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An underrated yet well recognized gem - 90%

Iron Wizard, July 28th, 2017

Dark Funeral is an interesting band. They are one of the most well known black metal bands from Sweden, alongside Marduk, Dissection, and Watain. Almost all black metal listeners are aware of their debut, and the album, entitled The Secrets of the Black Arts is heavily praised for its immersive album cover. It's almost a visual portal into the music contained within, depicting a bluish nightsky shrouding a slightly frosted, castle-like structure of stone. Several hooded figures appear to be partaking in some sort of clandestine ritual, standing around a mysterious tarp-covered object. As an additional touch, sparse trees and boulders stand on the mountains in the background. It's a true work of art, and it certainly deserves the praise it gets.

A very short ambient intro poorly titled "The Dark Age Has Arrived" precedes the album's title track. I'm glad a well known band had already burnt out this title; fortunately, black metal is otherwise free of bands calling their songs "The Dark Age Has Arrived". The piece is nothing significant, and it might as well have been nominally annexed into the next track. Once the real black metal kicks in, you are in for a relentless storm of energy and darkness. That may be a cliche descriptor, but there are few albums where this is more apt than this one. There are no real breaks to speak of, no soft clean sections, no ambient songs etc. From "The Secrets of the Black Arts" onward to the last track, "Dark Are the Paths of Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal)", this album is a barrage of pure melodic fury. Normally, I don't like this kind of black metal, but Dark Funeral have executed it very well here. I think the melodic sensibilities of tracks like the title track, and the very memorable "My Dark Desires" do this album great favors, really saving it from sounding like Watain, Funeral Mist, or 1349.

The musicianship here is what one would expect from a black metal album. They are all competent musicians and players, but in lieu of doing anything flashy, they do an excellent job of keeping the tempos precise and perfect sounding. Equimanthorn (who shouldn't be confused with the other Equimanthorn) is a fucking badass behind the kit. I am primarily a guitarist, but this makes me want to learn drums, and I would if they weren't such an involved instrument. He's somewhat of a tyrant; he uses a lot of blastbeats (which I typically do not like), but he is very skilled at it and adds a lot of flavor into them, employing more pseudo-auxiliary drums such as the hi-hats. He is also a master when it comes to fills. Blackmoon is the lead guitarist, and probably the main driving force behind this record. I read somewhere else that he played many of Lord Ahriman's guitar parts due to the latter being drunk, and the prominent change in sound after Blackmoon's departure suggests to me that he was invaluable to this album.

The production is absolutely godly. When I first heard this, I remarked at its sound. While it has all of the rawness of a typical black metal record, it seems to have this symphonic overtone, with a source that cannot be identified. I actually had to check and see if Dark Funeral were a symphonic metal band. In actuality, this album is mostly devoid of keyboards. While the instruments are all very concrete, with the sharpness requisite to cut through steel, they are given a huge amount of room to bleed into the background, reminding you that the space between notes is not entirely devoid. The way the guitars fill up the album is probably what creates this atmospheric "symphonic" element. I'd also like to mention that the dual guitar nature of the band has been well utilized here, with the layering being used very effectively to create a haunting "wall of sound".

Before closing this review, I will make mention of the album's standout songs. The title track is essentially pure darkness. It embodies a very serious tone as the lead guitar melodies create an almost neoclassical feel. "My Dark Desires", while simplistic, is another great song, and probably the catchiest on here. One can never forget when the music becomes a sludgy abyss of chords as Themgoroth shrieks out "Bring damnation upon my soul!". Dark Funeral covered Von's Satanic Blood. It's a very minimalistic song, and it is a little disruptive in this context It's a standout, but not in a good way; it is probably the worst song on The Secrets of the Black Arts. If you are interested in black metal, this is an album that you should have, especially if you are new to the genre. Hail Dark Funeral for the first and last masterpiece they would create...

A nocturnal masterpiece of black arts - 96%

Hellish_Torture, September 26th, 2015

Dark Funeral is often referred as the band who paved the way for all the countless modern “hyper-blasting black metal” acts. Around early 1996, some famous black metal bands (such as Immortal and Cradle of Filth) had already applied a hyperactive, death metal-like kind of blast-beat on their past albums (in opposition to the more basic and stripped down approach of bands like Darkthrone) - yet no one could ever expect the impact that Dark Funeral’s debut, released on No Fashion Records during the dismal month of January 1996, would have on the ever-growing black metal scene of that time. “The Secrets of the Black Arts” is pretty much the founder of a certain subcategory of black metal (particularly proficient in Sweden thanks to bands like Setherial, Enthroned and then, later, the genre-pioneers Marduk as well) where the drumming is even more intense, more chaotic and more “on steroids” than usual, occupying at least 95% of an album - often coupled with a certain melodic riffing-style that’s pretty typical among Swedish black/death metal bands in general. Yet, apart from all the hype coming from this historical detail, very few people seem to analyze this album in its completeness - and, even worse, fewer people give the right credit to Necrophobic mastermind David Parland, aka Blackmoon, who actually is the founder of Dark Funeral along with the much more praised Lord Ahriman.

