|Title:||Where Shadows Forever Reign|
|Label:||Century Media Records|
|Translation:||Crypt Of Fear|
From an artistic point of view, Dark Funeral are renown among the pioneers of the Swedish way of black metal, that they never knew how to repeat the fantastic results achieved in the mid 90s, first with the "Dark Funeral" EP (1994), then with the gem "The Secrets Of The Black Art" (1996). On the front of the mass feedback instead Lord Ahriman and friends are by then unstoppable and they have gained their grades on the battlefield, or better to say on the stage, traveling around the world in tour having rather to sip the discographic releases (six albums only in over twenty years of career) and keeping themselves at large from commercial flippery meant to squeeze the fans (wines, beers… marked preservatives). In short the Swedish band is criticizable for many reasons, but certainly not about intellectual honesty and correctness.
"Where Shadows Forever Reign" signs the return seven years after the previous "Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus", revealing itself in some ways as an historical redress that brings back straight to 1996, just in conjuction with the exact twenty years since the release of Dark Funeral's most loved album. First and most immediate reason, the beautiful blue tint of the cover realized by Necrolord, who leaves behind himself the blazing demons of the latter (long) period, in favor of a more mystic and ritual tone. Second, the abandoning of the latin on the title's work. Third, the stylistic and compositive freshness enacted by the tracks, which are able to amaze.
Finally Lord Ahriman's artistic vein (for the occasion also bassist) comes back to shine, althrough this is due — according to the same guitarist — to unpleasant personal events. The atmosphere we breath here is faceted and possess unusual shades, no more icy as the beginnings of the band neither sulphureus or telluric as represented by "Diabolis Interium", but more bombastic and almost epic (term to take obviously in a broad sense), dimishing the exclusively powerful approach of the foregoing "Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus". A solemn halo rules the compositions, thanks to Lord Ahriman and Chaq Mol's guitar textures, which no more develops only in the frozen and melodic sense. The opener "Unchain My Soul" and the closing "Where Shadows Forever Reign" are the best examples on the tracklist, where "As One We Shall Conquer" goes deep in the doom metal territory, among the incipit and the various slodowns.
In the composition work Lord Ahriman, joined on some occasions by Dominator (as reported in the booklet credits), was caring to grant atmosphere and fruibility to every track in equal measure, with an important role played by the choruses. The operation is far from simple, however it succeeded: for example "As One We Shall Conquer" engages in an aggressive way; in the case of the obscure summoning of the demon Angra Mainyu in "Temple Of Ahriman", instead, maybe it ends to disperse part of the climate recreated.
Another key aspect of the disc is represented by the dynamism of the rhythmic patterns, never like this time in costant change and always at the service of the tracks. Dominator in facts is not only a portentous glacial war machine constantly playing blast beats, who adds mere firepower to the axes in a detached and indipendent way, now he is capable to cooperate with the rest of the line-up, also thanks to the production, thus exceeded the formula, simple as satisfactory, of the average strict time signature that had characterized "Goddes Of Sodomy" and "Atrum Regina" in the past. The credit goes ascribed also at the choices in the production phase, no longer quite so strict as in the occasion of the previous album, in favour of a more credible and honest sound.
"Where Shadows Forever Reign" coincides with Heljarmadr's baptism (altready committed as a multi-instrumentalist and singer with Cursed 13 and Grá) replacing the iconic Emperor Magnus Caligula on vocals, a really difficult task from an emotional and recognitional point of view, more than a purely technical one. The new singer fully passed the exam with a less acid but quite a lot more intelligible screaming than his predecessor, at ease both in tense and looser situations, clawing and convincing even in the growl moments; even the haggard clean passages are not unpleasant, thanks to a narrative and ominous tone that keeps the tension high. On the lyrics front we are in line with the expectations, we find the obvious recalls to death, armaggeddon and antichristian themes declined as the victory of darkness over the light, as well as monstrous creatures, rituals and invocations; in comparision with Caligula, the new approach to lyrics appears slightly more metaphysical and less direct.
I want to spend the last notes to the format of the analyzed disc: this is the CD version, enclosed in a openable digipak slipcase to form an inverted cross, priceless for every sound ignorance lover. Moreover it contains a sixteen pages booklet with somber tones, complete with photos and (readable) lyrics, plus a poster depicting the cover.
Coming to conclusion after such long analysis, I must admit that I was really astonished from "Where Shadows Forever Reigns"'s many winning innovations, a disc from which I expected very little, despite being a huge fan of Lord Ahriman. Certainly it won't revolutionize anything, between still appreciated self references ("The Eternal Eclipse") and a couple of less significant episodes ("As I Ascend" and "To Carve Another Wound"), yet it takes a veteran formation of the black metal universe back to the limelight. What a tail whip for Dark Funeral!