3/21/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Though some in the black metal scene dismiss them as a punchline, Dark Funeral has still been one of the genre's most successful and tirelessly anti-Christian voices over the past decade. Of the founding members, only Lord Ahriman remains, but the leading presence and lyrics of Magus Caligula have become just as integral to the band's identity. Together, the two have taken the group towards greater success and overcome great adversity, shaking their fist at God with admirable diligence all the while.
Perhaps on no release is this Satanic synergy more apparent than on 'Diabolis Interium'. Released in 2001, this was Caligula's second outing as the band's vocalist and, aside from a couple of EP's and a split with Infernal, is the finest example of mid-era Dark Funeral. Some may say that it's a 'samey' release, and to an extent that is true, since most songs rely on classic two-bar guitar leads and simple song formulas. But this is a common trait of black metal, and with some listening time invested, 'Diabolis Interium' proves to be more diverse than some acknowledged classics (e.g. 'Transilvanian Hunger').
The disc opens with its strongest track and still one of their finest to date,'The Arrival of Satan's Empire', which Caligula always introduces live as, "a very beautiful day..." Indeed, though countless black metal groups have employed this kind of opening salvo--an ominous riff that swells into a blastbeat and is capped by the vocalist's most unholy exclamation--it still sounds fresh and venomous when executed by Dark Funeral. Caligula's vocals are not placed too highly in the mix, which helps give Ahriman's guitars some extra punch, but he still cuts through with a stunning, 14-second shriek that slides directly into the verse. Some other notable tracks include 'An Apprentice For Satan', 'Hail Murder', and the title track--each exploring subtle differences of the larger theme with precision and consistency.
Chances are, though, that most Dark Funeral fans are aware of all this and have already have purchased the album. Therefore, the strength of this re-issue lies with its second disc, a re-mastered version of the band's 2000 EP 'Teach Children to Worship Satan'. Remixing in black metal rarely has much of an impact, but in this instance the effect is quite notable. The only track from 'Diabolis...' that reappears is 'An Apprentice of Satan', and when played side by side with the LP version the difference is readily apparent. At slight expense of the guitars, the rest of the instruments and Caligula's vocals are much clearer. Caligula's bass lines, while not quite as serpentine or notable as those of Marduk's famed B War, contribute significantly to the track. We can also hear much more of Matte Modin's crisp percussion, especially during the fills. The rest of the EP is comprised of cover tracks--Sodom, Slayer, King Diamond, and Mayhem--and Caligula actually does a better job adapting his voice to fit each number than one would predict (King Diamond especially). Still, after the upgrade in quality heard on 'An Apprentice of Satan', a re-master of the 'Diabolis...' LP would have been more welcome than one for the EP.
In any case, 'Diabolis Interium' remains Dark Funeral's flagship release, and with good reason. Though not the brightest (inverted) star in the black metal panoply, theirs is a discography that deserves to be re-issued.
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