The band’s debut EP can already be considered as one of the greatest black metal masterpieces of all time (and it’s honestly my favourite release ever made by Ahriman & co.): seeing its incredibly quick sales, Dark Funeral didn’t waste any time, and soon they entered again into Dan Swanö’s Unisound Studio to finally record their first full-length; however, the band (Blackmoon in particular) wasn’t satisfied at all about how the recordings turned out this time, due to Swanö’s new equipment - so, they re-recorded the album again with Peter Tägtgren in his newborn Abyss Studio. While I don’t find the original Unisound version to be all that bad, the Abyss version captures much better the dark, solemn atmosphere for which the band was striving at that time; in fact, whilst the album starts with the title-track, you suddenly feel like an endless rain of sharp, icy nails is falling upon you, hurting your skin without any mercy.

Since Tägtgren at that time wasn’t a really experienced producer (having opened his studio just some months before the Dark Funeral sessions), he recorded this album with a pretty cheap guitar equipment, and this is why the guitar sound is a bit too thin (pretty much like on Naglfar’s “Vittra”) and often gets buried beneath the piercing rain of clanging blast-beats; however, in this particular case, this little flaw manages to give these riffs an even more distant, outworldly, “mysterious” aura. A distracted listen cannot reveal all ”the secrets” hidden amidst the thin, fragile curtain of Abyss-like guitar distortion: in fact, every time I carefully re-listen to this album, I happen to discover some new details in the riffing, which is actually much more twisted and complex than what you may think.

Apparently, “The Secrets of the Black Arts” is a more straightforward affair in comparison to the debut EP, which showed a very rich alternation of tempos and a spectacular songwriting; now, with the new drummer Equimanthorn, the use of blast-beats has notably increased (reaching Immortal’s levels regarding the ultra-chaotic speed and the hyperactive use of double bass), and the riffing-aesthetic has become more one-dimensional... right? Nope. David Parland’s monumental riffing, clearly influenced by the bitter melodic style of Marduk’s “Those of the Unlight”, is still there - just in a subtler manner: while the melodies contained on the EP were clearer and more defined, now the Blackmoon/Ahriman duo experiments more with subtle harmonies, discordances and various layerings which almost create a subliminal effect on tracks like “The Dawn No More Rises”, “The Fire Eternal” and “Satan’s Mayhem” (probably taking inspiration from some black metal milestones that in the mid-90s were pretty much “novelties”, such as “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, “Pure Holocaust”, “Pentagram”, “Antichrist” or “In the Nightside Eclipse”). Another really surprising trait of these riffs is that, from a rhythmic perspective, they’re as trivial as they can ever get. Yup. As you may already noticed on the self-titled EP, Blackmoon’s riffs mostly revolve around the most obvious and generic rhythmic patterns that had already been abundantly established in black metal when this album was created: just basic 4/4 stuff, without huge alterations in the note-progressions (which now are even more “static” than before, since the band aims to obtain a more “contemplative” style). So, how can these riffs still sound that bloody good? Because, guys... we’re still talking about David Fucking Parland, one of the most genial black metal guitarists ever to come from Sweden along with Jon Nödtveidt and few others!

So, Blackmoon’s melodies have maintained their uniqueness, always conveying their trademark vibe of darkness, cold, sorrow and despair: for example, the title-track offers a lot of memorable and original riffs that, despite their basic rhythmic construction, possess some of the most remarkably sorrowful and desperate melodies ever composed by Parland, dragging you toward total hopelessness. However, the “layered” approach of several riffs gives to many of these melodies an even subtler feeling than before, making every song even more dismal, somber, sinister and dangerous - be it the mournful stateliness of “The Fire Eternal”, the ultra-stratified and variegated riff-fest of “Satan’s Mayhem” or the more straightforward assault of “When Angels Forever Die”. Even Equimanthorn’s drumming work isn’t as one-dimensional as one may think: on the contrary, on this album, the drums have an essential role about determining the pathos and the atmospheric crescendos! Just think about the numerous tempo changes you experience during many songs (and there are more than you think, trust me!) and, most of all, the occasional “stops-and-gos” of songs like “When Angels Forever Die” or even the title-track - which give an even more dramatic/drastic enforcement to the atmosphere, handling and shaping the listener’s tension in a genial manner. By the way... the very few times when the pace actually slows down, these mid-tempos sound even more suggestive and majestic than usual. Who could ever imagine that this band actually knew the meaning of the word “parsimony”? However, instead of using it for the fast parts (as most people would likely recommend them), they did for the slow ones. Just wonderful.

