I admit freely I have been putting this off for some time now, but I cannot do so anymore: the band-aid must come off. A deep and abiding respect for the Swedish masters of melodic black metal has made me procrastinate, but no longer: the most recent release by Dark Funeral, We Are The Apocalypse, is my least favourite record in their otherwise strong discography. And given that this body of work only counts seven full-lengths in a nearly thirty-year history, this is a band you expect to carefully curate and present only their very best work.

Some excellent videography by Grupa13 goes a fair way towards rescuing “Let the Devil In” from mediocrity.

Worse still, I had such high hopes for the album. Where Shadows Forever Reign (read our review), their 2016 “comeback” after a seven-year hiatus, was such a breath of fresh air that I truly hoped they would continue in the same vein. Grá frontman Heljarmadr (read our recent feature with him) taking over vocal duties from Emperor Magus Caligula seemed to be the shot in the arm the band needed back in 2014 at a point when the group’s very future was uncertain, but his vitality doesn’t appear to have maintained the necessary momentum among his bandmates.

On We Are The Apocalypse, it is, sadly, only his contribution that feels like authentic black metal fury, as he spits his vitriolic, seething delivery with passion and cruelty throughout, in a vain attempt to elevate what otherwise translates as a long-distance collab jam. Lord Ahriman’s signature riffing is good – but not excellent – and the contributions of Chaq Mol, Jalomaah, and Adra Melek (on guitars, drums and bass, respectively) merely play a supporting role with no instrumentation or arrangement shining through. Admittedly, the record was composed and recorded during the pandemic, so the “session musician” phenomenon is understandable – but given the quality of previous records like the genre-defining The Secrets of the Black Arts or Vobiscum Satanas, not forgivable.

Excellent production and some of the best snare drum tones in black metal characterize “Nightfall,” one of the better cuts on the record.

Overall, it is hard to define highs or lows, and that in itself is the least appealing aspect of the record: its uncharacteristic monotone register. None of the blistering satanic venom Dark Funeral is known for, none of the ambitious guitar-led melodies, none of the jump-scare virulence… until now, 2009’s Angelus Exuro Pro Eturnus had been my low point for Dark Funeral, but the prevailing blandness of We Are The Apocalypse pips it at the post: despite social solid media engagement showing committed development throughout the recording process, the end result seems to have been phoned in.

I can only hope their recently-completed American tour with Cannibal Corpse visited enough of their past glories to land the leather-and-studs clad a good reception with US fans and reminds EU fans why they follow the band when the European leg kicks off in March. After all, live metal is possibly the best indicator of success within the extreme metal scene, driving the merch and physical record sales these artists so desperately need to survive in a world where musicians write formulaic hits, not songs, for an audience that wouldn’t know musicianship or talent if it hit them with a sweaty chainmail vest.

“Leviathan” employs a more narrative approach, making it one of the more original offerings on the album.

We Are The Apocalypse Track Listing:

1. Nightfall
2. Let the Devil In
3. When Our Vengeance Is Done
4. Nosferatu
5. When I’m Gone
6. Beyond the Grave
7. A Beast to Praise
8. Leviathan
9. We Are the Apocalypse

Runtime: 43:44
Release Date: March 18, 2022
Record Label: Century Media Records

Author

This is Dayv. He writes stuff and makes being an aging goth cool again. Actually, nobody can do the latter, so let's just stick to him writing stuff. Predominantly about black metal, tattoos and other essential cultural necessities. He also makes pretty pictures, but that's just to pay the bills.