Review Summary: More than just a trip down memory lane.
If by looking at Reign in Supreme Darkness’
cover art you get Marduk and Emperor vibes, it’s because Vargrav’s sophomore effort is exactly that; well, not exactly
that, but a very successful exercise in reviving ‘90s symphonic black metal spirit. Yes, spirit (not the user, even though he’ll probably enjoy this one), because V-Khaoz, the mastermind behind the Finnish act, seems to have studied closely the crème de la crème of symphonic black metal and has produced an album that could have stood its ground back in 1996. Granted, if you’re not into ‘90s black metal homage and would rather jam the OGs of the genre, Reign in Supreme Darkness
is not for you. But those who agree with Colton's most famous quote ("Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery") and get their kicks out of Moon In The Scorpio
, In the Nightside Eclipse
and Enthrone Darkness Triumphant
, are in for a treat.
Honestly, the album’s strongest point is its compelling atmosphere. The combination of the artwork and the majestic intro transports you instantly not only to the glorious days of black metal, but also right in the middle of a medieval fantasy setting, similar to the one on the cover art. Honoring its country of origin, the music here contains a variety of catchy melodies which, along with the layers of synth, enhances the epic element. In fact, the entire LP revolves around the battle between the guitars and synths, which complement each other perfectly. Sparse spoken vocals and slower passages like the one on “Dark Space Dominion” help in the dynamics department, while the clever use of keyboards, which accent the riffs (check “In Streams from Great Mysteries”), creates a majestic atmosphere. What is more, Vargrav is equally comfortable in creating calm passages and menacing, frantic tremolo picking riffs, as evident on “As the Shadows Grow Silent”. In fact, the changes of pace within the same song, are apparent on “Crowned by Demonstorms”, one of the album’s highlights. Finally, the closing track, “Arcane Stargazer”, sums up perfectly what this album is about; it’s grand, adventurous, epic, and blends perfectly cleaner sections with more aggressive/icy ones.
At the end of the day, Reign in Supreme Darkness
won’t provide you with a modern take on black metal but it’s fun, engaging, well-performed, and, with a duration of 41 minutes, excellent for when you’re up for some symphonic black metal but don’t want to jam the classics.