A sense of freezing cold and impending doom is ever-present during these songs (especially palpable on tracks like “Satan’s Mayhem”), as well as a constant nocturnal vibe which is a necessary trademark for early Dark Funeral; however, now, these atmospheres are delivered in slightly different manners from track to track, giving more variety to the band’s sonic concept and, thus, starting the evolution that would later lead them to create albums such as “Vobiscum Satanas” and “Diabolis Interium”. In fact, on one hand, we have a song like “The Dawn No More Rises” that, while still maintaining intact the band’s “somber/dismal/nocturnal” atmosphere, bursts mercilessly with a lot of inflamed riffs which transmit a definitely “hellish” vibe (pretty much like a fire that burns without control in the middle of a snowy Scandinavian forest during a cold, dark night); however, despite the notable amount of energy, you can still feel a vague sense of fatalism and hopelessness in the guitar melodies. On the other hand, we have a song like “Bloodfrozen” which, as the title suggest, is the total opposite affair: it’s a little “gelid” masterpiece (composed 100% by Blackmoon) which starts with some slow, “frozen” arpeggios that will surely turn your bones into pure ice, and then proceeds with some beautiful, mournful tremolo melodies which carry you like chilling winter wind; Themgoroth’s gritty and sorrowful vocals scream intensely: ”I AM IMMORTAL… I AM ETERNAL!!!”

In addition, you’ll even find two re-recorded tracks from the EP. Surprisingly enough, “My Dark Desires” receives a slightly better treatment in comparison to the 1994 version, giving even more charm to the solemn march of the refrain (this time, by the way, the ”Bring damnation upon my soul” section sounds much more genuinely “evil” and definitely less grotesque); and then we have “Shadows over Transylvania”, which remains the greatest Dark Funeral song of all time, although this new version is slightly inferior to the previous one (however, those diabolical haunting melodies are still there in all their dismal drama). Plus, an even more anomalous episode is represented by a cover of “Satanic Blood”, originally by the cult U.S. act Von (of which Blackmoon seemed to be a strong admirer); the band makes a good, faithful reinterpretation, but those who aren’t particularly fond of ultra-minimal black metal might be a little turned off by this track.

After these digressions, the album closes with “Dark Are the Paths to Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal)”, which delivers some others of those “inflamed/hot-as-hell” riffs which still manage to maintain intact the typical dark vibe of the record (almost seeming to anticipate the formula of “Vobiscum Satanas”) and build up one of the most intense, majestic, bloodcurdling atmospheric crescendos of the whole album - thanks to the really clever use of “semi-discordant” guitar layerings, frightening melodies, “stop-’n’-go” sections filled with endless pathos and even a slightly more “moderated” use of blasting tempos (as incredible as it may seem). This is a perfect translation of apocalypse in music, and you literally feel deprived of any positive hope while you witness the world being set on fire and solemnly falling apart. Themgoroth completes the scheme with his tormented raspy vocals, which I honestly prefer to those of Emperor Magus Caligula (in fact, while the latter remains a great black metal screamer, I think he has given his absolute best as a growler on the first two Hypocrisy records); by the way, this album features some of Dark Funeral’s most “poetic” and variegated lyrics, at least dealing with Satan and occult mythology in a less repetitive manner than on the subsequent albums.

“The Secrets of the Black Arts” is one of the greatest black metal masterpieces of all time, and it’s without doubt the greatest full-length album ever made by Dark Funeral (although their absolute peak remains their self-titled EP); after this, even with a totally different lineup, the band managed to put out other two masterpieces of blasting infernal black metal (the massively dark and morbid “Vobiscum Satanas” and the relentless hellish assault of “Diabolis Interium”), but none of those has been able to outdo what these Swedes have accomplished during their early years, thanks to David Parland’s genius in terms of cold, freezing, nocturnal atmospheres filled with sorrow and misanthropy - something that Lord Ahriman would never be able to recapture. After being kicked out of Dark Funeral, Blackmoon brought some of his more recent artistic visions into his main band Necrophobic (resulting in their best album of all time, “Darkside”), before leaving them as well; since then, until his recent suicide, he managed to keep alive the early Dark Funeral spirit with his other band Infernal (even collaborating again with Themgoroth on the first EP). However, no one will ever replicate the impact that “The Secrets of the Black Arts” had on the unaware black metal crowd, almost twenty years ago: this record easily outdoes any album by the likes of Marduk, Setherial, Enthroned and all the “war metal” stuff that came after. Listen to it with caution.

