ALBUM REVIEW: Where Shadows Forever Reign – Dark Funeral

Swedish black metallers DARK FUNERAL have played such a huge part in a genre that has had some of the most memorable controversies happen in a music genre. Church burnings, murders, sacrificial rituals, yet for a band who has been there since the beginnings of the genre and are considered to be the ineffable kings of black metal, they have kept it straight up just about the music and strictly channelled the darkness through that, keeping their noses clean, making them the most deserving band of that title. Will their sixth studio album, Where Shadows Forever Reign, stand up to the title they have carried for so long?

It must be noted that Where Shadows Forever Reign is going to sound different to DARK FUNERAL’s previous releases in some manners. For example, Lord Ahriman, founder of the black metal band had to record bass on the album after their most recent bassist Natt left after the first single release, Nail Them to the Cross. On top of that, DARK FUNERAL introduced us to a new vocalist, Heljarmadr.

Unchain My Soul kicks off the sixth studio album from the band, it seeps in slowly, setting an atmosphere of darkness before gaining in tempo. It is immediately clear that without a doubt, Heljarmadr is the man for the role of being DARK FUNERAL’s vocalist. He has such power and brute force in his vocal abilities right from the get go, able to really grasp your attention. Take Heljarmadr’s vocals from the mix and the musical approach is also very noticeably different. Lord Ahriman previously stated that he wanted to take a different approach musically, whilst the roots would still be there, the sound would have a little more depth to it in terms of grooves and rhythm and in a genre where fans and other musicians take different approaches very seriously, there is no doubt that this will be a problem.

As One We Shall Conquer and Beast Above Man really only furthers and cements the previous comments towards DARK FUNERAL. The instrumentation is beyond articulate, it’s especially noticeable in the drumming from Dominator. The tracks were clearly written with precision and a definite idea in mind of exactly how the changes to the sound needed to be executed and only being so early into the album, it is chilling just how spot on the Swedish black metallers have got it with Where Shadows Forever Reign.

Temple of Ahriman really takes you to the pure darkness behind the band. Whilst DARK FUNERAL are not a band to stick to the rules and regulations of black metal in terms of non-music related actions, the track itself is a black metal masterpiece. Temple of Ahriman sends dramatic amounts of chills down the spine, it is so dark and as a song, it’s clearly intellectual in terms of just how flawless each bit of the song is. Everything flows into each other, everything has its own place and each bit of detail in the song follows each other effortlessly. Once again, Heljarmadr’s vocals are outstanding and by far he has proven himself to be the man to fit the shoes that were left behind and frankly to see him go would be an absolute tragedy, to say he would be irreplaceable would be a bold statement but it’s a statement worth considering.

Moving on from Temple of Ahriman, you can really notice the difference in musical approach when you reach To Carve Another Wound. It definitely has a lot more groove tying in, but it works. In fact, the way that the grooves and rhythms work together with the standard black metal sound, it makes it sound genuinely darker and a lot more hypnotic. There is something that fans love about black metal as a genre, it makes them feel powerful and in control of things that they might not do any other time and To Carve Another Wound definitely has that quality about it.
Single Nail Them to the Cross is another track that displays expert skills, usually singles on albums are seen as the songs that will sell the album the most, often the most generic but DARK FUNERAL have not done that with this one. They have just decided to show listeners how dark they’re getting with Where Shadows Forever Reign and it has been done excellently. If anything, Nail Them to the Cross is the perfect gateway into closing the album off with title track Where Shadows Forever Reign.

As the finale, you should expect that it’s going to be a chilling experience when listening to DARK FUNERAL and as always, they have not disappointed. Where Shadows Forever Reign as a track is epically dark and there is no holding back, plain and simple. It displays so much strength, not just in the song itself but also how it describes the band. The title track really shows just how much the band have developed, whilst they might not have the most extensive discography, they have continuously found new grounds to break and by far, this album is one of the fiercest.

Where Shadows Forever Reign is one of the strongest DARK FUNERAL albums to date, regardless of problems that arose throughout recording such as the departure from Natt. The album is simply stunning, the direction in which they have taken with Where Shadows Forever Reign is definitely the right one, the decision to have Heljarmadr should not be dismissed either. The vocalist has so much to offer to the band and the band have so much to offer to him also, it is a flawless line-up of musicians and together they have truly created a work of art.

The amount of raw power and strength that is drawn from Where Shadows Forever Reign is second to none and without a doubt, it is just as dark as ever. They have stood the test of time, line-up changes and a massively controversial genre and after this album, they can safely say that nothing can withdraw what they have achieved. They are the ineffable kings of black metal.

Rating: 9/10

Dark Funeral

Where Shadows Forever Reign is out June 3 via Century Media Records

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Jessica Howkins

Co Editor-in-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine, Music Journalism student.