Dark Funeral are the black metal equivalent of Deicide: equally mocked and revered, and sometimes for the same reasons.
Since their last album eight years ago, they’ve enrolled two new accomplices, including vocalist Heljarmadr, whose résumé (Domgård, Grà, Cursed 13) suggests they want to prove that they’re still in touch with their roots. Heljarmadr doesn’t seem to have had any influence on the lyrical content, though, as Dark Funeral are still sticking to the basics of good ol’ Christ-bashing. Instead, it’s really former Aeon skinbasher Nils Fjellström’s performance that makes the difference. Boosted by what might be the best possible production such an album can offer in 2016, his uncanny speed and precision propels the band’s trademark wall-of-sound, lightspeed riffing to a whole new level.
If Dark Funeral’s sound had felt a bit tired by the early 00s after been taken up by hordes of copycats, it’s quite refreshing in 2016 to have a full-blown, big-sounding black metal album that doesn’t rely on the typically Swedish six-string distorted harmonies, played at neckbreaking speed, that made their former label No Fashion such an underground powerhouse in the mid-90s. The three more mid-paced numbers here still maintain a certain intensity, and even the initially cringeworthy Temple Of Ahriman ultimately wins the cake by fitting in four decades’ worth of traditional, self-referencing metal anthems. Granted, not much has changed since 1996’s The Secrets Of The Black Arts debut, except for a slightly more sophisticated edge, but besides a greater attention to detail, Dark Funeral never lose focus, even if they’re running with the Devil. So while short-haired hipsters and so-called narrow-minded preservers of orthodoxy are wasting all their energy debating online what black metal should and shouldn’t be, it feels good once more to have a band like Dark Funeral who don’t beat around the bush and just go for the throat with the subtlety of a wolf on steroids. This is metal we’re talking about, after all, and Dark Funeral are (black) metal as fuck.