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Back when bands and scenes had class - 85%

doomknocker, November 2nd, 2010

During my transitional youth, I'd felt many a desire to take in all that was against the supposed norm. This was made all the more noticeable throughout the high school years, where those of my metal-head ilk enjoyed and promoted all those fancy classic and thrash metal acts...and while I was introduced to specific acts that I would later look back fondly on, I still felt that compelling need to break free and find music that was faster, heavier, darker, eviler. This lead me head-first into the wondrous realm of black metal, and I was gobbling up bands and albums at an insane rate to fulfill my darkened intentions.

This was one of the very first I found, and it's been a staple with me ever since.

Alright, so Dark Funeral doesn't really turn the whole damn genre on its head, and instead focus primarily on the "School of Marduk" simple brutality approach, but what they lack in originality and scope they make up for by creating memorable works of impure, blackened art, with this particular album being the best of the best, the way I see it. Black metal was BLACK METAL! when this little doozy hit the market in '96, and it shows in spades with each successive track. The foundations of the central Funeral sound first heard on the eponymous EP were further solidified on "The Secrets of the Black Arts"; the slashed, bladed wall of guitar distortion...the blitzkrieg blast beat abuse with seminal slower moments...the wicked, truly demonic rasps...and it's all put together in a tight, powerful little package that possess more heart and soul in its simplicity than most of their riff-heavy, overly-arranged brethren at the time. I can say, with sincere honesty, that upon first listen this album frightened me at times...this was, and I still believe it to be, one of the darkest and most unforgiving albums I've heard in many, many years. Use of that patented Abyss Studio crunch makes everything clear and concise, where the riffs are raging, the drums are crushing, and the bass non-existent, and the final output is satisfying enough to garner multiple listens down the road. It's also my humble opinion that Themgoroth was a far far FAR better vocalist than Emperor Caligula was, far more demonic and unearthly, and it's a shame that his tenure only lasted for a couple recordings as he shines brightest here than on the first EP and better than anything Caligula's done on subsequent Funeral excursions. All the seminal favorites are here song-wise, from the violent streak of the title track, "The Dawn No More Rises" and "The Fire Eternal" to the slower, more creepy likes of "Shadows Over Transylvania" and "Bloodfrozen". Just avoid the Von cover. I usually do.

In the end, Dark Funeral's first album was easily their finest hour, and was the last album needed to secure my deep interest in black metal music as a whole. While later works would produce great songs here and there, this would end being the band's most inspired and complete work. Highly recommended...unless you've already got it.