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Label: Darkness Shall Rise Productions / Release date: October 2023
With the release of a double MC entitled The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Reissue), Darkness Shall Rise Productions has now re-released most of the early recordings from leading Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral. Just recently I reviewed their, two separate tape releases, namely In The Sign… & Vobiscum Satanas. So, if there’s anyone on the earth still unfamiliar with this legendary act, then this is a good way to get your introduction to the work of Dark Funeral.
In this particular review I will concentrate on the aforementioned The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Reissue), which is a double cassette (limited to 350 black tapes), including 2 panel J-card. To be honest, I got already exited as soon as I saw this landing on my doorstep, but due to some family issues I was not able to listen to it properly before. What we have here is Dark Funeral’s legendary debut album Secrets Of The Black Arts from 1996, finally again available on limited cassette. Next to this well known debut, the guys from Darkness Shall Rise also included the legendary 8-track Unisound recording on a second MC.
Line-up in the time of the recording of this debut full-length consisted of; Themgoroth (vocals & bass), Blackmoon (guitar) and Lord Ahriman (guitar) & Equimanthorn (drums). First thing noticeable when listening to Secrets Of The Black Arts is the sound, which still (at least when compared to what is to be released later in their 30 years long career) shows a fairly young band who’re still searching for their trademark sound. This trademark sound was later established and now commonly known and recognizable as being insane, blast beat laden black metal with hellish speed. Having said so, the rhythm section isn’t all about blast beat inferno, but offers variation throughout the record. It helps to keep the listener engaged. The drums overall sit quite clear and crisp in the production, which unfortunately can’t be said about the bass, which is poorly mixed. On the positive note, when drums are not predominant, then it’s the guitars that save most of the tracks with its unique sound and the amount of dark & creepy atmosphere it creates.
Another thing that should be noted is that The Secrets of the Black Arts is a perfectly well-balanced and utterly competent in song-writing, execution and composition. I esp. enjoyed the work of Equimanthorn (drums) who manages to increase the tempo between “When Angels Forever Die”, “The Fire Eternal” and then again on the first song on a B side “Satan’s Mayhem”. The volume and heaviness that he brings to the sound of the band adds a great deal of aggression to the overall essence of their experience. Themgoroth (vocals) delivers some satisfying black metal shrieks that lie perfect in the mix. The lyrical content is dealing with thypical Black Metal subjects, mainly some horror themes and hymns to Satan, which was and still is, pretty suitable for this kind of music.
Included with the re-release of The Secrets Of The Black Arts is the version of the album that was recorded at ‘Unisound Studios’. Apparently the band didn’t like the sound of the album, so they re-recorded it at another studio. It resulted in a slightly rawer versions of the tracks on the original release. I will say that the regular/original album sounds much better, where the bonus tape is more of a novelty with a story behind it. There’s really not much more to say about this tape, other then come to the conclusion that I find this tape a bit unnecessary, as there’s almost the same set of songs as on the original release. Still die-hard worshippers of Dark Funeral will embrace it, having another rare recordings to add to their collection.
The absolute highlights, if I had to choose two tracks that left biggest impact on me, would be “My Dark Desires” and “When Angels Forever Die”. Overall production is competent, crispy and unpolished, where esp. the aforementioned drums sit quite clear and crisp in the production. Meanwhile, it’s all nicely wraped with this iconic artwork by Necrolord.
A multiple listening to The Secrets Of The Black Arts (Reissue) felt dangerous and mystical at the same time. The Secrets Of The Black Arts captures the essence of being a musician, of creating art in its purest impulsive state, without worrying about polishing the edges of making it perfect. That is the addictive charm of Dark Funeral and their early recordings.
For further info visit https://www.facebook.com/darkfuneral or just purchase this double MC from https://www.hrrecords.de/DARK-FUNERAL-The-Secrets-of-the-Black-Arts-2MC_1 while still some copies available.