Gloomy guitar riffs, pummeling drum patterns, pained shrieks for vocals… what more can you ask for in a black metal release? In “Where Shadows Forever Reign,” genre veterans Dark Funeral delivers on all fronts and then some. Admittedly, black metal has always been somewhat uncharted territory for me. Much of my music-listening is devoted to other, more familiar forms of extreme metal. However, that has changed recently thanks to the likes of Dark Funeral, Abbath, and others.
What first drew me to the album was the artwork – proof that something can be both bleak and beautiful at the same time. After hearing the music, I don’t think they could have devised a better visual to pair with the depressive tunes. That hooded figure standing amongst a dismal landscape reflects the dark and epic tone of the record quite well. One also can’t help but mentally conjure up some sort of corresponding story for the creepy character as they listen to all the songs discussing walking through the night among the shadows and such. You know, black metal things.
What I love about Dark Funeral is their consistency; their sound has remained virtually unchanged since their inception. However, with each release, they offer a subtly different and new sound that gives listeners another side of black metal to explore. With “Where Shadows Forever Reign,” there is perhaps more emphasis on atmosphere – probably not enough for the record to be considered atmospheric black metal, but it’s there. Throughout much of the album you feel as though you’re falling through a dark well from which there’s no hope of escape, but can’t be bothered to care. The music just sounds too cool!
Vocals from Heljarmadr really shine on this release and contribute much to its greatness. His primal screams and guttural growls are still utterly recognizable, yet variable enough to keep things interesting. There are times he sounds as though he just stepped on a nail and others in which you would think someone just stole his girlfriend right in front of his face. Basically, the pain and anger is strong this time around, which is exactly what any good black metal vocalist should bring to the table. “The Temple of Ahriman” is an excellent showcase of this as the singer belts out the details regarding an “eternal torture chamber” in which “no one survives.” Spooky.
Instrumentals are strong, which is no surprise. Dark Funeral has never had a release in which they were anything less. Guitar riffs from Chaq Mol are panicked, depressive, and memorable all at the same time. I was surprised at just how unnerving one instrument could be made to sound. And there’s really something to be said for the drumming from Dominator. One could listen to just the drum tracks from this record and be thoroughly entertained. Snare rolls, blistering blast beats, and pounding double bass kicks are all there to keep each song brutal and fresh. The bass is mostly playing a support role on “Shadows,” but it’s not a big deal. Strong performances from the other instruments more than make up for its relative inaudibility.
I admit that Dark Funeral may be considered somewhat accessible as compared to other black metal acts, but for someone new to black metal, “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is an excellent primer in what the subgenre has to offer. In fact, I would imagine the album would please inexperienced listeners and hardcore fans alike. If you’re up for a wild ride through the abyss, give this one a listen!
Release date: 18-08-2016
Reviewer: Chase Lindley