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A newfound maturity and compositional intelligence. - 90%

Absinthe1979, October 1st, 2019

Anyone familiar with Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral is aware of their template: a guitar-based symphonic sound, blasting drums, unrelenting screams. Lord Ahriman has his style of melodic tremolo picking, formulated with the late Blackmoon, and he’s sticking to it. This means that if you love the band, you’re in for a good ride, but if you dislike them, it's been tough.

Until now. ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’ is the true culmination of their strengths, albeit with a songwriting sensibility that shows maturity and confidence.

Possibly the most immediately noticeable aspect is the change of pace throughout the album and clear production that allows the riffs, songs and album, to breathe. There are many more mid-paced riffs here with clear rhythms and melodies, as seen in opener 'Unchain My Soul', that doesn't just launch into blasting but actually builds atmosphere through a mid-paced chug, at least initially. For want of a better expression, there is a head-banging quality that allows the listener to engage more with the music rather than having blasts constantly washing over you. There are still the unmistakable Dark Funeral sounds: dense and full, even lush at times, but there is more space now.

The production is stunning: the guitars are full and dense, yet the melody lines stand out perhaps more easily than on past releases. The drums have a clarity to them that feels more organic than triggered, they are precise and effective. Dominator is a beast on the drum stool and he simply owns this album. His fills and cymbal work are intricate and tasteful.

The new vocalist was a bit of a worry when I heard that Emperor Magus Caligula was out and Heljarmadr was in. While the latter plays it a little safer than EMC’s hellish howls, working in a narrower scream range, the effect is nevertheless engaging. His vocal phrasing and pacing is simply brilliant, as evidenced on ‘Unchain My Soul’, where he places each word in perfect position. If I had one complaint about the album it would be that after experiencing Heljarmadr's vocal range in the live setting, I would hope that he could bring some greater variety in the studio.

But of course the true measure of success is the songwriting, and Lord Ahriman has created the best songs of his career, at least as far as loading up an album with them goes. He usually has a few stunning tracks per album, but here we have a succession of quality tracks: ‘Unchain My Soul’ with its changes of pace; ‘As I Ascend’ which is the album's slow, menacing, track, ‘To Carve Another Wound’ with a stunning melody; ‘Nail them to the Cross’ and the almighty title track that elevate this to new heights of consistency.

The packaging and artwork are also worthy of comment: my digipak slipcase version with the huge fold out cross, and Necrolord album cover, are beautiful and well worth owning.

Anyone who has given up on Dark Funeral needs to check this album out. Dark Funeral will probably always sound the same in their essential building blocks, but this album is the best version of that template so far.

Fantastic Album. Could be better though. - 85%

Thronumgoroth, September 28th, 2019

For as long as I have been aware and a fan of Dark Funeral, I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by any of their release until I listened to this album. I remember I had to force myself to listen to the record for the first few times and not because it is a terrible album, no! It’s a fucking master piece. My disappointment came from the sound quality of the record.

I was truly curious about the future of the band after the departure of Emperor Magus Caligula but when the single, Nail them to the Cross was released, all my confidence was restored and I began to look forward to the advent album. When I finally had the opportunity to listen to Where Shadows Forever Reign, I had a flashback of Ahriman from an interview he had conducted a few years prior where he for all intents and purposes, advises that he sees no point of releasing his records in anything but the best possible sound quality. In retrospect, I can see how not choosing this style of production could have been damaging to the aesthetic of the album but I do have to admit that it is an aspect of the album I will sin

Songs like The Eternal Eclipse seem to have benefited greatly from the production style as it features all the bells and whistles including the break-neck blasts beats, the tremolo picking and then new vocalist, Heljarmadr soaring above it all with surgical precision but, the greatest attraction is the atmosphere of the song and honestly, had it been produced any differently, I don’t believe it would’ve had this much emotional impact. Even the opening song, Unchain my Heart, checks all the boxes for what you expect from Dark Funeral but also goes above and beyond by striking a beautiful balance between 90’s-esque black metal and the more sophisticated compositions of later and more inspired artists. As a black metal musician myself, I’ve been tempted to re-record specific songs myself to gauge what they would sound like with the usual polished Dark Funeral sound: One such song is also among the slowest on the album, Temple of Ahriman.

