Despite the objections of people who subscribe to certain political leanings (AKA, those who hate and deny science), the possibility that we are choking the world to death is very real. I know, what a shame with the Earth only being 6,000 years old. Ugh. Shrug. Go away.
But that threat is there. Temperatures rising, pestilence moving its way across the globe to permeate every corner, and there always being a chance we could be wrecked for good by something catapulting through space. Life and the Earth are fragile, and that could be altered at any time, sending us into a frenzy. Topics such are these are what long-standing black metal unit Dark Fortress tackle on their latest album “Venereal Dawn,” their most musically ambitious effort to date. Never a band to shy away from a violent, uncomfortable topic, the band delves into the very-possible scenario of the Earth being devastated and life possibly being extinguished. What would that do to our psyche, the way we deal with others, and staring death in its eyes? That is the basis of vocalist/lyricist Morean (also of Noneuclid) on this seventh record, and he jumps into the burning caverns of hell with both feet. Just look at the scorched Earth album cover, and you know what you’re supposed to envision listening to this record.
Along with Morean on this album is the same cast that brought you 2010’s “Ylem.” On guitars are V Santura (Triptykon, Noneuclid) and Asvargr; Draug is on bass duties; Paymon on keys; and behind the drums is Seraph (Noneuclid). The music branches out far past black metal’s caverns, embracing elements of prog rock, doom, and death metal, and the vocals also push more boundaries. It’s a record that might surprise some people in scope but shouldn’t be a shock as they’ve always shown signs of steady progression.
The opener is a big chunk at 11:03, and it spreads itself methodically and with eerie wings. Speak singing emerges to start the tale, but then the song opens up and begins mauling. Furious blasts, buzzing growls, and total violence take over, but later they’re washed away by some strange choral sections, chanty shouts, and powerful soloing. It’s a hell of an opening salvo. “Lloigor” follows, going a little over nine minutes, and it actually feels a bit like an old Opeth song at the start. There are strong growls, a heaping dose of crunch, and progressions into speed and back to more channeled tempos. “Betrayal and Vengeance” has a punishing pace, with plenty of raw growls. But it also is flushed with melody, searing keyboards, and more choral sections. It’s a pretty weird journey. “Chrysalis” heads deep into prog territory, at times sounding like Rush’s more aggressive moments. There are strangely delivered vocals, weird melodies, and singing that sometimes feels a little strange.
“I Am the Jigsaw of a Mad God,” at 8:33, is one of the most interesting cuts on the record, and one of the darkest. There are sections of unbridled savagery, growls that sound like they’re trying to bring down the heavens, bizarre sheets of synth, and a killer vocal sequence that certainly should prompt callbacks live when Morean howls, “First came light!” It’s an awesome piece. “The Deep” pulls back, lasting only a couple minutes long, with rustic, rickety acoustics and crazed growls sneaking in. “Odem” starts like it’s going a folkish route before it blackens heavily, and Morean viciously shouts, “Drink deeply as you breathe me in!” The song is threatening and morbid, and it consistently goes for the jugular. “Luciform” is the weakest track of the bunch, with OK melodic vocals and decent melodies that hang in place. The track darkens with a little over a minute to go, with a killer bassline letting loose and it crushing what remains in its path. The 11:12-long closer “On Fever’s Wings” starts with dripping piano and proggy black. Morean hisses, “Keep heaving, keep breathing,” as soulful female vocals reach out and add a sense of sad elegance to the mix. The song remains stormy and humid, dragging you along behind it, and finally it dissipates with some desperate calls from the backing singer. The song ends much like the world would seem to in this case, finally after a prolonged bout of torture.
“Venereal Dawn” does take a bit of adjustment. That’s not because of the leaps and bounds the band took musically, but because there is so much here to digest. Each listen should unveil new layers and ideas perhaps unnoticed on first or even a few listens, which always is a welcome thing. It’s also fascinating to think that with how far they’ve come on this record, where will album number eight find them? That’s anyone’s guess.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.darkfortress.org/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/