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When I hear the term Atmospheric Black Metal my mind usually wanders off to slow-paced keyboard-oriented funeral anthems, filled to the very brim with eerie samples, programmed drums, and grainy production. Few bands manage to hold their ground here without sombre piano melodies or distant howls, but when they pull it off it's usually a nice breath of freshness in the claustrophobic and damp catacombs of the genre. The Spaniards of DANTALION are one of these chilly gusts of wind, and even seem to get by just fine without adorning themselves in corpsepaint or lurking in cemeteries at night (many of their promo pictures are taken in broad daylight!).
Before listening to "Call Of The Broken Souls," it's crucial that you're not expecting the synthesizer-heavy droning kind of Black Metal described above. While everything has a cold and sombre mood, this is still a raw experience that sucks you up but at the same time doesn't make you doze off. The drums are genuine and dynamic, there isn't much repetition of monotonous riffs, and the vocals are snarled straight in your face. Thus the band successfully keeps the full attention of the listener throughout these roughly 45 minutes of heavy-hearted and sorrowful Black Metal.
Intertwining slower typically depressive passages with up-beat yet hardly joyful riffs and some acoustic picking is the greatest success of DANTALION. Whereas you might find yourself drifting off to sleep while listening to the fourteenth loop of a Funeral Doom style riff in other so-called atmospheric projects, the constant and careful variation of tempo and mood sends "Call Of The Broken Souls" into the upper-class of their kind. The production itself is still a bit weak and grainy, but the strength of compositions such as "Death's Cold Layer" more than makes up for this minor flaw.
As recently as January the 16th DANTALION announced that their vocalist and founding member Zeukram has left due to personal reasons, but apparently the band is already in search of a new singer. I hope this won't affect their future output in anything but a positive way, since they definitely seem to be on the right track with "Call Of The Broken Souls." While it's not noticeably innovative in any way or shape, they've delivered a praiseworthy piece of work, which provides just the right amount of solitude and despair for anyone willing to expose and face these feelings.
(Online February 22, 2008)
Written for the Metal Observer
Call Of The Broken Souls is the second album from Spanish black metal band Dantalion, following their 2006 debut When The Ravens Fly Over Me. (The band, incidentally, is named after the 71st spirit of Solomon’s Goetia, a Grand Duke of Hell.) Although I just called Dantalion Spanish, they are in fact from Galicia, the north-western province of Spain, and, as anyone who knows Spain can testify, these regional identities count for a great deal, be they Catalonian or Castilian, Basque or Grenadan – or Galician. In this at least, Dantalion share common ground with the Galician ethnic revivalist band Sangre Cavallum, who are the only other band I know to fly the Galician flag.
A Galician folk tradition provides a strong conceptual framework for the lyrics of Call Of The Broken Souls – the ‘Santa Compaña’, or ‘Holy Company’, a mythical procession of dead souls which acts as a harbinger of approaching doom and which has parallels with the Wild Hunt traditions of Germanic northern Europe. The cover of Dantalion’s album depicts this spectral procession, in a manner reminiscent of the ‘Blind Dead’ series of films by Amando De Ossorio.
And so to the music. Call Of The Broken Souls has eight tracks totalling 46 minutes, with all songs but one sung in English. This is well produced, mid-tempo black metal with plenty of slower interludes and effective uncanny atmospheres, with Netzja’s guitars doing most of the work. Dantalion aren’t one of those gothic metal bands who assume that keyboards equal atmosphere, although there are occasional sound effects, of crows cawing and so on. Their overall sound can be compared to that of German bands like Orlog, Helrunar and Drautran, the Swedish band Shining, or Dantalion’s Danish labelmates Angantyr, so it makes sense for them to be on Det Germanske Folket. ‘Prophecy Of Sorrow’ has a rather lovely acoustic guitar duet intro, and the lengthy ‘Wandering Along The Paths’ is probably the highlight of the album. I don’t discern any amazing originality in Dantalion, but they do what they do perfectly well.
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: