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Dark Funeral - Vobiscum Satanas
Review: A pinpoint of darkness, trailing layers of possibility, is how this music would appear if generated in a one-dimensional space. Where most of the music operates on the basic principle of popular music in emphasizing key centers and creating a lyrical space for vocal movement, good portions of this album deviate into increasingly ambitious structures which provide a dark melodic undercurrent to the associated guitar played behind the major riffs to emphasize their context. It is a simplified but well-formulated assessment of black metal as a classicist intervention in otherwise violent but cinematic rock music.
Aggressive guitar work either boils with blast beats that reverberate internally with a chaos that appears to the listener as a prolonged turbulence of abuse, or is augmented by a Hellhammer (of Mayhem)-style double-hit counter-rhythm that expands the percussion fill to be the bulk of a slowly released rhythmic tension. Well-doubled to emphasize melody, the guitars here are either illustrating a major theme or building subthematic melody to sustain it, sometimes in the form of harmony. Their duality allows a prevalence of metal power riffing at the same time fret-running augmentation in the style of Dissection carries a bulk of the listener's focus, underlying the basic melodic structure behind the work which is spelled out as often as not in the opening moments with a simple harmonic version of the riff.
A major disappointment is the vocal writing - not the vocals themselves, which are a characteristically executed black metal pulse of spastic vocal diffusion (sounding a tad close to harmonizers in the rise and fall of the level of distortion but otherwise well stated), but the melodies which are missed in the seemingly tangential vocal lines which drift of course as if to suggest a direction, but in the end are pointing to nothing. The songwriting beneath them carries the songs well, despite losing its intensity due to a similar way in the method by which many of its more advanced structures are detours that support but do not evolve the major themes, effecting an affirmative return to the basis of the theme without any real change in its status, a thematic recursion often driven to conclusion by a breathtaking tempo acceleration and filtration to endpoint through a sequence of clustered blasts dividing more lyrical passages.
For those who enjoy aggressive metal in the melodic version of old school, this is a release that will gratify with its unflagging devotion to rhythmic stimulation with the replacement of harmony through melodic phrases that conclude in diminishing or leading phrases, a wandering tendency that allows the rest of the band to move in absolute motion of rhythm in construction of the song structure. The lack of larger focus to the melodic potential this band showcases in celebration of several generations of metal (Metallica, Emperor, Sacramentum) doesn't damage the motivational power of these songs, but does reduce competition to a linear passage that is less contrapuntal than a single dimension of reality moving between its poles.