Review Summary: Dark Fortress bite off slightly more than they can chew.
Being in a black metal band isn’t easy. From the elaborate live performances (or lack thereof) to the constant debate over the definitive production style for the genre, few black metal bands ever really manage to gain a significant amount of recognition in their careers. For quite a while, Dark Fortress fell under that category. Thirteen years and four albums after their formation, they caught their first break in 2007, with their modestly successful album, Eidolon
. Three years later, they released Ylem
, an improvement over past albums, and a step forward creatively and commercially for the band. And now here we are, four years later, in 2014, with a new full-length, Venereal Dawn
. With this album, Dark Fortress manage to continue their streak of solid black metal records, even in spite of a couple flaws.
When compared to Eidolon
or even Ylem
, you’ll notice that the production job on Venereal Dawn
is significantly different. The sound and mixing is much clearer and more focused on the music itself than relying on atmosphere through ambience or fuzziness. Also, there are a number of tracks, including the title track, that utilize clean vocals, and even one track that contains female vocals. That’s by no means a detriment to the harsher vocal style of Morean, however, as he grunts and rasps his way through the ten tracks with ease. There’s also a stunning amount of variety within the songs, with some (“Betrayal and Vengeance”) focusing more on adding in proggier elements and guitar solos, and others (“Chrysalis”) going for the darker, more atmospheric black metal approach. The acoustic rendition of “The Deep” is also an excellent closer, even if it is on the album twice.
Here’s where the dividing line is going to be, however: There are so many ideas and experiments going on within the songs that some may find it to be too overwhelming or jumbled all over the place. And that’s entirely understandable. This isn’t by any means your run-of-the-mill black metal album with some melody thrown in here and there. With Venereal Dawn
, Dark Fortress have embraced their creative side. Does it work out for the better? That entirely depends upon the listener’s preference. There’s a really strong Opeth/Enslaved vibe coming off from the music, so if you enjoy those bands, chances are that you’ll probably enjoy this. If you’re looking for an interesting take on the black metal genre, even if it does break a couple unspoken rules, then you’ll also likely enjoy this. If you’re seeking out that
black metal album, the one to completely change the scope of things, or if you disliked the past few records from these guys, then this album is probably not the right one for you. Even so, however, Venereal Dawn
is worth at least one listen, if only to find which side of the spectrum you fall underneath.