Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dark Funeral - Vobiscum Satanas (1998)

After the recording of their debut album, The Secrets of the Black Arts, Dark Funeral underwent a complete overhaul. First, Themgoroth was replaced by Masse Broberg, now known as Emperor Magus Caligula. Equimanthorn was replaced on drums, by Alzazmon (Tomas Asklund). However, the change that forever crippled the band and left it as merely a shadow of what it once was had to be the departure of Blackmoon. Once his songwriting genius was removed from the equation, the band stagnated and it was very clear who the driving force had been. With a new line-up, Lord Ahriman returned to Abyss Studio in the autumn of 1997 and Vobiscum Satanas was born. It was released by No Fashion in April 1998.

Musically, this is almost a carbon-copy of the band's debut album. Unable to cope with Blackmoon's absence, it seems that Ahriman did his best to mimic the record that made Dark Funeral so popular in the first place, to the best of his abilities. And, truth be told, there are plenty of decent riffs to be found here. The first few songs are somewhat enjoyable, blasting through at an intense pace as cold, nocturnal tremolo riffs weave in and out. "Ravenna Strigoi Mortii" starts things out on a strong note but, by the middle of the album, the repetitive nature of the songwriting begins to wear thin. The material is weaker as well, unable to maintain the momentum built early on.

The production is much clearer than The Secrets of the Black Arts, which is one of the main differences between the two albums. The sense of rawness that existed on the first album is sacrificed for increased clarity, though it does not sound horribly overdone. It suits the music well enough, which utilizes a slightly less violent approach, anyway. The benefit of this is that the guitar riffs are not buried in the mix, as they were on the previous release, allowing the listener to truly hear all that is going on.

The drumming is still a problem, just like on the first album. Tomas Asklund continues what Equimanthorn started, with the overactive percussion that creates too much noise and detracts from the guitar riffs, which should be the primary focus. That said, he has never shown much proficiency for knowing how to best compliment the melodies, so one would be foolish to expect him to possess such wisdom near the beginning of his career.

One of the worst aspects of the album has to be the vocal performance. Masse completely altered his style and sounds nothing like he did on Hypocrisy's first two records, Penetralia and Osculum Obscenum. Of course, it is natural that he would employ a higher-pitched sound since he made the move from Death Metal to Black Metal, but his entire technique is utterly different in every way. His voice is very generic and sounds like most other vocalists of the period, almost like a weak imitation of Ihsahn, from Emperor. He ruins several of the songs by not allowing the music to breathe. Whether it is because he wrote too many lyrics or just the fact that his vocal patterns attempt to fill as much time as possible, his voice hardly seems to go away for even a few moments and it takes away from the guitar melodies.

Vobiscum Satanas is the result of a band that had become a caricature of itself. Had this been Dark Funeral's first album, without the foundation that was laid by the earlier releases, chances are that the band would not have existed long enough to make a second one. This record is a failure, epitomizing the words generic and mediocre, and demonstrates that without Blackmoon's creativity, Dark Funeral was but a pale shadow of what they once were. To hear the true continuation of this band's legacy, pick up Infernal's self-titled debut, featuring Blackmoon and Themgoroth. As for this atrocity, avoid it and steer clear of the albums that follow.