Review | DARK FUNERAL Summons the End on We Are The Apocalypse

            The gaping abyss sees these legendary Swedes arrive in the company of demonic legions, and with them comes the forces of death and destruction to cleanse our despairing times. DARK FUNERAL is one band who chose not to remain idle during the 2020 lockdowns, instead utilizing their extra time to compose new music, and the result of that productivity has now taken form in We Are The Apocalypse. This dark opus forges ahead on the path from 2016’s Where Shadows Forever Reign, which displayed a greater melodic emphasis infused with the band’s signature ferocity, and those allied qualities persist here to craft hymns of refined tenebrosity with an enduring vicious spirit. The weak and righteous have no escape as We Are The Apocalypse extends its otherworldly presence beyond sacred realms, and the havoc inflicted throughout reaffirms DARK FUNERAL as a prominent influence within the genre.

            This doomsday enterprise launches into an onslaught of blast-beats with tremolo riffing on “Nightfall,” and melodic variants soon weave layers of dread and despair over the ensuing devastation. These elements have always been central to the band’s sound, and they remain prevalent throughout along with areas highlighting the heavy bleakness of riffs, but variety advances through a dire melody when the double bass-powered flow emerges. A merciless execution continues on “When Our Vengeance is Done,” with detailed tremolo courses matched by pummeling blasts, and pointed notes are also revealed during sections of altered rhythmic turbulence. Percussive dexterity is displayed further within the classic persistence of tracks like “Beyond the Grave,” where rapid intricacies enhance the sinister harmony between heavy and melodic currents, and those arrangements shift for a moment of aural ascension following a spoken passage. Many lyrics are easily intelligible despite a harsh delivery from Heljarmadr, who exercises other commanding dynamics on “Nosferatu,” and his vocal patterns synchronize with the tremolo structures here to magnify their fierce effect. A fitting identity is captured in the undead presence discerned from heavier progressions, and the havoc breaks for a grim worded emphasis before venturing toward realms of death to come.

            The familiar and predominant fury is permeated by some expansive designs, with the first exemplar being “Let the Devil In” as notes glare above its marked drumming intro, and a bleak majesty evolves through flowing rhythms that integrate calmer spoken points. These elevate the overall gloom and appear on multiple tracks, including “When I’m Gone,” which also begins with ghostly whispers, and it achieves a mournful immensity when arpeggiations are combined with other melodic textures. Their impact is carried by a rhythmic stride that delves into various detailed patterns, and a similar method is channeled into the ferocity of “A Beast to Praise,” where an altered pace compounds the menace of chords and punctuating notes. This tone is amplified by ravaging progressions, and blast beats match that oppression while vocal layering emphasizes certain words of demonic praise. A tremolo frenzy is further highlighted within areas of mid-paced blasting, and it traverses the storm before reaching clean-stringed desolation on “Leviathan.” An evocative melody unfolds amid the sinister and imposing extremity of its formulas, and they extend to the prevailing signature wrath of the title track. Several currents accumulate here for a bombardment that seizes an ending of catastrophic proportions.

            Death and the apocalypse manifest through words of demonic possession, which initiate an unholy campaign by “Conjuring the damned while opening the gates of Hell” on “Nightfall,” and its infernal dominion is affirmed in calls to “Burn their shrines, make them fear the night” as they “Flee from our ruthless force.” A goddess is also mentioned, whose “Wings spread out wide to cover the sun,” and “All happiness and warmth” are eclipsed before further malice is directed at “A gathering of fools” on “When Our Vengeance is Done.” This flock is said to “Pray on guilt and innocence” while “Hiding their lies,” and “The ancient, raging evil” is invoked to “Reclaim the throne and banish all the filthy scum.” Ruthless acts are carried out before watching “The life escape their eyes,” and annihilation is sought on a grand scale when “Calling forth the End, the Antichrist.” A brutal display against the sacred ensues on “Let the Devil In” with “I open up the throat to sacrifice the lamb of God,” and this aims to summon the dark one “Riding on the shadow of my soul.”

            Possession intensifies on “A Beast to Praise” when perceiving that “My dreams are dark and they are not my own,” and this transformation proceeds “With all those filthy claws reaching out” since “The netherworld is being ripped open wide.” A realization that “My flesh and bones were just keeping me confined and chained but I am finally dead” also occurs before striving to “Bring slaughter and erase all the light.” The realms beyond death are thoroughly explored on tracks like “When I’m Gone,” and it describes being “Haunted by the winds and the gloom is unending.” A certain reunion takes place, which brings rebirth as “My demise and ruination fade,” and it leads to “Beyond the Grave,” where “We shall rise above with our blackened souls” to “Steal the beat of every heart.” Apocalyptic scenes are portrayed with “The horizon aflame” as “Mountains collapse into nameless graves,” and reigning “Over desolate landscapes so torn” prompts calls to “Walk with the shadows, for the world that you shunned is so hopelessly lost.” The herd is engulfed by this destruction, and no mercy is shown in “We can hear all the cries and the screams” while remaining “Indifferent and detached.”

            The subjects of otherworldly reign and death take an intriguing vampiric form on “Nosferatu,” with its likeness presented as “The terminal breath upon your neck” and “Bringer of the disease.” The predatory influence takes hold in “Sinking my teeth to feed and blood gives me life,” along with “I offer death and the end of your strife,” and it ultimately aims “To rule the moonlit night.” Teeth are also sunk “Into the hands” when “From the west he strikes” on “Leviathan,” and the aura of his realm is aptly captured in “Worlds of endless depths drowned in waves.” It also tells how “We arise anew to face a day devoid of light” before the seals are broken on “We Are The Apocalypse,” and this finale is where “Through the blood red mist we march with death and fire riding by our side.” This embodiment will soon “Lead us unto war” while “The black death sweeps the land and is cast upon the weakest,” which then “Strips the bodies from their souls,” and the last points suggest a triumph achieved through the ultimate end. Many alluring elements are captured in these lyrics, and their substance reflects the dark imagery of the music and artwork, alongside greater ambitions beyond the downfall.

            DARK FUNERAL doesn’t seek to write much experimentation into these sound arts, but they are striving toward a dynamism that continues on We Are The Apocalypse. Stagnancy is successfully repelled by combining the classic focus on speed and fury with a striking melodic expansion, and rhythmic variations are interspersed throughout the storm alongside different vocal expressions, which all assist in driving a myriad of dark manifestations. A heightened potency is also noted in the compositions, along with a reinvigoration which reflects the favorable absence of deadline pressures, and the themes are easily relatable to our current times while being presented through DARK FUNERAL’s steadfast perspective. An unrelenting devotion to their path of infernality is exhibited on We Are The Apocalypse, and this work possesses a ruinous capacity to enhance the allure of those shadowy realms.

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