Unhallowed procession - 90%

Felix 1666, September 6th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, No Fashion Records

The first full-length of this well-known Swedish horde can be considered as a very good output. Whatever you might want in respect of misanthropic black metal, this albums offers it; small blemishes included. For example, the band recycles two songs of their debut EP. The pieces sound great and can compete with the newer tracks. Nevertheless, I do not see a sustainable reason for the republishing. The intro also makes no sense, but who cares about sixteen seconds? Furthermore, the lyrics seem to be written during ten minutes. Its topics and the choice of words stay the same during the entire album. However, the lyrics match with the hateful vocals, which do not vary much. But from my point of view, that is how it should be.

But all that is really not important. The above mentioned small defects fade away while listening to the stormy black metal anthems. It appears that the band wanted to catapult the genre to the next level. Of course, there had been other groups playing hyper fast black metal before. But Dark Funeral achieve a higher standard of catchiness without setting the focus on groovy rhythms. Perhaps this needs an explanation. I therefore ask you to check out the merciless "When Angels Forever Die", which marks a climax on this record. It comes straight to the point while unleashing an extremely huge amount of energy. Its most noticeable part is the highly memorable chorus. After listening to it for the first time, you will not easily get it out of your mind again. Furthermore, due to its conciseness, it delivers a destructive force that nobody can resist. This tune is only surpassed by the concluding "Dark Are the Paths to Eternity". That piece stands out because of its irresistible guitar lines, the terrific tempo changes and its multifarious compositional structure.

Aside from this, there are many other highlights. They all have one thing in common, the worship of the dark sides of life and death. Therefore, the album constantly emanates a devastating feeling. The compositions are coherent and the almost faultless sound also contributes to the album´s success. The required minimum of melodies exists without showing any sign of musical harmony. The cover version of Von´s "Satanic Blood" even manages to function without any melody... okay, it does not really work very well.

"The Secrets of the Black Arts" blew me away at the time of publication. Almost twenty years later, it is still a very strong full-length. You can use it as a pretty nice energy provider from time to time. But it seems that it is no timeless piece of art. With regard to this, the album can no longer reach the ultimate level of quality, even though the creepy cover painting would deserve a 100% rating.

Built more on steroids than sinister urges - 73%

autothrall, October 27th, 2011

The Secrets of the Black Arts is what I consider to be the epitome of 'generic Swedish black metal' album, with its Abyss studio production and predictable riffing patterns that attempt to bring its Norse and Bathory influences into a mildly more accessible medium. That's not to say that I actually dislike this record, because in truth I have oft spun and enjoyed it through the years, but there is nothing remotely menacing or terrifying about it that I've been able to pick up in the last 15 years. It becomes obvious pretty early why this band has so divided the black metal audience, turning some off entirely from not only Dark Funeral but almost all of the Swedish scene, while others simply revel in its mindless, middle of the road blasphemies.

This is not only the band's full-length debut, but the last of the 'original' Dark Funeral lineup, with only guitarist Lord Ahriman going on to its successor, the faster and more vicious Vobiscum Satanas (but still just as generic). I recognize this era in particular for Themgoroth's fuller, more brutal vocals than on ensuing albums, though the riffing sequences are largely the same sort of chord progressions you'd expect: not nearly so high strung or melodic as Dissection, and a bit thicker and more fibrous than those of earlier Marduk. There is no question really of each members' prowess in punishment. Equimanthorn was a beast on the kit, blasting steadily along beneath the lattice of Blackmoon and Ahriman's riffing and Themgoroth's present if standard bass lines which seem to just gallop along to the beat.

From the compositional angle, though, The Secrets of the Black Arts doesn't offer a whole lot of standout tremolo note progressions other than to merely due justice to the deep blue, eerie shading of its cover art. Tunes like "When Angels Forever Die" or the titular "Secrets" burst along a hurried, unhallowed axis with some only a slight cognizance of rhythmic variety, but even when the band takes a dip for a more broad, open mid-pace ("Satan's Mayhem", or the double bass driving of "My Dark Desires"), the structure of the riffing doesn't get any more interesting. The Swedes are more interested in muscle than complexity, and to that extent they succeed in achieving a sound somewhere between Those of the Unlight and De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, which is all some might ask for.

Yet despite the density of the band's assault, the album feels a bit too level, and since they lack the symphonic rigor of an Emperor or the subtle pathos of a Burzum, the album doesn't ever really grab its audience. It feels all too plain, a textbook exhibition of strength and sacrilege that never leaps first to mind when one is in the mood to revisit the mid-90s boom. I realize it's all the rage to accept this album (and the previous EP) while reviling the band's later worth with the changed lineups, but I'm entirely forced to disagree. I found at least their 2001 album Diabolis Interium to have a far more engaging, fevered and intense riff-set, but certainly that would not have been possible without laying the bloody brickwork here.