Although the song has a few catchy and even dark moments, it also features quite a peculiar riffing style which does not carry the Lord Ahriman signature at all. Furthermore, I have reservations on the vocal delivery as it sometimes feels repetitive, uninspired and very childish for that matter. An example? Absolutely.

“Welcome to the Temple of Ahriman
The infernal torture chamber no one survive
Retaliation and sacrifice
- and a thirst for blood and to end more christian lives”

I get the overly anti-right hand path thing but this very childish and certainly not Heljarmadr’s best work.

Overall, I have to admit I’m madly in love with the album. I feel as though they’ve consistently pushed the envelope with every release while maintaining all of the elements that attract their audience and this album is no exception. I would’ve appreciated a cleaner sound but I ultimately feel that their choice for this record was the best move. In closing, I will again sin Ahriman for not honoring his word and also applaud him and his gang for churning out such a fantastic album.

Like It’s 1996 All Over Again - 85%

lonerider, February 24th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Century Media Records

Starting out in the early to mid 1990s, Dark Funeral have been around for quite some time now, and depending on who you ask, they are either mentioned as one the standard bearers of classic 90s-style melodic black metal or as one of those typical “meh” kind of bands, as in: meh, know them, but they just don’t do much for me. In other words: whereas almost everybody is familiar with the name and has heard at least some of their work, the verdict on the quality of said work is pretty uneven. Some say they have yet to release a bad or even mediocre album, while others would only recommend their stellar debut and dismiss most everything else as generic drivel.

Welp, those falling in the latter category might want to give Lord Ahriman and company another shot since Where Shadows Forever Reign, while not quite matching the brilliance of The Secrets of the Black Arts, can rightfully be called their most inspired output in years. The first piece of evidence is the magnificent artwork done by the famous Kristian Wåhlin a. k. a. Necrolord, creator of some of the most genre-defining and revered cover paintings in all of death and black metal. Never judge a book by its cover, they say, and indeed the similarities to Dark Funeral’s classic debut run deeper than the trademark style and signature deep-blue shade of Necrolord’s cover painting. The songwriting also marks a departure from the fixation on blast beats characterizing much of the band’s more recent output. What might be seen as a detriment by those who shared that fixation on velocity and brutality will surely be considered a welcome change by those who like their black metal with a little more atmosphere and variation – not just variation from one song to the next but variation and recurring tempo changes within individual songs as well.

Tracks such as the opener “Unchain My Soul”, the following “As One We Shall Conquer” or “Nail Them to the Cross” are anything but one-trick ponies, alternating blast beats, speedy passages and slower, more plodding sections. The opener in particular is a shining example of mid-nineties Swedish melodic black metal, perfectly capturing the spirit of that period in time. After all, it’s been more than twenty years since the heyday of that sub-genre and there aren’t all that many original representatives left to carry the torch.

“As I Ascend” and “Temple of Ahriman” are the slowest tracks on the album, relying more on methodic pounding and pummeling double bass than all-out mayhem. The former is a tad overlong and can be a bit grating due to a lack of really gripping parts, while the latter works much better thanks to some inspired riffing and a catchy chorus. By the way, Ahriman, in simplified terms, is something like the ancient Persian equivalent to Satan, so Dark Funeral have certainly stayed true to their devil-worshipping ways, even though the concept is not as hilariously over the top as it was on previous releases. Anyway, putting the two slowest tracks back to back is an odd choice by the band, especially coming on the heels of the album’s most frantic and vicious cut in “Beast Above Man”, a grueling exercise in racking up as many beats per minute as humanly possible. If any proof was needed that Dark Funeral can still blast away faster than the winds of hell, then this would be it.

The undisputed highlight, however, and saving the best for last is the truly magnificent title track, treating us to five and a half minutes of melodic black metal brilliance. Combining rabid aggression conveyed through tremolo-picked riffs played at crippling velocity with the demonic beauty of haunting guitar harmonies, it creates a mesmerizing and stunningly majestic atmosphere. It’s really astounding how a formula that, over time, has been used so many times by so many different bands can still continue to yield such spellbinding results.

