|The Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral
doesn't receive as much hype as other acts intent on honoring
Satan. They're one of the original bands of the second wave
of black metal—along with fellow countrymen, Marduk,
Dissection and others—forming way back in 1993. Despite
the musicians' black metal monikers, corpse paint and glorified
Satanic lyrics and imagery, the band has a low media profile—no
murderers in the band's ranks, no church burnings and little
controversy (although the band's violent video for “My
Funeral” recently was pulled from MySpace).
Of course, there's the revolving door of band members long
associated with black metal. But it would appear from the
outside looking in that Dark Funeral prefers to let the art
speak for itself—a true “underground” act
or “true Swedish black metal,” as they're marketed.
While many black metal bands have abandoned their core sound
in favor of experimentation and other forms of extreme metal,
Dark Funeral remains true. On Angelus Exuro pro Eternus (roughly translated to "Burning Angels for Eternity"),
the art is in its purest, darkest form— a wall of scaling
guitars, blast beats, tortured vocals, intimidating songs
and content. That said, Dark Funeral isn't afraid to expand
and diversify its sound, mixing some slower material throughout.
The end result is one of the best black metal albums of the
year, with only Marduk's Wormwood as close competition.
The production by Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy) is surprisingly
good, reminding me in places of Dimmu Borgir's In Sorte Diaboli.
It's on that grand a scale—this is no under-produced,
low-budget black metal album. Don't sweat, there's no symphonic
element here—this is just musicians spreading their
dark gospel with instruments alone.
Vocalist/bassist Emperor Magus Caligula shrieks with the best
of his black metal counterparts, but the sickening delivery
and his preference for the occasional death growl or spoken
words even remind me of Shagrath. Behind the initial wall
of guitars, groove and melodies are in abundance, forming
equally epic and hypnotizing passages amidst the furious speed.
Guitarist and co-founder Lord Ahriman is responsible for this.
Much like Infernus—guitarist of the Norwegian black
metal band Gorgoroth—he is his band's only remaining
original member. Dominator is responsible for the blast beats
and supersonic speed.
Angelus ... , like most black metal masterpieces,
is meant to be taken as a whole. But among the nine songs
here, “The Birth of the Vampiir,” the deathly
“Stigmata” and the pure evil of “My Funeral”
will be recognized as standouts of a new bible of black metal.
Good old-fashioned devil music bringing hellfire and hatred
for all those who eternally crave it—blast it, bleed
it, worship it.