Review Summary: A Theatrical and softer approach to symphonic black metal.
In the Flame of Black Art has a sound that is quite rare to find, even within black metal. The band uses a strange, yet effective style. The output is a softer sounding symphonic black metal record, very similar in style to Absidia's Triumphal Way of Eternal Gods, released four years after this album, but both are within the same time period of the genre. Aside from both playing the same genre, they utilize a relatively minimalistic production, contrary to what more famous bands are doing in the present. This gives the record a darker and antique feeling, which was what the band was hoping to achieve. The major theme conveyed in the music has to be medieval related, as the whole album feels like a black metal play or theater production, a theme not too rare in gothic and symphonic metal genre.
The band comes from Poland and started in 1995, a time when Emperor's "In the Nightside Eclipse" was just released; Arcturus had just released its first few demos along with Bal-Sagoth; Nokturnal Mortum released its debut like Samael. While these early albums were some of the first in the symphonic black metal subgenre, it also makes Darzamat one of the first bands to pioneer into a new genre, which gives the album incredible uniqueness. Something that tends to happen in many musical styles is that bands imitate and simply give more of what is already out there, often with much less quality, With much room for exploration in unknown territory, Darzamat take us back in time to a dark opera of sorts.
Although symphonic black metal is very dynamic and can be approached from many angles, a lot of bands stick to the simple formula of average song length. However, for more atmospheric works, such as this, the song length is over 6 minutes. This gives the band a lot of room for the songs to grow and captivate the listener. There is something very erotic about the songs themselves, which ties into the somewhat pornographic cover. The melodies are astonishingly catchy, leaving you hungry for more. The sound itself is slow, melancholic, erotic, yet peaceful and beautiful. The incredibly distorted electric guitar gives a much needed layer of heaviness, yet it never dominates the sound or compromises it. Once the guitar gets going, it rarely stops, except in a few moments when it lets the keyboards or vocals take a shine. Both as a base and background, the guitar never disappoints. However due to the lack of punch in the guitar, it is hard to restrict this album as just symphonic black metal, since it also takes many elements from symphonic metal. It is much lighter than most symphonic black metal albums out there, and just makes it that much more special. It is worth noting that if you were to remove the guitars, and drums, it would be almost like a real play and would fall into other non-metal genres, which shows that "sounding heavier' isn't always the only way to achieve success.
In the Flame of the Black Arts was unique in 1997, and still is today. Only a minority of bands have released albums that even come close to the style chosen, as most bands to choose either a heavier approach, with loud and powerful vocals, or simplistic and shorter songs with less symphonic elements. Speaking of vocals, there is much variety to be found; there are raspy black metal vocals utilized mainly, female clean singing, and male melancholic-like vocals. The doses of each are pretty good, and the black metal vocals are the best ones here, yet the others are utilized strategically and enhance the music. And in all cases they are kept to a lower volume than the guitars or keyboards. Overall the album delivers its statement in a solid manner, theatrical symphonic black metal with a softer approach. The inclusion of elements from symphonic gothic metal enhances the experience in a marvelous way. All of the songs deliver a consistent approach, yet at times they take a little bit to get going, but once they start they usually end quite solid.