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To be honest, It is a very simple formula that is presented on this first ep of the Norwegian band Aeternus. Somehow their name plays into this because one cannot shake of the impression as if the music would be able to go on for even longer, without ever annoying or tiring the listener. It is the steadiness, it is the limitation, it is the atmosphere which all in coalition leave this positive impression. 1995 the black metal scene looked different and the amount of facets of our days could not have been foreshadowed back then; not surprisingly the sound had been another one and could be perceived more gloomy today then all those years ago.
Back to the steadiness and to the simplicity. It appears that one merely needs to know how to brew the elements together properly in order for them not to leave the listener annoyed or bewildered. There is this consideration in the song-writing about the need for layers and how these support each other. Even though the drums are quite monotonous and could easily be “handled” by a drum-computer, they do not sound off. Furthermore, the guitars fall into a similar pattern and create a dense layer of sound, which comes over as quite impenetrable and creates the main focus once the vocals do not make an appearance. The melodies are allowed to progress slowly, there is no haste, the motives are supposed to sink in – sorcery or religion gains its strength from the aspect of constant repetition and this is celebrated by the Norwegian band in this case. Be it the subliminal manipulation of the mind in “Black Dust”, the glorification of the brutal deeds of a primitive tribe in “Victory” or the pagan mysticism in “Raven and Blood” all of these appear in a somewhat similar style and approach. Every time the music has this inevitable need for moving on. Or … is this because of the banality of each of these aspects; rendered meaningless in an environment of constant movement or dynamics? With this all encompassing imperative the perspective towards time and space changes and places these on a different level than modern man would tend to do.
Anyway, what is somewhat curious about this release, as well as the later “... and So the Night Became”, is the limitation in dimension. Despite the extreme topics, the emphasis on war and destruction the music is surprisingly calm and maybe even focussed – in German I would use the word “gesammelt”, but I had been unable to find a term that would translate properly into English in this case. Somehow as if the entire aspect would be nothing more than a banal circumstance, whose overall implications can basically be ignored. Yes, the music is dark and the vocals – this generally great performance by Ares on the early outputs – do their part to increase the tension, but from a broader perspective one might ask whether the actual presentation of the topics are not a bit wanting and unnecessarily bereft of certain facets and sounds. This is also the main criticism of their second album – referred to above – as well as of their third one – “Shadows of Old”, which has seen a drastic shift on numerous levels and whose concept is rather an excuse for avoiding the issue of the preceding output.
“Dark Sorcery” is a mixture of sounds and approaches. The tracks shift in concept and dominance. It feels as if the band had recorded the music during different sessions and did not pay proper attention for those trifles like an adequate balancing between the compositions. Leaving this aside, the last track on this ep falls a bit through the cracks, because “Nordlys”, except for an indirect reference to the concept of course, fails to be connected to the overall performance of the band on this ep. The fact that this flaw makes a strange reappearance throughout their “career” does definitely not help things in this regard. It comes over as an excuse for failing to web certain facets together into a coherent framework. Emperor had shown a larger amount of skill in song-writing in this regard.
The fan boys are presumably all over this release, because in it those first glimpses of the later “grandeur” of the music of the Norwegians can be examined; their albums are overrated to some extent. But there are far too many unsatisfying things going on here. All of these are just small things, yet one cannot deny to ascertain that they all combined reduce the overall quality somehow. The icy guitars, the powerful drums and the impressive vocals are all well done in their respective corner. Once these appear aligned together questions arise … and with answers out of sight. It is no surprise to see a change in direction some year later, because throughout their albums the music is only allowed to shine locally and in small spots, while from a broader perspective it fails to thoroughly impress. It is the first step of a band that never really dared to dig deep into the realm that their music supposedly dealt with.
