dynamics and dimension in play. The nuances in artistry can fully be appreciated after successive listens. So much ground is covered. Comparisons to EMPEROR‘s IX Equilibrium come to mind.
Opener, “Dead Icons,” begins with a cold drum march before bursting into a speeding fireball with unique, eerie guitar riffs. The lyrics easily apply to current events affecting the world today. “Primordial Freedom” starts out ominous and doomy before taking flight with blast beats. “Old Norwegian Soul” may be the “purest” black metal song, complete with the haunting, low end groans of Attila Csihar (MAYHEM, TORMENTOR), keyboards, melodies, and juxtaposed tempos. “Atheos” is an absolute high point in the band’s career with its galloping, invincible momentum. The riff that comes in at the 3:27 mark lays everything to waste. Devastating. THE WRETCHED END closes In These Woods, From These Mountains with a glacier-sized cover of BEL CANTO‘s “Dewy Fields.” Helping out is Einar Solberg (LEPROUS) on lead vocals and the criminally underrated LRZ (RED HARVEST) providing the epic synth and programming.
With In These Woods, From These Mountains, THE WRETCHED END only seek to create an immediate classic album. There is so much greatness to behold. Hail. (Indie Recordings)
The excellent title track from DARK FUNERAL‘s upcoming album, Where Shadows Forever Reign, has been posted online:
“Where Shadows Forever Reign” sounds like pure classic DARK FUNERAL and new vocalist Heljarmadr sounds very good. He enunciates each word very clearly ala David Vincent.
Band leader/guitarist Lord Ahriman comments: “I’ve said it before, but in case you missed it, I will say it again. WE ARE BACK!!! And to prove that we’re really back to reclaim the throne once and for all, we now have the privilege to let you all get a taste of what is to come in the form of the epic title track of our long awaited new masterpiece! Sit back, put your speakers on max and enjoy the ride through ancient realms so forlorn and cold, the majestic realm where shadows forever reign.”
Vocalist Heljarmadr further adds: “The lyrics to ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign‘ deal with self sacrifice. To reach further on my spiritual path I must give something from myself. Be it material or a piece of my heart and soul, as long as it’s something that deeply matters. To truly reach the world of shadows I must summon my inner shadows, my inner darkness and allow no light.”
Six years after the release of their last album, DARK FUNERAL will finally release their new album on June 3rd, 2016 via Century Media Records. Album cover artwork was done by Necrolord and looks like a masterpiece.
After four long years, Scandinavian supergroup THE WRETCHED END, featuring Samoth (EMPEROR, ZYKLON, SCUM), Cosmo (MINDGRINDER, SCUM, SOURCE OF TIDE), and Nils Fjellström (DARK FUNERAL, IN BATTLE), have announced the April 22, 2016 release of In These Woods, From These Mountains. The album was recorded by the band themselves and mixed with producer Marius Strand in Norway. Mastered at Fascination Street in Sweden, it is without doubt the strongest and most varied of the extreme metal band’s growing sonic portfolio. Artwork was handled by Trine + Kim Design Studio.
Old friend Attila Csihar (MAYHEM, TORMENTOR) lends a hand on “Old Norwegian Soul” while LEPROUS vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg and RED HARVEST’s LRZ contribute on the band’s unexpected adaptation of BEL CANTO’s “Dewy Fields” for the album’s epic closer.
Samoth comments: “It’s great to finally have this album ready for release. It took us some years for various reasons; different things in our every day and professional lives that took a lot of focus on our parts. We never felt any great pressure. Looking back, I think the whole process affected the album in a positive way. I personally feel I’ve almost come full circle with this new album, bringing more elements rooted in the darkness of black metal.”
FIRESPAWN, the new Swedish super group featuring current and former members of ENTOMBED A.D., NECROPHOBIC, UNLEASHED, DARK FUNERAL, have announced that their debut album, Shadow Realms, comes out November 13, 2015. The music that has been released so far sound very promising.
Check out the track, “Ruination“:
Also, check out the official video for the title track of their 7″, Lucifer Has Spoken:
LG Petrov – vocals (ENTOMBED A.D., MORBID, NIHILIST) Fredrik Folkare – guitar (NECROPHOBIC, UNLEASHED) Victor Brandt – guitar (ENTOMBED A.D., SIX FEET UNDER (live)) A. Impaler – bass (NECROPHOBIC, NAGLFAR (live)) Matte Modin – drums (RAISED FIST, ex-DARK FUNERAL, ex-DEFLESHED, ex-INFERNAL)
Swedish black metal legends DARK FUNERAL celebrated their 20th anniversary with a very special show this past Saturday in their hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. The band performed with vocalist Emperor Magus Caligula and bassist B-Force along with special appearances by former members, vocalist Themgoroth, guitarist Dominion, guitarist Typhos and drummer Gaahnfaust.