I might find myself unable to listen through their monotonous cover of Von's "Satanic Blood" here, but if I'm really in a crunch for stock hellblast velocity, the originals on The Secrets of the Black Arts offer an adequate thrill ride. It's not original, it's not innovative, it's not particularly dark or catchy and it's far from the top of its class, but the consistent lyrics and infernally fueled energy build some semblance of atmosphere despite themselves, and if you're in the mood for what Dark Funeral is brewing, provides enough satisfaction.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

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.

Swedish Black metal! - 90%

absurder21, March 5th, 2010

The main reason I like black and death metal is that I love sinister and dark sounding music, and let me tell you now, this album defiantly does not disappoint when it comes to that. Maybe it’s because Swedish black metal tends to be far more satanic ,(I can’t really think of any main game Norwegian bands that took Satanism past their demos at all except for Gorgoroth), but this definitely one of the most sinister albums I have ever heard.

The riffs on this are some of the fastest riffs to come out of the Scandinavian black metal scenes at the time and I’m surprised Demonaz got tendinitis before any of these guys. While the riffs are fast, it also barely lacks the problem a lot of bands had in that they were really thin. Now, these riffs aren’t as thick as say, death metal, but it definitely has far more timbre then Darkthrone, Kvist or Bathory. A vital factor for this is probablly because Dark Funeral is one of few bands to actually properly utilize bass in black metal. It’s not overwhelming, but one can definitely tell there is a thickness being added to the music via Themgoroths bass chops. The tone of the guitars is that sort of buzzing hornets sound that has become somewhat popular nowadays with black metal bands such as 1349, and it really helps to add a sinister vibe to them album. This band also isn’t stupid in that they know they can’t work on pure head banging riffs alone. While the riffs are fast and chaotic, there is a sense of melody to them that makes it far easier to get into them. Equimanthorn’s drum work on this album is absolutely phenomenal and totally fits with the music, but the problem is that every song starts off with the exact same beat. It sort of makes it hard to decipher when songs have changed and after awhile you will be sitting there thinking why the riffs are so different yet it’s still the same song, and you realize your half way through the next song. It’s pretty much your general black metal drumming, blast beats and snare and symbol smashes. Simple, yet extremely effective.

The vocals on this are somewhere in the middle ground in terms of timbre. Not really high pitched liked Emperor, but not really low like Beherit, so it’s pretty much equivalent to the riffs in terms of timbre. Don’t get me wrong, his vocals aren’t in any way monotone; there is a lot of power to his vocals and it’s hard to not get pumped with sinister energy whenever he screams, "SATTAAANNNNNNN". Lyrically, we aren’t working with any philological prodigence or realistic relations; this shits about Satan, the end of the world and fucking fire! And I can’t imagine anything that would fit the record more. And even though these are generally considered brutish themes, I believe this band does it within the original intended context being that the lyrics are supposed to be very image laden and scenic. Let me tell you, you can write an entire movie just off the lyrics Funeral give you:
“When darkness is upon us, and skies had turned to black
When blood rains from darkened skies and crying angels die
When the sun has burned its last rays and light no more remains
When tears of god stains the ground the dark age has arrived “
It’s pretty bleak, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who immediately imagined something from the movie Gabriel( a movie about Arch angels fighting fallen angels in Purgatory, which looks exactly like how those lyrics describe, always dark and raining) or various other apocalyptic films.

The one negative thing I can possibly say about this album is the cover of Von’s Satanic Blood, but that was just a poor decision on their part. I’m sure they do a great job of performing the song, but the problem is that song itself is absolutely horrid. It’s the exact same riff over and over again with the exact same lyrics, “Satanic. Blood”, chanted over and over again for pretty much the entire song, (there are some lyrics before that, but they aren’t exactly different from each other and whatever variation there was is done 25 seconds into the song). Remember when I was talking about tasteful satanic lyricism? Yeah, Von definitely fails at that. With that and the somewhat predictable drumming massing up the albums only faults, this is a pretty damn fine album and definitely one of the highlights of Swedish black metal when it comes to rivalling Norway’s scene. For those of you who feared extreme metal in your youth, this was probably one of them that would give you nightmares.

Coming from someone who dislikes DF, it's good. - 80%

Sigillum_Dei_Ameth, October 31st, 2009

Yeah and I'll even refrain myself from using the term "Dork Funeral" tag in my review for the sake of lack of maturity. I mean, Dark Funeral were one of those bands from the black metal genre that WERE musically good, but fell to the enemy of non-inspired albums that were way too over-polished and focused more on image and photo shoots that completely took any bit of credit away. A funny story of how a certain owner from a certain label sent a dead rat to them in a mailed box just to provoke some kind response, be it verbal, or physical and I remember how he said he did this in order to see if they were telling the truth on being actual Satanists and other big claims in fanzines back in the mid-90's after the second wave had experience complete burn-out. Well, the members of Dark Funeral replied back to him saying how completely appalled they were and that he was a sick person....suffice to say after that story, I have always viewed Dark Funeral as a band just about image and image alone.

