Swedish Black Metal pioneers DARK FUNERAL have blazed a path of Satanic ritualism and anti-religion that has endured for nearly three decades. Now, on the band’s seventh studio album, ‘We Are The Apocalypse’, they find themselves reaching for their most immersive and unrepenting journey to date. Led by the songwriting and technical ferocity of founding guitarist Lord Ahriman, Dark Funeral takes aim to surpass the new foundation they laid forth on 2016’s ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’ – their first release with current lead vocalist Heljarmadr.
Recorded at Fredrik Thordendal’s (Meshuggah) Studio 33, ‘We Are The Apocalypse’ sees the band once again partnering with legendary producer Daniel Bergstrand. For Ahriman, the creative challenges presented by this newest offering can be broken down into a few core objectives: forging new ground by creating bigger soundscapes through rhythmic components, and finding symbiosis between the vocal passages and melodic sections. “A lot of death/black metal, it’s kind of stiff and straightforward – I find that boring. I feel like the vocals need to follow the melodies, and on this record, I think Heljarmadr fucking nailed it.”
‘We Are The Apocalypse’ starts things off with the decimation and unforgiving brutality of “Nightfall”, one of Dark Funeral’s heaviest and fast-paced tracks to date. Drawing influence from a lesser-known mythos and a forewarning of the sheer darkness to come, the song brims with a cohesive hellfire that echoes from Heljarmadr’s blood-curdling howls, reverberates through Ahriman’s pummeling guitar chords, and thuds with dread via Jalomaah´s skull-crushing drum rattle. Throughout these opening salvos, be it the unforgiving darkness of “Let The Devil In’ or the defiant visceral offensive of “When Our Vengeance Is Done”, the band stays true to their promise of delivering Dark Funeral’s most epic and engrossing hellscapes yet.
Approaching the midway point of Apocalypse, Ahriman & Heljarmadr reach deeper into the dark energy which defines them. This comes to the forefront on tracks like “Nosferatu” and “When I’m Gone”, with the latter of the two drawing back the veil on the band’s songwriting process while also exploring untraveled territory. “It’s a first, but we used some clean guitars on this record (on “When I’m Gone” and “Leviathan”) because it just fit so well with what the music was doing. I’m not sure if people have picked up on it yet, but I write pretty much all the riffs acoustically. I do that because I need to hear the tones as they are in order to find the harmonies that I had in my head. It’s only after doing this that I can transform these harmonies into my own Satanic symphonies.”
On “Nosferatu”, Heljarmadr would find inspiration for his lyrics after revisiting the preeminent forefather of the horror film genre. “I revisited a bunch of Dracula themed films. What I came to find is how the whole genre has been corrupted by romantic crap over time, yet the very first film, Nosferatu, is so fucking dark and evil. It’s magnificent. I wanted to resurrect that evil and this is my homage to the good old blood sucker.”
Throughout the new album, certain themes and priorities begin to make themselves apparent. Chief among them that a title as urgent as ‘We Are The Apocalypse’ is not taken lightly, and that Dark Funeral intend to make this otherworldly undoing as tangible for their audience as a great film or a gripping piece of literature. The watery grave invoked on “Leviathan” builds menacing from its early haunting notes into an utter cacophony thanks to rhythm guitarist Chaq Mol and bassist Adra Melek, while the sociopathic fervor explored on “A Beast To Praise” prowls and bludgeons with bloodlust. The record closes with a deafening cataclysm brought to life on its title track, “We Are The Apocalypse” – unwavering in its intention to draw listeners into a realm of true evil and lament. That is where Dark Funeral are, and have always been, their strongest.