Report | DARKTHRONE – Astral Fortress

            The Norwegian pioneers bringing forth a second consecutive full-length makes this quite the time to be alive, and Astral Fortress advances the doom of last year’s Eternal Hails….. with an array of aural elements. The video of Fenriz walking through the wilderness to “Caravan of Broken Ghosts” set an initial premise, and multiple song titles carry that suggestion of natural settings, which reflects the chasmic and abyssal reverberations of its organic sound. Grooved and rocking tempos drive the strides across those terrains, but a distinct power resonates from the beats despite their slower prevalence, and that energy is matched by riffing to reach points of cumulative might. One demonstration of this impact is conjured during the latter portion of “Stalagmite Necklace,” a track further marked for the melody unfolding in its main riff, and other key features are highlighted when it joins ambience with dissonant arpeggiated notes for a twofold haunting effect.

            Tremolo and thrashy outbreaks are included among the diverse riff arsenal, along with a seemingly minimalistic structure on “Impeccable Caverns of Satan,” but this still progresses effectively with notes to augment its crushing force. Other fretted details form a sinister blend alongside the chord and tremolo shifts of “Kevorkian Times,” and dismal tones materialize within the formulas of “Eon 2,” where a galloping pace is also observed. Rhythms deliver compelling strikes throughout, but their grandeur is carried further when melodic and speed currents take lead, and one instance of that enhancing quality is represented here. Rare instrumental effects are the definitive trait for this release, with acoustic and clean strings appearing at calculated points, and the atmosphere peaks on “The Sea Beneath the Seas of the Sea” from multiple ambient enchantments. Those dynamics turn unsettling with the keys of an interlude track, which reinforces a blackened dominance amid the experimentation, and the primal ultimately becomes fathomless for a satisfying continuation of DARKTHRONE’s quest to extract the pure metal essence.

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