But before even being told this story, I remember actually purchasing the album back in the day at Camelot Records at the local mall(I really miss that place!) and being amazed at the store being able to get the imports in. Remember this was 1996 and if you wanted to order an album back then, there was a huge book of albums much like a yellow page phone book's directory and number listings. And God help you if you were to order an album that was marked as "IMPORTED" because that would be 8 to 12 weeks. Well, eventually I got the album and was blown away by the extremity of the song titles, beautiful artwork, and even the music. But there was something missing from it...a lack of danger. Even Emperor seemed more dangerous than this when I first got into Black metal listening to the so-called "gateway" bands. But for it's lack of danger, I still found a lot of great qualities about this album.

First is the sound production. It's not squeaky clean or just complete Pro Tools-produced crap like Dark Funeral's other material. It's actually sitting firmly between raw and somewhat professional quality. It does have the edge where it still merits the music extreme. Second is the not ONLY the vocalist Themgoroth who should have fucking stayed with the band and probably would have been better not only for himself but the other members as well. BUT, also the line-up. The line up for the album "the Secrets of the Black Arts" was more than likely Dark Funeral's strongest line-up. If anything I'll give them that. Third and probably the best quality about this album is the amazing artwork it contains. The frozen blues mixed with ghostly spectral whites and hints of gravestone greys is amazing. The amazing Kristian "Necrolord" Wahlin really outdid himself with this one and ranks within my top 5 pieces from him. Even to this day the artwork actually helps the music remain at a very respectable level.

The music is what I refer to as average Swedish black metal. You have minor riffs with trembelo picking and blast-beats backing them up. Nothing fancy at all here. No amazing guitar solos, nothing that really sticks out. It's just average. Although there are more than a handful of songs that are great at being average if that makes any sense. Songs such as "My Dark Desires", "The Dawn No More Rises" and "The Fire Eternal" would count as the best cuts here, showcasing pretty good melodies, especially for Dark Funeral. Even the rest of the album has some great song titles..."Shadows Over Transilvania", "Bloodfrozen", and even "Satan's Mayhem" bring about a campy humor than rings "Welcome To hell"-era Venom. Even the lyrics to these songs are almost completely ridiculous. I mean how many different ways can you sing about Satan and his darkness? Again the lyrics have that Venom-like campy humor. But it's a good humor that you tend to welcome.

The majority of the time, I find myself simply enjoying this album without joy or prejudice so in my book that's perfectly fine. I rather have an album I can listen to without being annoyed rather than have an album that makes me want to vomit(in this case the following album "Vobsicum Satanas"). Unfortunately after this album Dark Funeral went straight down the shittier in my opinion and are on the verge of becoming the genre's equalivant to Gwar(Immortal are BM's equalivant to KISS if we are talking about comparisons), only Gwar being actually funnier and more entertaining while Dark Funeral gain weight, drink crappy lite beer, and still sing about Satan. There, I have made my peace with so many years of trying to forget them, may I fall asleep tonight and try to go another 13 years of forgetting them even more.

I can safely say, this exists - 50%

Torwilligous, January 4th, 2009

So here we have some Swedish black metal. This concludes the review.

Wait, you'll be wanting more than that, won't you? Oh, very well then. This is black metal: minor chords, tremolo strummed with a treble heavy guitar tone, arranged into riffs which shift in dissonant and chromatic fashion, creating a sense of darkness and evil; furious and intense drumming incorporating many a blastbeat; simple and cold melodies that often move counter to the harmonies in a device to create tension and create an unsettling sensation of fundamental dischord; rough, midranged rasps for vocals. And, it's from the country of Sweden. There, can I stop now? What do you mean, 'no'?!

Look, the real problem with this is just that it doesn't do anything at all; it's nothing more than some black metal, most of which is high speed but which incorporates the occasional slower section (these parts also happen to be the best bits of the album, though the word 'best' may be too strong to use in this context). It's not especially ferocious. It has some atmosphere, but not to any remarkable degree. The production is quite clean and powerful, which simply serves to expose the fact that there aren't any interesting riffs here. Inventiveness is absolutely zero. I'm already running out of things to say here; it's all so bland and uninteresting! None of these songs are obnoxious or terrible, but neither are they particularly exciting or memorable. None of the riffs stand out, but nor do they sound poor. The songwriting has no outstanding panache, but neither is it inept. There's literally nothing to say about it. Why would anyone particularly want to listen to this? If I happened to hear this coming from somewhere, it wouldn't particularly annoy me; I'd just think 'oh cool, there's some Dark Funeral' and go about my business. At precisely the same time, I have absolutely no motivation to seek out this album as a listening experience. It's pretty much identical to silence in my book, except for the (minor) fact that it is somewhat more noisy.

