It’s been seven long years since Stockholm’s kvlt foursome, Darkthrone has graced us with a new release. To be honest, I haven’t anticipated a Dark Funeral release in a long time. While Secrets of the Black Arts will forever remain an adolescent favorite, the band went in an increasingly commercial direction throughout the years, with squeaky clean production, and an overly polished, radio friendly black metal sound. I was hesitant to listen to the new release, for fear of disappointment. Fortunately for me, Where Shadows Forever Reign was a pleasant surprise.
No, this album doesn’t harken back to the lo-fi kvlt sound of Secrets of the Black Arts. That would be laughable. Secrets of the Black Arts was perfect for the era in which it was released. Where Shadows Forever Reign is a welcome progression for the band, however. They are really embracing their Swedish roots on this one. The album is melodic, cold, and black. Blast beats are tasteful and in the background, riffs are pretty and audible, and Heljarmadr’s vocals are classic black metal but not over the top. And while the band added that melodic Swedish element to their sound, they didn’t stray too far from the classic Dark Funeral sound old school fans have grown to love. It was refreshing to hear.
The album kicks off intensly with the feature track, Unchain My Soul, which is a stand alone track in its own right. A melodic intro builds up into a wall of pure blackness with trance inducing melody. The two tracks that follow, As One We Shall Conquer and Beast Above Man, are along the same vein, heavy, cold and beautiful. Then the album takes an interesting turn midway with the track As I Ascend. Dare I call it a ballad, the track is slow and emotional. You’ll instincually close your eyes while listening to it. I did.
I hate to say it, but after As I Ascend, there is a brief lull in the album. The Temple of Ahriman is a good song in its own right, with beautiful and melodic riffs, but to follow a slow song with another in this way caused me to lose interest a bit. But maybe I just have musical ADD. The next few tracks are heavier but, while good, they aren’t as memorable as the ones preceeding them. Luckily, Dark Funeral makes up for this at the end. The title track is probably one of the best on the album with its awe inducing melody and blasts. Depressive elements are even injected into the closing track, which adds a real flair to the album overall. Truly beautiful.
Overall, this album is definitely something to keep on your radar in 2016. It’s fucking hot outside and Dark Funeral is just the cold blast we need this time of year. I’ll be the one to say it, Dark Funeral is back!