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Dark Fortress - "Venereal Dawn" (CD)

Dark Fortress - "Venereal Dawn" CD cover image

"Venereal Dawn" track listing:

1. Venereal Dawn
2. Lloigor
3. Betrayal And Vengeance
4. Chrysalis
5. I Am The Jigsaw Of A Mad God
6. The Deep
7. Odem
8. Luciform
9. On Fever's Wings

Reviewed by on August 25, 2014

"Less a dawning sun and more a slow blossoming of absolute darkness, the album is completely drenched in atmosphere from start to finish, using heaviness to create and sustain a specific mood."

Without having to resort to endless brutality or rely on blistering speed, Dark Fortress reminds the metal masses why they were drawn to the darker side of music in the first place with the mammoth “Venereal Dawn.” Less a dawning sun and more a slow blossoming of absolute darkness, the album is completely drenched in atmosphere from start to finish, using heaviness to create and sustain a specific mood.

The intro to the staggering 11 minute opening title track draws the audience in and forces attention to be paid for the coming blackened metal storm. While the metal is based on traditional ideas – blasting black metal drums and mid-paced riffs, for instance – the album is by no means constrained by those standards and it doesn't stick solely to the old school way of thinking. These tracks pay homage to the genre definitions but then move on to more interesting expositions.

“Venereal Dawn” just gets the angles right – it's not too fast or too slow, too brutal or too symphonic, too technical or too simplistic. The use of clean chants over symphonic black metal brings to mind all the reasons people loved Dimmu Borgir or the like, but with less of the over-the-top cheesiness that became a turn off over time. The acoustic strumming juxtaposed with heavy guitars and drums on “Lloigor” brings to mind earlier Opeth, even if the specific sub-genre goes in a different direction. “Chrysalis,” meanwhile, offers absolutely hallucinatory and mystical guitar passages, while “On Fever's Wings” has segments that sound like a more doomed out version of Arkan with its ethnic instruments and female vocals.

Most of the songs on the album push the boundaries of track length – averaging between seven and 11 minutes – but there's honestly not much down time or repetition at all. Nothing feels drawn out or overblown and the nine consistently engaging tracks don't ever get boring or feel like they need to be trimmed.

Other than the perhaps unfortunate album title (it's initials are “V.D.” and the “V” literally stands for “Venereal”), everything about the album is mysterious and magical, fusing style with substance in a memorable and constantly entertaining way. Albums like “Venereal Dawn” - that combine compellingly dark atmosphere with solid head banging musicianship – are why I first started my journey into heavy metal, and it's always a pleasure to see new ones pop up in the overcrowded genre.

Highs: Style meets substance on an album that uses heaviness to create atmosphere, rather than just having atmospheric window dressings.

Lows: The lack of fast paced tracks may not work for everyone.

Bottom line: Albums like this are why I got into the metal in the first place - to explore the darker side of music where atmosphere is as important as heaviness.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)