Look, you've heard it all a trillion times before. It's fast, blasting black metal with a Swedish touch (so think cleaner production and a Dissection-esque sound to the harmonies) and has absolutely nothing special to recommend it over any other fast black metal band you can think of. It does have a cool piece of cover art though! Yeah, that's something I can say. Oh, and speaking of covers reminds me that "The Secrets of the Black Arts" also contains a cover of Von's "Satanic Blood" that is by far the most interesting thing on here. With its ritualistic repetitive droning, empty nihilistic riffing, and rhythmically haphazard vocals echoing in the distance, it succeeds in creating something that screams of entropy and desolation. But this is supposed to be a Dark Funeral album, and when your most remarkable song is written by somebody else, you probably have a severe problem on your hands.

I neither recommend or not this album. How can I? There's nothing wrong with it. It's a perfectly acceptable collection of music; it checks all the black metal boxes and goes absolutely no further at all. This is black metal tofu - completely bland and tasteless, but also perfectly pleasant and inoffensive.

Cold, Satanic and Good - 89%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, November 13th, 2008

Dark Funeral is a band worshipped by many in the black metal genre and their albums are a concentrate of malignance, coldness and Satanism. I must confess I’ve never been a huge fan of this band, but I also have to say they are pretty evil even if the recent productions have a quite artificial and too clean production that in some parts thins out the dark, gloom elements. This speech surely cannot be done for the first album, this The Secrets of The Black Arts, because here everything is bound to the darkness and the coldness of the north.

“The Dark Age Has Arrived” is just a short introduction to the blasting violence of the tile track. For those who are into black metal, it’s useless to describe Dark Funeral’s style in doing black metal, but for those who are not huge fans we can describe their music as fast, cold and evil. The guitars are constantly fast and they play a lot of riffs, changing from open chords to the colder tremolo picking technique. The drumming is obsessive; often on blast beats and the vocals are not exaggerated in screams but their tonality is glacial and satanic.

The fast parts are always well-balanced with more mid-paced overtures, in order to give oxygen to the evilness that lies among these notes. So often, the glacial, sharp touch of the guitars is mixed with dark, gloom melodies and this adds a sense of ritualism to the sound, bringing also variety to an often too abused songwriting by other bands. These melodies can be also catchy and they help you in recognize the songs and enjoy them in every single aspect of their brutality and darkness. The vocals sometimes switch from screams to growls and the clean, whispered ones on “My Dark Desires” are very good for the mood.

The more “atmospheric” breaks are made of long notes and black arpeggios to restart immediately under the blast beats. It’s the case, for example, of the following “The Dawn No More Rises” where the blast beats are always precise, clear-cut and powerful. The production, as I said, is never too old school and never too modern. It’s right in the middle, so we can hear the instruments perfectly in all their power but we do it though massive attack of rawness and darkness. By the way, don’t expect too many changes from the beginning to the end because here it’s always fast black metal and the structure of the songs is more or less the same.

Yes, we find more violent compositions (“When Angels Forever Die”, “The Fire Eternal”, “Satan’s Mayhem”) in oppositions to the ones that point more on the evilness and the “atmosphere” of the guitars (“Shadows Over Transylvania”, “Bloodfrozen”) but the formula always remains the same: Satanism and darkness in music. “Satanic Blood” is a Von cover and obviously displays a totally different songwriting. It has inside the influences and the styles of the very first wave of black metal (1992) and the structure is essential, in one way and very, very simple. The last, always violent and dark “Dark Are the Paths to Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal)” put the exclamation point to this very good debut by Dark Funeral.

The flaws are a bit concentrated on the constant, a bit overused on this album, fast paced parts that is few sections are a bit repetitive, but nothing grave. It’s difficult to play this stuff and be always on the top for ideas and songwriting. By the way, this album achieved the goal of making me stunned for its brutality and it’s a good piece to discover the good black metal bands of the 90s.

The Satanic Symphony - 94%

WilliamAcerfeltd, November 19th, 2006

Until tonight, I hadn't listened to this album in a while; I had forgotten how good it was. I have all of Dark Funeral's (DF) albums and this album has always been my favourite. Why? Simply because it's just so good, almost everything in this album is flawless. However, if you only listen to this album once, you'll most likely hate it because it appears (or appeared me anyway) on the first listen as just as a mindless cacophony of sound.

