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Pristine, crystallized and refined - 90%

CadenZ, May 3rd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Century Media Records (Limited edition, O-card)

And Dark Fortress said, “Let there be darkness”, and there was darkness.

Bleak, gloomy darkness with razor-sharp fucking edges, and a crushing, doomy, heavy-as-fuck atmosphere, that is. Are you interested in getting sucked into a pitch-black abyss of hate, anger, and despair? Then join me and make “Ylem” the soundtrack of your pitiful life, at least for a short while. Longer periods may result in murder and/or suicide.

This German bona fide black metal platoon has shown their class on previous albums like “Stab Wounds” and “Eidolon”, but “Ylem” is something different. Something grander. DF have managed to make an album that is catchier and easier to get into, while at the same time being totally uncompromising and evolving their sound onto another level. This is no longer a diamond in the rough, this is a pristine, crystallized and refined product of shining savage blackness.

“Ylem” sports a wide range of tempos and moods, but still has an easily discernible theme present throughout the album. Slithering slow parts toll the bells of doom, while furious blast beats eviscerate the holy and evil blackthrash riffs taunt their feeble screams. Gloomy keyboards and guitar leads add depth to the texture, and Morean’s demonical voice pierces the air with inhuman shrieks and growls. On closer “Wraith” we also get some clean guest vocals by someone named Mortal, adding to the epic aura surrounding the piece.

Despite the variety of the material nothing seems out of place, but everything plays its part perfectly in the big picture. The production is crystal clear and powerful, yet still manages to convey the malice spewed forth by the Bavarians. Especially the drums sound absolutely fantastic, everything else sounds great as hell but the drums really deserve an extra mention. And if you wonder who is responsible for recording, producing, mixing and mastering “Ylem”, well, that would be guitarist and main composer V. Santura together with the rest of the band. Not bad. The only thing which seemed odd at first was the fast blast beat snare which is inserted on top of the regular drumming and music on slower parts in a couple of songs. Several listens slotted this strange idea into its place, though: it serves an unsettling purpose, bringing unease and distress into the music.

“Ylem” is for me one of the best albums from 2010. Recommended tracks for the doubters: frantic opener “Ylem”, slow creepy ballad (!) “Evenfall” and hateful anthem of destruction “Nemesis”. The spooky bonus track, a cover of “Sycamore Trees” (from the TV show “Twin Peaks”,) featuring Morean’s from-beyond-the-grave basso profondo vocals deserves to be mentioned as well. A chilling and most honorable rendition. All in all: black metal doesn’t get much better than this today.

Ylem - Dark Fortress - 84%

MystifyXD, May 12th, 2010

German melodic black metallers Dark Fortress has made their 6th opus and their 3rd on their current label, Nuclear Blast, entitled “Ylem”. This album is their 2nd album with their new vocalist, Morean. For a band under a major recording label be unexposed to media, this is unusual.

First of all, the overall atmosphere feels grim and cold and the speed of the songs are usually mid-tempo, so if you like aggressive black metal, you might not get the enjoyment you’re finding here. The vocals aren’t pure rasps, usually being more similar to a death grunt. The band also has hints of symphonies, but they are only that: just hints. They are good at just giving the right symphony without distinguishing themselves as a symphonic black metal band. The black metal riffs aren’t that typical, being mid-tempo and somewhat progressive on some songs. Meanwhile, the song production is so polished, making the songs devoid of the bass guitar.

Though there are a lot of good tracks in the album, the selected ones shine to be the best tracks. The title track has a technical riff for an intro, and then later becomes explosive with a raspy scream. “As the World Kneels Over”, though not a song of speed, builds its grim and slovenly atmosphere with finesse. “Osiris” continues the atmosphere the previous song brought over with hints of symphonic music and harsher vocals. For a song greeting your ears with a scream, “Silence” isn’t the appropriate title for this song, though the song slows down smoothly in the middle of the song. “Satan Bled” is a four-and-a-half minute pummeling black metal fury, but still done with melody.

Good album, though they might want to put some more aggression in some songs to vary the songs, which is one thing the album lacks, since the songs here are usually mid-tempo. Another thing is that there are only a few tracks that shine the most throughout the album. If you like black metal but can’t handle too much aggressiveness, better snag this one.

Originally made for

A New Chapter - 77%

Razakel, March 11th, 2010

Did you know “Dark Fortress” is the English translation of “Dimmu Borgir”? Pretty funny, but I’d definitely say the former band is much more interesting today than the latter, and their new album, Ylem, is proof of that. You might even wonder why I bring up the comparison. Well, Dark Fortress has become a pretty polished sounding black metal band, one might even throw the word “modern” out to describe them. I wouldn’t dispute this, however I find them to be much more worthwhile than the vast majority of their over-produced, gimmicky contemporaries.

