Album review: DARK FORTRESS – Venereal Dawn

Dark Fortress - Venereal Dawn

Century Media – Out Now.

Ever since their first demo “Rebirth Of The Dark Age” saw the light of day back in 1996, German sextet Dark Fortress has been one of the most prolific entities in the international Black Metal scene.

It was that, in connection with a four year drought following the release of the highly-acclaimed “Ylem” (2010) that caused unease amongst their very loyal fan base. Finally, the time has come for a sense of normality to be restored as the Landshut-based outfit has just unleashed its latest musical offering entitled “Venereal World”.

Though never quite the ones to happily follow where other artists tread, the members of Dark Fortress seem to have really pushed the boundaries in “Venereal Dawn” – a nine track release whose influences are clearly identifiable but which are presented in ways that honour rather than shame the creators.

And what influences these are – the sharpness and edginess of the main riffs on are reminiscent of late-90s Mayhem, while those times the band chose to go groovy, comparisons with later-day Satyricon are not too far off the mark.

Add to that a good portion of dark/evil-sounding vocals, moody piano/keyboard themes and an emotionally charged female vocal performance and what you have is an album whose quality and value are of the highest possible order.

Opening in a moody fashion but soon blasting its way through with some of the most addictive groove-laden riffs possible, same-titled opus “Venereal Disease” is one of the highlights of the album and is followed by the seven minute “Lloigor” – a song whose guitar harmonies and overall arrangements are reminiscent of the period when Opeth were struggling to decide whether they wished to remain a Death Metal band or become a more 70s-influenced outfit.

Celtic Frost have clearly been the main source of inspiration behind the riff-orientated “Betrayal And Vengeance”, something that cannot be said of the much more intricate and harmony-laden “Chrysalis”.

Presenting fast and atmospheric elements in equal measure, “I Am The Jigsaw Of A Mad God” portrays Dark Fortress as an outfit in possession of major compositional qualities, a feeling further enhanced by both the acoustic-oriented “The Deep” and the Sitar-themed “Odem”.

The closing section of the album may contain a powerful anthem in “Luciform” but it is the eleven minute “On Fever’s Wings” with its breathtaking opening piano melody and its sensational dramatic female vocal lines that steals the show and renders this album an ‘absolute must have’ for all fans of quality extreme Metal music.

Having been exposed to this technically impressive and emotionally powerful release for the best part of a week, I am quite surprised by the revelation that this album came to life following a period when guitarist and founding member V.Santura was seriously contemplating pulling the plug on the project.

Luckily for all of us, Dark Fortress are alive and breathing and it just so happens that they released one of the most impressive Black Metal albums of the year!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)




 

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