Of all the many subgenres of heavy metal, few contain as many regional sounds and scenes as black metal. From Norway’s very stronghold of sonic erasure to the grandiose brutality of the Hellenic scene, from North American black metal in all its atmospheric aplomb to the relentless viciousness of the South American scene, the tendrils of black metal reach far, wide and deep. But one of the most iconic scenes is perhaps one of the least prolific: Swedish melodic black metal. Springing to life around the same time their Norwegian counterparts were embroiled in murder and arson, the Swedes weaved the melody into their brand of blackened madness, keeping things just as bad but tempering the emotion, hooks and a touch of accessibility in their sound. However, among Swedish-melo-black heavyweights, few have built a back catalog that could be described as extensive – NAGLFAR are releasing their seventh album in 25 years in 2020 after an eight-year hiatus, NOT ANIMATED their fourth in about 30 last year, again with an extended break, while SACREMENTUM have yet to release a sequel to their third offering of 1999 Your dark destiny, despite reissues of their sparse catalog making occasional appearances. Within Swedish melodic black metal, A DARK FUNERAL have a better work rate than most, but their new offer, we are the apocalypse comes another six long years after their opus Where the shadows rule forever – even if it was worth the wait.
“Time just flies. We actually started with the first tracks four years ago, that’s when the first riffs came to life. We’ve been touring a lot and that kind of delays the songwriting process a bit. But then, on the other hand, what’s the rush? It’s better for us to make an album when we feel like it’s the right time, than to stress about something just because other people are expecting it. Quality over quantity.” comments A DARK FUNERAL singer Heljarmadr on the gap between records and the virtue of patience. we are the apocalypse is certainly not a rush job, and A DARK FUNERAL found themselves in a privileged position when the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a hammer blow to live music, removing the constant need to perform and giving the band the most precious resource: time.
“We were getting ready for write mode when shit hit the fan. This meant we didn’t have to cancel or postpone any actual tours, just festival gigs and other one-on-one shows. In this, we were rather lucky. But we used the time provided by the pandemic to create the album. Kind of a lucky coincidence. Heljarmadr reflects, before commenting on the impact the ever-elusive time had on the creative process which saw A DARK FUNERAL double the grandiose character of Where the shadows rule forever. “It’s the result of letting things take a bit of time, evolution doesn’t happen overnight. When the pandemic hit the world and we realized we couldn’t do anything but stay home, we immediately continued to work on we are the apocalypse. I think the sound is just a natural progression of Where the shadows rule forever. Daniel Bergstrand did a great job with the mix too, the sound is really big and organic instead of the over-processed, compressed, generic sound that’s been the norm for a while now. The volume war is over and the dynamic is finally back!
we are the apocalypse also marks the beginning A DARK FUNERAL record for the band’s current rhythm section. Drummer Janne Jaloma and bassist Fredrik Isaksson both beat the low end for A DARK FUNERAL since 2018, playing countless shows and fitting into the genetic makeup of the band. However, this marks their first opportunity to write and record alongside Heljarmadr and the pillar of the group Lord Ahriman — and as the singer praises, they haven’t missed a beat.
“I think it was very luxurious to have them in the band a few years before we entered the studio together. They are both very good musicians and they had the advantage of having played A DARK FUNERAL the songs live a lot, going into the music and the dynamics of the band on a deeper level. Everything went really well and they fit like a glove and added a lot of their own personalities as musicians on the whole album.
It is clear, however, that live music and touring are beginning to return in the current music climate where A DARK FUNERAL and Heljarmadr have their goals set – and it’s certainly not rushing to the next disc to make up for lost time. “The world finally seems to be opening up and I don’t even want to think about another year like this. We book shows in the background and we have to think they are doable. I don’t see us working on a ‘We Are The Post-Apocalypse’ album for a while.”
While the focus is of course on this current slab of blackened goodness and what’s to come in the immediate future from A DARK FUNERAL, it is important to also take the time to reflect for a moment on the path taken by the group. Pioneers of the melodic black metal scene, Lord Ahriman led the band for over 30 years through line-up changes, turmoil within the wider metal scene and recent glories on the back of Where the shadows rule forever – with more glory to come. Although he did not join A DARK FUNERAL in 2014 and spent the early years of the melodic black metal scene at school, Heljarmadr do not fear the impact of A DARK FUNERAL and the melodic black metal scene at the same time.
“It’s amazing how this genre has survived for so long, being so extreme in its expression. A DARK FUNERAL has almost 30 years of constant activity and we are still going strong, maybe even stronger than ever. Many individuals in the older age groups reach over 50, but instead of showing weakness, they show strength, experience and a will to carry on. I’m almost 40 myself, so I wouldn’t consider myself young anymore. Just as the genre began as an expression of fierce dark power and has remained so over the decades. Maybe it’s even darker now than it ever was. Youthful explosiveness and impulsiveness have been somewhat replaced by calculated and experienced strength.
Every day the world seems to get darker and darker. Global pandemics, natural disasters, wars: all of these things are very real horrors, and still present even through a cursory glance at the news. The pessimists among us may see the dark darkness of our present world as a sign of the approach of the end times – as have the pessimists of almost every era before ours. But if A DARK FUNERAL are the apocalypse, the end times never sounded so good.
We Are The Apocalypse is out now through Century Media Records.
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