To start off, DF describes this album on their site as "the ultimate Satanic symphony ever appeared outside the gates of hell". This truly is a blasphemous, evil, piece of music. It's cold, dark and performed exceptionally well with awesome guitar and drum work. It is very fast and aggressive, and the attack on your ear drums doesn't stop until the albums finished. There are great riffs throughout most of the album, occasionally they get a little bit boring but only for about 5 seconds and only about once throughout the entire album.

They're melodies in this album mixed with classical themes which really give the effect as if some black, evil orchestra was playing in harmony with these guys. It truly is a spine tingling experience. You most likely won’t hear this on your first listen as this may just seem like a wall of noise. As implied above, it is the type of album you need to spend some time with, if you are going to like it.

Another great thing about this album is the extremely bleak and dark atmosphere which permeates this album. This really adds to the evil feeling of this album. Again, this contributes to the greatness of this album and reinforces the aura of evil which this album possesses.

Arguably, the best part of this album is: the vocals. Themgoroth was born to do black metal vocals. Not even Satan himself could do better vocals, Themgoroth's screams are so cold and hate filled and again, contribute to this album’s evil and dark atmosphere. The only track he doesn't do vocals is Satanic Blood, apparently Blackmoon wanted to do vocals but the band thought Themgoroth was better so he got to do them, however Blackmoon was allowed to do them here. That said, Blackmoon is still quite a good vocalist, the only problem is, he is straining after only two minutes, nonetheless, it is a solid effort on his behalf.

The drumming is perhaps the worst on this album. However by no means does that mean the drummer is shit. DF have had many outstanding drummers throughout their entire career, however Equimanthorn still fills in quite nicely. Although he cant compete with the blast beating of some drummers, he makes up for it with the occasional flares of skill which add variety to his drumming, rather than monotonous blast beating. Overall he does a pretty good job.

After listening to this album, I could remember why I thought this album was DF's best. It is the way real black metal should be done, i.e. being raw, heavy, having evil sounding melodies and possessing a cold, sad atmosphere. All in all this is an excellent album, a black metal classic and it really is unfortunate that 3/4 of the band left after this album. Do yourself a favour, if you buy this album, listen to it at leat 10 times; otherwise, you may never be able to fully appreciate the evil and quality of this album.

A classic for those who appreciate Black Metal - 100%

Kristenhat666, September 14th, 2006

"The Secrets of the Black Arts” is an excellent release by a band that was excellent at the time! Unfortunately, some retarded children got into Black Metal at the beginning of this commercial century, and due to their tastelessness and intellectual stillbirth, they seem to feel the uncontrolable need to put this work-of-art down. This is why I have taken it upon myself to set the record straight!

First of all, “The Secrets of the Black Arts” did not come out in 2006, but in 1996, and if heard THEN, was considered to be one of the best albums that had come out of Sweden. I have to say that it is ridiculous for someone who has not experienced the birth and development of BM to bash this album TODAY and criticize the fact it's not " original " or not " innovative “ or " new ". In fact, what does novelty and innovation have to do with Black Metal? This release was a highly pivotal one in the evolution of the Swedish Black Metal scene, for those who care to know or who remember the day this album came out. Another point : those seeking change, innovation or something new should simply stay clear of the whole Black Metal scene, as it is a genre with a strict and unchangeable definition which is meant for the few who understand its obscure beauty. " A black heart will only find beauty in darkness ", as Nödtveidt would have said.


To the music: the lyrics are your typical ones, with words such as "Satan", "shadows" etc returning over and over again. But what would you expect from a BM release??? The sound of the guitars is more or less that of all bands who recorded their albums in The Abyss at that time, yet has a special ring to it. The chords almost sound like an organ being played! Of course, this was long before The Abyss started creating a sound as incredibly artificial as it does today. Themgoroth's voice is perfect, very aggressive and dark, so don’t expect hysterical pseudo-BM vocals. The riffs are mostly fast but melodic, and extremely catchy. The drummer does a very good job, any drummer who has ever tried to play one of the songs would know this. The way the guy changes pace or increases it is awesome! I do not see the point of song nr 10, Satanic Blood, written and originally performed by Von, which really spoils the atmosphere for me.. Except for that, judging only by the band's own compositions, I can only applaud DARK FUNERAL's performance!

To put a fullstop to this review, here's a message to all retards: some of us have been around long enough to know why this album is so great! I doubt there’s anyone involved in the scene for a really long time who does not own and prize this CD. However, if your first experience of Black Metal dates from last Tuesday and you have no special understanding of what real BM is, or worse, think that it's all "just music", refrain from expressing your opinion on “The Secrets of the Black Arts”! You are unworthy of it!!!