posted on 2/2010 By:
Six albums into their career and Germany’s Dark Fortress are still on Century Media despite never really being regarded as a top to black metal act out side of their native country, and that’s probably not going to change after Ylem, despite it being a solid album.
I’ve seen some pretty positive press on this album, and while the band isn’t quite the full on Dimmu Borgir worship that their moniker implies (Dark Fortress is the English translation of Dimmu Borgir), the band has certainly spread their wings and stepped out from Dimmu’s shadow, although actually that's more due to Dimmu Borgir moving the goalposts with their own dalliances with the mainstream.
Throw in a 70-minute runtime and 10 tracks that never really seem to be all that different, melding polished, razor sharp melodic black metal riffs, a scattering of synths, slow atmospheric passages, bombastic blasting and a few injections of controlled death metal menace; I really can’t point to single tracks that defined the album. The opening title track certainly gets things going with some fierce intensity but instead of keeping their foot on your throat, it levels off for “As The World Keels Over”, a track far better suited to the album's midpoint. And this pacing kind of plagues the album as the band promises to throttle you with intensity, but lets off right before they peak and fully realize the potential of something special.
The band shifts from the march of “Osiris” to the more impressive, more blackened likes of “Silence” and “Satan Bled” to the strange vocals and mechanical lurch of “Evenfall” and “Redivider” and so forth. I can understand branching out and experimentation, but the pacing and timing of those elements on Ylem seems a bit forced and uneven--an impression cemented by the tracks' 5-8 minute runtimes. I’m not even going to get into limp wristed 8 minute closer “The Wraith”. Is that even the same band? And ultimately I get no sense of character or individuality from Dark Fortress--everything seems so cookie cutter and almsot prefabricated from other bands, lacking black metal’s undulating sense of danger or malice. Plus, I don’t know if it was an error in my digital copy or not, but there are some really weird drum effects or layering that make it sound like there’s two albums playing at once, a split second apart.
Still, despite Dark Fortress’ "jack or all trades, master of none” approach to black metal, Ylem is a decent album for fans of Secrets of the Moon, Naglfar, maybe Keep of Kalessin, Old Man's Child and such. Still, I'm more apt to listen to new releases Carach Angren, Aldaaron or Oblomov, so don’t go looking for the band to break into the black metal elite just yet.
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