Artist: Dark Funeral
Album Title: We Are The Apocalypse
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 18 March 2022
I love black metal, and have for many, many years. I’ve talked at length elsewhere on this site about how I discovered this style of music in my teens and have never looked back. As we all know, the genre of black metal is so wide-ranging, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the raw ‘cvlt’ approach to the opulent and theatrical, and from the downright venomous aggression to the more introspective, soothing sounds of blackgaze. I like most of it, even if I struggle with the real lo-fi muddy buzzsaw stuff. And yet, despite understanding their importance and standing in the scene, I have never been a big fan of Dark Funeral. Sitting here writing this review, I must admit to not really knowing why. In the beginning, I was drawn to the more symphonic, melodic ends of the spectrum, so given the Swedes didn’t neatly fit into this box, I didn’t investigate much to begin with. But, for one reason or another, I never really rectified the matter. I just assumed that they weren’t for me and every time I heard them, I clearly never paid that much attention.
But that’s the great thing about this website and my current ravenous appetite to listen to as much music as possible – I have been able to devote time and attention to ‘We Are The Apocalypse’, the seventh album of Dark Funeral’s career, a career that has been ongoing for just shy of 30 years. Over those years though, there have been many comings and goings, meaning that only guitarist Lord Ahriman (Jan Michael Svanberg) remains from the original 1993 line-up. His six-string partner in crime Chaq Mol (Bo Anders Nymark) has been in place since 2003 though, so there remains a little in terms of consistency. The remainder of the quintet have been around for a lot less time, with vocalist Heljarmadr (Erik Andreas Vingback) returning for just his second stint behind the microphone. Bassist Adra Melek (Fredrik Isaksson) and drummer Jalomaah (Janne Jaloma) meanwhile are both newbies having joined the ranks in 2018.
Having listened to this album incessantly over the last couple of days to ensure I could publish my review in advance of the release date, I can safely say that I’m impressed. It’s only taken three decades, but at least I have finally got there, eh?!
There is nothing particularly subtle or pretty about Dark Funeral’s offering here on ‘We Are The Apocalypse’, but then aside from the last album, ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’, where they went a little more toward an atmospheric direction, the Swede’s output has never been anything else. They’ve largely been on the attack, venomous, cold, and uncompromising in their pursuit of black metal domination. This record is very much of that ilk again, but what I like is the injection of just enough melody to allow the songs to stand out and then to draw me back in for another go around.
Things start just as I expected with the furious and violent eruption of frosty aggression that is ‘Nightfall’. What’s refreshing is that no time is wasted for scene-setting, or the creation of atmosphere. From the off, it’s all-out venomous attack via fast-picked tremolo riffs, flat-out drumming, and Heljarmadr’s rasping growls, delivering his diatribes with force. All of this provides plenty enough by way of atmosphere. But importantly for yours truly, there is a lot more melody within the song than perhaps I was expecting. We’re not in power metal territory of course, but there is a subtle catchiness topped off by a highly charged and addictive chorus that I can’t stop listening to if I’m honest; the blend of brutality and memorability is infectious to say the least. I haven’t been this impressed with this kind of music since Seth dropped ‘La Morsure Du Christ’ last year.
The quality continues with ‘Let The Devil In’. The modus operandi is not dissimilar to the opener, but it feels slightly less intense, with a slight deceleration of pace and lots of grim melody to be heard, particularly within the choruses. The same cannot be said of the ferocious one-two of ‘When Our Vengeance Is Done’ and ‘Nosferatu’ which both hammer the listener from the first to the last note with unrelenting scorching pace and almost feral aggression. That is, except for a section within the latter that creates a little more by way of dark intrigue before being blitzed by more rabid brutality.
The big deviation from the ‘norm’ takes place with the introduction of ‘When I’m Gone’. It immediately signals its significantly different approach with a quiet, more delicate intro that turns into a highly melodic affair when the heavier instrumentation enters. The pace is generally slower throughout and, whilst I’d not refer to the song as a ballad, it certainly has the feel of such, albeit in the context of this being Dark Funeral and this being a generally rather savage black metal record. Naturally, given my predisposition for melody, I lap up this lumbering beast of a track. A not dissimilar approach is taken with ‘Leviathan’ too, proving beyond any doubt there is sufficient variety in terms of pace, atmosphere, and intensity on this record to ensure that the attention of the listener is always maintained.
To be perfectly honest though, there isn’t what I would deem to be a weak track on ‘We Are The Apocalypse’. Yes one or two of the blisteringly fast tracks towards the end blur a little bit, but if that’s the only criticism I can offer, then Dark Funeral can’t be doing too badly can they? It also backs up my preference towards a better production because Lord Ahriman and Co. prove here that they can be deadly and uncompromising whilst offering a clear, powerful, and commanding sound, one that doesn’t pain my ears or leave any of the instruments absent in the mix. If you consider yourself to be an existing Dark Funeral fan, then ‘We Are The Apocalypse’ is unlikely to disappoint. And if, like me, you are somehow less familiar with the band than you ought to be, prepare to be impressed and entertained in equal measure.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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