Here we have the almighty Dark Funeral, a name well known in the realms of black metal. We can easily put them alongside acts like Darkthrone, Emperor and classic Burzum. Needless to say, this marks their sixth full-length release and first album in nearly two decades. Only Lord Ahriman remains as the only original member of the band, but guitarist Chaq Mol (Mordchrist) and drummer Dominator (Eldkraft, The Wretched End) both continue from Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus (2009). New to the band is Heljarmadr (Andreas Vingback) who you might also remember from Cursed 13, Domgard and a few others. He has a very common approach for the genre, sounding not unlike Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath and sometimes almost completely like him. This might be a turn-off for some fans as it might feel like Shagrath is in Dark Funeral now, but I can say that if this is what you think of the new Dark Funeral album; then it's definitely the most black metal disc that Dimmu Borgir have released in a while.
As far as these songs are concerned, it is very true to form and we're getting loads of frostbitten melodies, making for an atmosphere that comes off equally grim and positively chilling. Where Shadows Forever Reign reminds me of the days when black metal was still scary, and not a corpse-painted gimmick, which I feel is necessary for a genre that is dwindling in it's traditional format. Some might still say that this record is too produced, and doesn't feel as raw as the classics, but it is no longer '96 and in 2016, this seems a natural transformation. No one is forcing you to listen to it, but if you do decide to leave your corpse-painted elitism at that door, you'll find what I consider to be a very solid and well-meant black metal. Does it sound perfect? No. Will it reinvigorate the genre? Probably not. But what it will do, is to bring the sound of classic black metal screaming into the modern age. Dark Funeral have certainly not given into trends, making for a record that still feels very much like what we'd expect for them, or any classic black metal band. The blasts and tremolos that you were looking for are here, and for that you should be thankful. These guys could have went in so many different directions, but the fact that they at least tried their best to stick to their roots is something that I feel is going to appeal to fans most.
I'm not sure how Dark Funeral fans are going to take this one and I don't think that it will be a record that they'll play as much as some of the earlier and more treasured releases in the band's catalog, but it's definitely not a wash for me and I definitely don't mind listening to it. Perhaps there might be a few new things tried here and there, but this is a new age and thus, a new Dark Funeral. Take it or leave it, as they could have made a far worse recording than this and it's a good start for as long an absence as they've taken. I can't tell you what kind of direction they're going to go to with the next album, but if you're looking for something more traditional in terms of black metal, then you'll like what has been offered here.
(9 Tracks, 45:00)