Aeternus are a black metal band from Norway that eventually crossed over to death metal later in the 2000's. Having formed themselves in 1993, Dark Sorcery is the first EP and real release for the band having only released a demo tape prior. The group have been highly revered among black metal audiences, namely for their debut full-length album Beyond the Wandering Moon and it's follow up ...And So the Night Became. But what preceded those albums that have been long adored? What untold story does Dark Sorcery have to offer?
"Human dreams, such a fruitful place to plant the seeds of terror!"
The above line is the creepy first sentence of the opening track, "Black Dust", which is a little over seven and a half minutes of spine tingling terror at its finest. The track is led in by thunder, howls, wind and a tolling bell that quickly set the ghastly atmosphere for the rest of the album. Dark Sorcery is done founding members Ares the vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist and Vrolok who is the drummer. "Black Dust" is one of the stronger songs on this EP and can inflict goosebumps on the listener with ease. Sounding like the grim reaper himself, Ares' vocals carry on melodiously with a deep, demonic tone that goes hand in hand with the demented lyrics.
"Black flames will rise - as the gate
Opens - into the realm - of the dead
Here - you will sleep - eternally
And in your never ending dream
I will dance - and laugh"
"Raven and Blood" is another gripping track that will make one feel the icy cold breath of death along their neck as the attention holding story of Ares folds out among eerie synthesized organs, frantic guitars and pummeling drum beats. Throughout the material there is a good mix up of chord and tremolo riffs, and the guitars tend to stay on the heavier chords which makes up for the lack of bass in the material. The final track "Nordlys" is a completely acoustic instrumental piece of nordic-folk inspiration, this combined with the small acoustic guitar fragments buried under the tracks asks the question as to why Aeternam were never seen as a black folk metal band. The song itself is very compelling and is backed by a single, steady bass drum.
The production quality here is low enough to give Dark Sorcery that sinister old cult feel but still decent enough that the guitars can be heard clearly despite their distorted tone and the audio fuzz that the production gives off. The drums are also clear and uncompressed alongside the vocals, which remain the highlight on this album. The overall sensation given from the moment this album starts until it ends is the reason why any metal fan should give this EP a listen. Very dark in atmosphere, good in quality and unrelenting in narrative, Dark Sorcery is one of the must hear Aeternus releases.
- Villi Thorne
Aeternus is a band that back in their early days were definitely one of those up-an-coming groups that were making a pretty good name for themselves in the underground. It didn't hurt the fact of the notion that they managed even in their demo days that they simply stood out from most of the goofy panda-faced pack of extreme Scandinavian metal imitators. Even though Aeternus have all the necessary and right black metal influences and roots, they were simply much more than that and they were onto a genre of music that is to this day hard to define; dark metal.
Dark metal is one of those many sub-genre names you always hear; Viking metal, Celtic metal, avant garde metal, etc. It's one of those names that are too broad to classify seeing how in reality so many bands carry the same traits as far as influences, lyrical themes. I mean, what makes a band such as Amon Amarth any different from Morbid Angel, other than they are at polar opposites of nature's elements(fire and ice, go figure!) and one talks about Vikings? They both still play death metal. So what could be dark metal described as? Well, it's extreme. That's a start. It's easily black and death metal, but it also includes doom and folk influences. Now I know some person is going to read this and disagree or say "You're so full of shit"...but then again you can go ahead your own damn review and give YOUR definition. Back to the topic; Aeternus is easily as black and death metal, but they are also as easily influenced by doom and folk at the same time perfecting a very HEAVY and just DARK sound. It's the kind of sound that evokes a feel of pure dread when alone. Crawling in a fetus position in a jail cell while being in an extreme state of schizophrenia or alone in the middle of the black forests of Maryland and hearing wild dogs howl in the dead of night. It's not depressing or melodramatic, it's just a heavy state of dread and fear mixed into one another. It's crushing in every sense.
