It has been a while since have reviewed a new Metal album, as a busy old Buzzard these days I only just realised the new album by Bavarian Black Metal outfit Dark Fortress had dropped over a week ago.
I am a huge fan of the new, progressive sound cultivated by Dark Fortress over the past ten years, 2009’s Ylem and it’s 2014 follow up Venereal Dawn were still at the top of my list of extreme Metal discs as the decade closed.
The new album, Spectres From The Old World continues in that rich vein of phantasmagoria mined by the previous two albums, though it doesn’t push the sonic boundaries of Black Metal as far as one would hope.
That is not to say that I am disappointed, far from it, this is a richly layered and technically impressive piece of work; there is some welcome variety in the tracks but it has to be said that the album does lose a bit of steam by the end.
Lead singer Morean and guitarist V.Santura are one of my favourite Metal songwriting duos, it is clear that at some point their diverse talents must have just clicked and the genre is all the richer for their meeting.
Morean’s vocals on Spectres From The Old World growl and bubble up from the depths of hell, to soar in darkly pristine choral splendour and then burrow their way into your ears in sinister cackles and whispers.
Track three, The Spider In The Web is pure, high octane nightmare fuel, it immediately made me think of the horrifying figure of The Weaver from China Miéville’s novel Perdido Street Station, the seemingly irrational and cruel multi-dimensional being whose ghastly interventions the other characters dread.
Pazuzu is an excellent Death Metal inspired stomp in which Morean’s vocal range is on show, the deep, droning growls in the chorus remind me of some sort of high-tech re-animation of a mummified bronze age steppe shaman.
The single Pali Aike takes a more measured tone as it describes the blasted landscape of the Chilean national park, a volcanic crater, “home of the devils” in which the veil between the prehistoric ghost realm and the world of men is reputedly very thin indeed. As I said, the last few
tracks on the album are merely pretty good when compared to the rest, closing number Nox Irae is something different in that it displays cleaner vocal chants and a more melodic side of Dark Fortress, like penultimate track Swan Song and the instrumental interlude Penrose Procession it really just makes the record seem bloated.
That, in my opinion, is something the band need to address, technical sophistication and intelligent lyrics fused into a grandiose melodrama are what we, the fans, are looking for. What I’d hate to see from Dark Fortress is for them to turn into a pompous caricature of a Black Metal band, such as Dimmu Borgir or Behemoth, please guys, we don’t want to see you doing a mainstream TV special with an orchestra and choir.