It seems that one thing the band focused on with Ylem was making a more diverse album than usual. This still sounds like what you’d expect from a Dark Fortress release, but there’s a few experiments and surprises thrown in this time. The title track open things up in a fairly characteristic manner. It’s mostly fast paced, with a vicious vocal performance and some nice guitar leads. Even in this track, the slow, moody break about halfway through is a nice touch. As the World Keels Over also varies in pace, and the verses even seem to delve into some atmospheric area. Osiris follows suit, relying on a fairly straightforward, yet hard-hitting momentum. The first real scorcher is Silence, which does anything but live up to its name. This is one of the more chaotic tracks featured here, displaying fast riffs, great blastbeats, and once again, an impressive vocal performance. Evenfall is about where the album starts to branch off into unfamiliar territory. Morean utilizes some strange groaning clean vocals on this one, which I don’t find to be completely convincing. As a whole, the song doesn’t seem to develop as well as the other ones. Satan Bled is another fierce blazer in the vein of Silence, although still features some slower sections. Closing the album, is certainly the largest departure from Dark Fortress’ usual sound, and is a track that will doubtlessly divide fans. Morean showcases some fairly high pitched clean vocals over an otherwise crushingly heavy, slow paced doom-influenced track. It’s a bit strange at first, but in the end is surprisingly convincing. The vocals take some getting used to, but the riffs are completely awesome.

I like the apocalyptic theme running through the album. Ylem is apparently the primordial matter from which all elements originated (before the Big Bang). To return to this state would mean the end of everything that exists now. Sure, it’s not the most original idea for a black metal concept, but it makes for more interesting lyrics than most modern black metal bands churn out these days. Ultimately, the theme is well conveyed throughout the music, with some songs featuring atmospheric touches, such as my personal favourite, The Valley. There’s almost an epic feel to many of the songs, which also makes for a more convincing listen.

If there’s one thing I may critique, it is the length of the album. The songs are sharp and well polished, but in the end they don’t justify the album being over seventy minutes long. It seems as though the band tried to please everybody rather than being concise with the material, and it made for a bit of a bloated result. Nevertheless, Ylem is a very worthy chapter in Dark Fortress’ history, and one that I would strongly recommend.

Originally written for

Ylem: Decent into Darkness - 90%

burnoutfool, February 23rd, 2010

The German black metal scene has always had good music, and with the release of Ylem, Dark Fortress shows that the German scene is still alive – very much so. I really have always enjoyed these guys, minus their middle era, where they went a bit too out there for me. The thing that always astounded me about Dark Fortress is that they’re like a symphony without having symphonic instruments to them. They maintain the harsh black metal style in playing with Guitar/Bass/Drums/Vocals only, but make the music so melodic, that it’s hard not to like.

Ylem is another concept album (much like many of the recent releases in the metal world), which explores what the universe was like before the big bang, which is what Ylem itself means. The whole philosophy behind a world that’s condensed into an atom is amazing, especially when it’s thrusted in your face with harsh screaming and fast paced sounds. Much of the album was based on having a progression to it, progressing from slow-blues oriented solos, often rock tunes, and slow metal chords, moving up to really fast pasted melodic chords (mostly reverse power chords, drop thirds and open chords) that gave the album a really dark feel, though maintaining the high notes in black metal.

Much of the technical solos were in fact really good, and I enjoyed many of the solo intros done by Santura. As always, the album was dark, which I guess, is why their name has the word in it. The album had more growling oriented vocals, however, maintaining a black metal feel to it. This album, looking down to it, really is a typical black metal release. Very power chordal oriented, harsh vocals, many blast beats, bass is unheard of, except in maybe 2 songs, but at the same time having the progression that I love in music.

Atmosphere is everywhere in this album. Dark Fortress has always maintained a great atmosphere to their music, but in this album, it has one of their best (after Séance). When I listen to concept albums, I get the full atmosphere, especially when I read the lyrics to the songs along with the music, because it pairs the ideals with the music and puts you in the middle of the painting they’re creating. This album does have this, moreso then any concept that I’ve ever heard.

Downfalls, though, is that most of the album sounds the same (typical in black metal) and much of the album seems to be more of a filler then anything. Many of the lyrics seem to repeat themselves. Compare Osiris to The Valley and you will understand my point. Also, much of the album repeats, however that’s not a reason to count it out. Many of the solos do seem to repeat, but at the same time, have their own feel to each and every one. Basically the album is really just about getting you amped through depression, and it does work. You do feel the crushing blackness of Ylem, but through that you feel anger. I do like the poeticism in the lyrics, and the best song on the album is Osiris, having notes that hit almost Atilla sounds in the vocals, and having a melodic sound that is so dear to Dark Fortress.

