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'Angelus Exuro pro Eternus' (Regain)

Review by Jeff Maki
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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.