Band leader/guitarist Lord Ahriman issued a statement about the show on their Facebook page.
Here is the excellent setlist (Yes, they played the entire Dark Funeral EP):
1. “The Secrets Of The Black Arts”
2. “The Dawn No More Rises”
3. “When Angels Forever Die”
5. “The Fire Eternal”
6. “Satan’s Mayhem”
7. “Dark Are The Paths To Eternity”
8. “The Arrival Of Satan’s Empire”
9. “Attera Totus Sanctus”
10. “Goddess Of Sodomy”
11. “Enriched by Evil” (with Typhos)
12. “666 Voices Inside”
13. “In My Dreams”
14. “An Apprentice Of Satan” (with Dominion & Gaahnfaust)
15. “Open The Gates” (with Themgoroth)
16. “Shadows Over Transylvania” (with Themgoroth)
17. “My Dark Desires” (with Themgoroth)
18. “In The Sign of the Horns” (with Themgoroth)
19. “Vobiscum Satanas”
20. “My Funeral“
It’s been announced that DARK FUNERAL‘s first six albums, originally released on various labels, will be reissued via Century Media Records. Created with the band’s close cooperation, the first batch of reissues include the self-titled MCD (plus bonus material), The Secrets of the Black Arts (including the re-mixed/re-mastered 8-track Unisound mix as a bonus), and Vobiscum Satanas (including live tracks). These titles will be released in Europe on September 9 and in North America on November 12.
Additionally, the band are looking for a new vocalist.
Here are the DARK FUNERAL mastermind Lord Ahriman‘s comments:
“I’m proud to announce that we are finally doing proper re-issues of our classic albums through Century Media. And to really spice things up, I have dug deep into my personal photo archives to come up with some killer photos/flyers, previously mostly unseen by the public eye. These will be the definite versions of our classic albums, especially the nice vinyls! Each album also contains detailed liner notes– and besides myself, Themgoroth, Dan Swanö & some other old friends that were present at the time I formed the band contributed to this. Unfortunately, I could not finish off these re-issues with Blackmoon, who sadly passed away earlier this year, but he was fully aware of them and for ‘In The Sign…’ and ‘The Secrets…‘ we at least added a tribute page to commemorate him.
“We’ve just ended our festival season with a killer show at Germany’s Summer Breeze festival. Now, my/our main focus will be to resume writing the next masterpiece, tentatively set for release in 2014. More news to come…
“DARK FUNERAL is currently looking for a permanent new vocalist – preferable from Scandinavia. Serious applications can be sent to [email protected]!”
All re-issues will be available on black vinyl, in addition to a limited transparent blue vinyl (only 100 copies).
The underground metal scene lost one of its own when guitarist David “Blackmoon” Parland passed away on March 19, 2013. Blackmoon was a key member in renowned Swedish extreme metal bands such as NECROPHOBIC, DARK FUNERAL, WAR, and INFERNAL. He had not released any new music in a quite a long time but his impact on the scene speaks for itself.
Let’s blast some of his music in his memory! Surely, a time when Swedish black/death metal was obscure and untainted.
After making a strong debut with Ominous, Norway’s THE WRETCHED END easily proved their worth. Now, with Inroads, the band have honed and focused their sophisticated, multi-dimensional style of extreme metal to a blacker, more desolate place. Everything from the classic album artwork to the atmospheres and overall sound possesses a distinctly Norwegian black metal undercurrent. However, this is not a rehashing of past victories. This is the band’s modern expression of Norwegian black metal fused with the other elements of their sound. The thrash elements of their sound make less of an appearance this time around.
Soon after Inroads begins, it’s clear that THE WRETCHED END have further defined their style with new sounds, vibes, and dynamics. Lead guitars are effectively, succinctly, and frequently used to add color. Norwegian black metal dissonance is utilized in riffs such as in “Tyrant of the Mountain” and “Deathtopian Society.” “Death by Nature” and “The Haunting Ground” have killer grooves. “Cold Iron Soul” constantly shifts tempos with the subtle, contrasting riffs that flow well together. THE WRETCHED END deliver the sense of ominous urgency with the run away train feel of “Fear Propaganda.”
In addition to the subtle complex song arrangements and sounds, the sheer spirit of Inroads is very reminiscent of the mighty EMPEROR. Indeed, THE WRETCHED END reach new heights as shown on the absolutely invincible, decadent melodies at the end of “Blackthorn Winter,” the powerful emotion of “Hunger,” and the total domination of closer “Throne Renowned of Old.”
While all the various dimensions of Inroads may not be readily discernible nor fully appreciated at first, it all comes out over time.
In an ever crowded and formulaic extreme metal scene, THE WRETCHED END easily distinguish themselves as one of the best. (Nocturnal Art Productions/Candlelight Records)