9/10/2014 - Review by: T. Ray Verteramo
What I appreciate the most about black metal is its ability to spiritually, as well as physically, affect the listener. When it is done with skill and structure, it can be a memorable experience. But, when the music is executed without conscientiousness, without parameters at all, the effect is usually pathetic. However, sometimes an ugly clam hides a black pearl of "auditory heroin", and that is what happens with "Venereal Dawn". The engagement sneaks in as your rationality tries to understand what you're hearing while the rest of you nestles in its familiarity because you have heard this all before, during the most thoughtful, introspective, and insecure moments of your life.
This is a very special album.
More "Santa Muerte" than "Hail Satan", there are no outstanding performers in this outfit. There are no virtuosos or trailblazers, yet every one of the six players knows their role and space within the composition. The vocals (Morean) purr and chant in deep baritones and the drums (Seraph) drive the machine more than provide a foundation. The guitars (V. Santura) could be considered cacophonic or skillful, depending on the moment, while the keyboards (Paymon) and bass (Draug) keep the noise arrangements coherent and unified just enough not to allow the notes to run off the pages. To a trained ear, these men are oddly mismatched. But, somehow, whatever it is they're doing, it works.
From the carelessly thoughtful prose of "Chrysalis," to the pulsating and primitive, "Betrayal & Vengeance," every song has a distinctive identity, all befitting under Fortresses' umbrella signature. Like poetry without rhyme; though at times you're not sure if you're hearing a mess or genius, it finds a way to make sense. The title track and "Lliogor" are both lyrical and engaging. "The Deep", creates beauty from discomfort, raising Theravada vocals over guitar strings tuned so loose, their vibrations against the wood make your eardrums squirm until the music reaches into your head to pull you out of your flesh.
This project drains you, fills you, and then surrounds you. This is what music is supposed to do – transcend and change your present state. And though Dark Fortress doesn't enjoy distinction as individual musicians, the strange alchemy they are able to weave together forms an opium veil which enshrouds you into an altered state, without warning or permission, and that is Art.
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