I make this sound when clearing my throat - 78%

autothrall, January 25th, 2010

German's black metal scene has been busy for well over a decade now, with a great many bands pursuing the various styles within the over-genre, from rasping, primal cult black, to symphonic, and every shade in between, but few have been as ambitious as Dark Fortress. Ylem is their 6th album, and their 3rd for Century Media, and if anything, it is their most full-bodied, diverse effort to date, with over 70 minutes of material that ranges from a precision black brutality to tracks that have almost nothing in common with their back catalog. Coming off the extremely strong Eidolon in 2008, the band have decided to wax their studio powers in directions one might not have expected, and the result, while often suffering from some pock marks in quality, is definitely far reaching.

Yes, I'd venture to call this album 'accessible' when compared to the band's previous albums, but this is in no way some implication of the band 'letting' up, as the trilling rifling central melody of title track "Ylem" is interrupted with violent, thick grinding guitars that make (newish) vocalist Morean feel like he's climbing walls of syrup, before the melody imposes itself back alongside the choppy black chords, and the track steers into an atmospheric beast. "As the World Keels Over" starts with a proggish segment, bass plomping and bluesy, desolate guitars jangling into the thick stream of brutish melody around the corner. You'll notice this aesthetic quite a lot, through the following track "Osiris", the grooving momentum of "Redivider", and the lengthy brooder "The Valley", but Ylem still has its share of blasterfare, in tracks such as "Satan Bled" and "Silence". Perhaps one of the more interesting departures is the penultimate "Wraith", with its clean vocals that sound like an entirely separate band...I can just picture the culties writhing in disgust at such a track, as this sounds more like Porcupine Tree meets Solitude Aeternus than a Dark Fortress track, and yet it's still fairly engrossing.

How you rate Ylem will depend on how much you have longed for the band to spread their wings and engage in other territory outside their native black soil. It is clear they have an interest in progression, and have done so here far more than their previous albums like Seance or Stab Wounds. If you don't recoil at the thought of such possibilities, check this out. It's a well mixed album with a unified vision, despite the diversity coating the band's corpse painted, carnal core. I wouldn't call it anything close to their best, but for a 70 minute sit through I never really found myself succumbing to ennui. If you want to hear them firing on all cylinders and kicking some serious ass, then just listen back to one of the past three albums.

Highlights: Ylem, Hirundineans, Wraith


Dark Fortress - Ylem - 75%

ThrashManiacAYD, January 25th, 2010

On "Ylem" German melodic black-metallers Dark Fortress are here pounding out what I consider to be a very modern take on the well-worn BM template. Having caught them live in December without knowing their style beforehand, an opening position to Shining and Satyricon now seems somewhat apt given the distinct influence to be found from these two. Infact add a dose of Keep of Kalessin and Secrets of the Moon to the Dark Fortress mix and you have the outcome of an album that should appeal to fans widespread across a genre renowned for the narrow-mindedness of its' fans.

"Ylem", the band's sixth album, is, as one would expect from that bunch of similar artists, well-played and well-produced; clean and deep in sound with all the key parts of the music nice and audible. The opening title track sees the band immediately declare themselves above the actions of many whom find the idea of technicality in BM akin to seeing a nun in a brothel by launching itself head first into a whirlwind of technical riffery that if I knew any better would have been the perfect opener at the Satyricon show to attract the attention of any bar-bound stragglers at the back. Fast though this introductory track may be, it belies the fact that much of "Ylem" is mid-paced not unlike fellow Germans Secrets of the Moon, who themselves specialise in a slowly brooding eerie black metal sound. "Evenfall", my favourite track off the album and a BM song which features a catchy sing-along chorus (I know!) is no blaster, seeing Dark Fortress test the listener with a cacophony of riffs rather than pummel him to the ground. They may not be the only band using this method but on the basis of "Evenfall" at least Dark Fortress know how to make it work.

At 70 minutes long and with 7 of the 11 songs being six-minutes plus Dark Fortress like to labour to make their point, demonstrated in songs like the Satyricon-heavy "Hirudineans" which can take some time to really get moving but that once they do a decent song invariably follows. Infact to say "Ylem" is the home to any bad songs would be unjust; it is however the standard black metal howl/growl (for the most part – the clean vocals in closer "Wraith" are excellent) of Morean and the overbearing similarity to other more well-known bands that may hold back Dark Fortress from climbing higher up the black metal echelon. They are here experimenting, creating an album that deserves more than just a cursory listen in one's attempts to unlock all it has to offer, but ultimately "Ylem" is also an album though that will only solidify Dark Fortress' position as a solid and reliable support band rather than one to lead the troops through town on their next visit.

Originally written for