The production on Where Shadows Forever Reign is loud and clear, with plenty of “oomph”. As is to be expected from a band that even in its early days seems to not have cared much for the low-fi buzzsaw aesthetics of many of their Scandinavian black metal brethren. Luckily, the album does not sound squeaky clean and there’s enough grit and reverb to give it that vintage 1990s feel.

After taking several years to regroup and reinforce the band with a couple of new members – most notably, long-time vocalist Emperor Magus Caligula was replaced by a guy named Heljarmadr –, Dark Funeral have come back strong with Where Shadows Forever Reign. Not quite as strong as they were on their splendid debut, but this latest and more mature incarnation of Dark Funeral should be instantly appealing to all who can never get enough of this particular kind of vintage melodic black metal. Or, in the words of the band itself: welcome to the Temple of Ahriman!

Choicest cuts: Unchain My Soul, As One We Shall Conquer, Beast Above Man, Temple of Ahriman, Where Shadows Forever Reign

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

The kings of atmosphere but not much else - 73%

tahu157, November 4th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Century Media Records (Limited edition, Digipak, Slipcase)

For all of the volumes of black metal that has worked its way out of the darkness over the years, there are really very few acts out there that catch my ear and hold on to it. Dark Funeral have caught my ear with the latest output, Where Shadows Forever Reign. Unfortunately however, after a few listens I don't know that they'll be holding onto my ear for very long.

It's a little hard for me to say why I'm not enamored with this album. Many of its elements range from good to great. The band's new vocalist fits in well quite well with the existing lineup and their sound. The production is layered enough to create that hazy black metal sound we've come to know and love while simultaneously being clear enough to avoid being audio fuzz with some shrieking on top. In fact with only minimal concentration you can easily pick out any instrument you like and follow it for the duration of any given song. Between the fantastic album artwork, the lyrics, and the instrumentation, the band have worked up a wonderfully dark and gloomy atmosphere, which is a must-have for me to enjoy a black metal release.

I guess if I had to nail down what it is about this album that doesn't quite reach as high as it could or should, it would be the guitars and the drums. It's not that they're bad. On paper they are pretty good actually. But somewhere in the transition between paper and recording they lose something. As I listen to this album I am always anticipating that these standard black metal riffs and driving drums that start off every song will lead into some spark of originality and brilliance towards the middle. However, that never seem to happen. They never give way to something else. They just persist throughout the entirety of each song. The driving drums drive. The simple tremolo picking riffs just keep on keeping on. All of the standards you might expect of a black metal album are here, and really that's all you get.

That is the extent of what this album offers. An excellent atmosphere but beyond that only the trieds and trues of black metal that have been done a thousand times before. It's a good album. Not a great one. It's worth a listen, and would probably make for an excellent introduction for anyone unfamiliar with black metal and its tropes, but I can't really say that it is all that interesting.

Black metal November review #1.

The Enigmas of the Slate Knowledges - 71%

theposega, September 7th, 2016

This is Dark Funeral? What? Where's the orange Satan? Where's the wholly mood-ruining lyrics about sex and "demon seed?" In all seriousness, one look at the cover and you know this is meant to be a return to the The Secrets of the Black Arts. The blue Necrolord painting, the title font, the fact that this is their only other album title not in Latin, etc. A couple parallel song titles too, "When Angels Forever Die" becomes "Where Shadows Forever Reign," "The Fire Eternal" is now "The Eternal Eclipse." This is a cheap, easy and effective way of getting you to think it's just like the debut.

So is it like the debut? Kind of. Vibe-wise it's definitely a return to the cold, dark atmospheres of the Parland-era. Mostly gone is the fiery, hell-scorched sound of Diabolus Interium or the rest of the orange Satan trilogy. A decent amount of this album wouldn't sound out of place on a Thulcandra album. The beginning of the first track is way too mellow to be classic Dark Funeral. "The Eternal Eclipse" gets too soft/quiet and melodeath to be classic Dark Funeral. They work, and are some of the highlights of the album, even. But they really don't sound like the band used to, instead opting more for the classic Swedish meloblack sound.