"Dark Sorcery" opens up with the song "Black Dust" which has vocalist Ares showing his great evil-sounding deep vocals off with the lines "human dreams - such a fruitful place to plant the seeds of terror." The song itself is very haunting. Imagine old-school Bathory mixed in with a more thicker, and echo-y doom metal sound/influence. There is a fuzz the guitars give off, but it adds to the thick wall of darkness the band manages to pull off. It's a very emotional piece that when I first listened to it, I imagine the simplistic idea of a child afraid of falling asleep at night because the boogeyman might get him. Mixed in with the sound of church bells, wolves, and evil-sounding monsters, again it evokes images of all your childhood fears come to life. For an opening track, it already sets the tone for the rest to follow. "Victory" opens up with Ares howling inhumanly, as if in pain. This song is more mid-tempo with some quick double bass rolls and is catchy. "Raven And Blood" could have easily been written by Amon Amarth. Oh yeah this one has those epic fucking Swedish metal riffs that goes back and forth between both Swedish death and black metal, which always amazes me because Aeternus are Norweigian. I'm not a rocket scientist on just how different Norweigian metal and Swedish metal and probably couldn't provide you with a definate answer, but Aeternus nails it with their sound. "Nordlys" is am amazing, beautiful acoustic piece with a medieval Celtic touch to it that makes you remember times of yore with huge beer mugs and wenches with their bosoms delivering them to you. The extra track "In the Darkest Circles Of Time" takes "Raven And Blood" and ups the evil mixture of Swedish black/death metal riffs and puts them to a war-like marching beat that ends with a crushing double-bass bridge with Ares growling the song's title.
Last thing I forgot to mention is how this band put out some really good albums even after this. Although shortly after their second album "...and So the Night Became", they put out one more album with their original and best line-up which consisted of Ares on vocals/guitars, Morrigan on bass, and Vrolok on drums, they completely lost track and tried to sound too much like Zyklon/Morbid Angel in my opinion. It sucks because up to their second album Aeternus was just a damn good band. Oh well. I still remember the day I actually found their "Dark Sorcery" E.P. in the local record store and then taking it home and being blown away by the sound and everything. Also if you managed to come across a copy of this, make sure it's the 1999 Hammerheart re-issue. It's worth it. It's definitely one of the handful of albums I constantly go back to and tell people about.
Holy fucking shit, I should’ve got this one sooner. I wasn’t expecting such a glorious demo from two years prior to “Beyond…”, yet my cynicism over Aeternus' consistancy has yet again been proven unfounded. There’s not even a slight feeling of primitivity or unbalanced songwriting, this is Aeternus in a nutshell; intelligent, epic and above all conceptually coherent. There’s even a lovely acoustic instrumental!
The songs don’t quite follow lyrically in the manner they do on “Beyond…”, which isn’t abnormal for an EP, but Aeternus yet again never lose sight of their goal, sailing into war with ingrained pride and honour. In fact there is very little difference between this and the debut full-length, except maybe a slight lack in subtlety, contrasting moods and daring exploration, so I’m struggling to think of anything to add.
Bottom line: This is narrative, epic, glorious DM-influenced BM that should be on every Aeternus fan’s list (and everyone else’s too).
When I put this album ( the Re-released Digi-Pack Version) in my player for the first time, I sank immediately into the world of Aeternus. Similarly as with the successor "Beyond The Wandering Moon" or "....And So The Night Became" you are spellbound from the atmosphere and you don´t even try to press the stop button.
Dark Sorcery - storm, thunder & lightning; a dark bell rings and a voice says: "Human Dreams - Such A Fruitful....To Plant The Seeds - Of Terror"....then the first Song starts in mid speed but very atmospheric, majestic and melodic. Grandiose sound and partially dark synthesizers add some extra black atmosphere. The whole mini CD is settled more in the mid speed range, blastspeed is partly also present and very suitably assigned. The vocals are very dark & deathmetalish. The song "Nordlys" is an instrumental - one the most beautiful, which I ever heard.
Aeternus are one of the few bands, who have the talent to guide you into another world with their music. You´re sitting alone in a dark room and you´re wandering through the dark landscape while the music is playing.