REVIEW: DARK FORTRESS – “Spectres From The Old World”
Dark Fortress has always been an interesting band for me personally. Their dark ambient sounds coupled with massive heavy riff work, screeching leads in their past repertoire, an overtone of the black metal aesthetic in their musicality and hard hitting rhythmic section. The band always had it all. A perfect fit when it came to standing out of the crowd when the crowd has anything remotely dealing with black metal. ‘Ylem’ and ‘Venereal Dawn’ are two of my favorite records by the band from the past. While they were distinctively different from each other, its the above mentioned aspects that bring these two records together. That said, I was quite excited for their newest offering ‘Spectres from the Old World’. The newest record certainly keeps up with the now well established Dark Fortress aesthetic. The biggest difference now was the aggression in the music. There is no doubt that the band has always been at the forefront of hard hitting aggressive music, ‘Spectres from the Old World’ marks a different feel to the aggression. The feel and flow of the band’s music so far has always been one that is aggressive but paced well, almost as if it is meditative in places. As I understand, this probably takes fine tuning with every release to get closer to the sweet spot that comprises of a music that is literally the calm in the storm. Or maybe the storm foreshadows the calm? You decide.
The storm kicks in right away with “Nascence”, the album’s opening and intro track. In this case it really is the storm foreshadowing the calm. Hard hitting drums backed by riff work that takes you right back to the typical styles of Dark Fortress, the intro is intense. “Coalescence”, “The Spider in the Web” set the motif of the album. Musically there certainly are spectres from the (band’s) old world. Aggression and atmosphere drive the band’s sound on the new record as it always has through the years. The vibe is tense and clinching. The tensions are cast away in places that are void of aggression in the music. It is in these sections that the band in a limited sense departs from the vibe of their old album- the extremes of aggression and solitude. Two opposites respectfully given their spaces instead of being intertwined as one beast. A musical past heard in the present is after all, a spectre. The title track is stunning. The riffs are black metal esque but jumpy, full of movement and maybe a dash of quality groove. There is not a dull movement. The vocals usher in a stellar performance that will leave you chanting over and over again. “Pali Aike” is a moderately paced song with a little more emphasis on groove, the vocals and the wonderful chord progressions. Its a break from the speed. “Pazuzu”, “Isa”, “Pulling at Threads”, “In Deepest Time” showcase a side of the band’s creative endeavors that dives deep into the extremes of metal and the aesthetic of black metal at large, while at the same time never shying away from including elements of other genres of metal in the overall band’s vibe. The shifts from screams to cleans adds character to the atmosphere of the music. Its a sound heaviness of pure bliss. “Penrose Procession” takes the album down a slower and more ambient route with the guitars creating ambient textures and harmonies along with the percussion’s adding subtle yet gravitating depth. This interlude marks the start of the album’s end. “Swan Song” really brings together all of the album’s sound heard so far. In a gist, this song articulates the album as one song. The arrangements on this song is superb. The rhythm sections come at you from all sides. The choir section really makes the song shine really well, along side pretty much everything else too! The album finally comes to a close with “Nox Irae”. The slow fade in of a morose sounding arrangement with a vibe of a somber mass at church for some reason. The orchestrations and the singing on this track is great. Pretty much every Dark Fortress album has that one song that exceptionally stands out from the rest of the album but still holds true to its musical roots. The song proceeds to fade out, giving the album a fitting and peaceful end.
‘Spectres from the Old World’ by Dark Fortress is another fantastic album by the band. The band have done it once again but better- they really outdid themselves this time. The sound was crisp, fresh and modern on the record. The musical virtuoso of the band mates once again take the center stage. Oh and the production quality is a new standard by its own right for any sort of metal production. There is so much to enjoy and above all, there’s so much to learn from. Heavy, mad, pacey and meditative elements are what one could expect on this record. If the quality of a record from the composition and arrangements to the playing to the final mix speaks of a band’s creative direction, ‘Spectres from the Old World’ speaks volumes of nothing but good things and inspiration.