Even the tracks designed to be more standard fare like "Nail Them to the Cross" and "Beast Above Man" feature weird slower bits that sound a bit out of place. Maybe Ahriman's gettin' old and can't tremolo like he used to? I don't know. The only song that wouldn't be out of place on an older album is "As I Ascend" and that's because it's in the "Goddess of Sodomy"/"Atrum Regina" vein of being the token slower song. Except on album where the band sees the average bpm going much lower than earlier, it's not "token" anymore.

The title track is the real highlight though. The riffs come in oozing dark, foggy atmospheres and it's fucking great. It's the only song here that truly approaches the same territory as the debut. Heljarmadr, the new vocalist really shines here too. His voice is fairly standard, but he's clearly a capable vocalist (not straining or anything) and most importantly, he sounds really good over the riffing.

The Secrets of the Black Arts this is not. There's no David Parland. Lord Ahriman can't write riffs like that. But it's also not the mindless pseudomelodic hellnoise of Diabolus Interium. If you liked the debut and nothing else, I suppose this is worth a listen. If you hated Dark Funeral for being a dumb band, I'd recommend giving this a shot since there's a good bit of nuance and variety here. If you're a sucker for anything in the Dissection/Sacramentum/Unanimated vein, then definitely check this out.

Rome was also not built in a day - 83%

Felix 1666, June 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Century Media Records

Dark Funeral are back after a very short break. It took only seven years. No doubt, Lord Ahriman hates to be passive. However, the band has returned to blue artworks after a red period. The stereotypical yet great painting provides clues about the musical offering. In accordance with the generic cover scenario, the nine compositions show their force without unveiling any kind of experiments. Guess the hiatus of seven years was too short for having a new idea...? Maybe this sounds negative, but this lack of innovations has positive aspects as well. It ensures that Dark Funeral stay away from symphonic bombast, ambient accidents and progressive bulkiness. No doubt, that's a good thing.

Anyway, surprisingly calm tones open the album. But rest assured, it does not take long until the combative institution calls for battle. "Unchain My Soul", the initial explosion, is a fine combination of catchy elements and furious leads. The black lava starts to flow and covers all areas. In addition, the subliminal riffing creates an aura of desperation and a short break emphasises the brutality of the fast parts, while the dense and powerful production has a homicidal touch. There can be no question that Dark Funeral wanted to have exactly this sound. By the way, they introduce a new lead vocalist successfully. His contribution is on a par with that of the vigorous instrumental section. He does not revolutionize the overall appearance of the band, but he delivers the appropriate amount of hate, nastiness and violence. Mission fulfilled, I would say.

Dark Funeral still love velocity and tracks like "Beast Above Man" or "As One We Shall Conquer" (fantastic verses!) leave no doubt that the dudes are still able to compose and perform gripping high speed eruptions. Yet the band also likes to take a bath in slowly flowing rivers. The fairly cautious "Temple of Ahriman" (the boss seems to be a little bit vain - why didn't they call it "Temple of Felix 1666"?) is driven by flattening double bass, but its most conspicuous feature is constituted by the extremely mature melody that forms the chorus. Placed on position five, this temple stands in the centre of the album and I do not think that this is a coincidence. A very strong piece - its only blemish is that it has been previously released. The same applies for the solid "Nail Them to the Cross". I hate this kind of recycling, but that's another story.

The shady creatures have penned a compact, more or less monolithic full-length. No inadequate elements disturb the eternal reign of shadows and the only number that cannot keep the quality level (the almost doomy "As I Ascend") does not spoil the joy about the comeback of the legend from Sweden. Too bad that Ahriman is not tortured by the restlessness that haunts Morgan, the mastermind of Marduk. Otherwise, this would probably be the tenth or eleventh blazing full-length of his army. However, the final highlight of "Where Shadows Forever Reign" is marked by the smoothly running "To Carve Another Wound". Its demoniac profoundness lends the mid-paced track an intense aura. Inter alia due to songs of this black grandeur, I am curious to see what Dark Funeral will deliver on their next full-length. I am sure, we will be smarter in seven years.