Dark Fortress - Venereal Dawn 01Concepts are tough nuts to crack, you’ve got to get your story across in roughly 7-10 tracks and at the same time the songs themselves need to stand alone and impress. Venereal Dawn1 is the latest addition to the now seven-deep discography for German black metallers Dark Fortress and it was three years in the making. The album’s concept weaves a tale of survival, betrayal and sacrifice in what is said to be an extremely hostile environment. I’m left with two questions: (1) did our Angry Metal Overlord mistakenly pass on an episode of Lost for my reviewing pleasure? [Answer: Your Angry Metal Overlord does not make mistakes – AMG] More importantly, (2) can vocalist Morean, now well-entrenched in the band’s sound after Eidolon and Ylem, pull off this vague concept?

Venereal Dawn unfurls with the title track at a hefty 11 minutes and as far as epics go, it’s manageable up until the final two minutes, at which point you’re quite ready to hit skip. Your expectation for the song is for something akin to what Dark Fortress have done previously: mid-tempo black metal, symphonic without the use of orchestrations, melodic and very modern, and this certainly delivers that along with a few extra surprises. Atmospheric at first, Morean makes his grand entrance with a menacing narration of poetic proportions before amping up the drama and taking Dark Fortress towards territory that holds hints to the blackened death of Hate.

The rest of the album follows suite and feels like a grab bag of who’s who in metal. You’ve got “Lloigor” that opens up sounding like it should be on Opeth‘s Watershed and a short way in you find something along the lines of [Luca Turilli’s] Rhapsody [of Fire] complete with “In a world…” movie guy voice cropping up. “Betrayal and Vengeance” could easily have been a discarded Naglfar track but with a bunch of Kvarforth (Shining) grunts and theatrics thrown in for giggles. And then there’s “Chrysalis” and “Luciform,” which evoke a weird Hate and Nevermore hybrid which made me want to listen to The Godless Endeavour and The Obsidian Conspiracy. Finally “On Fever’s Wings” bookends the album in all its 11 minute glory that invites Black Sun Aeon, Machine Head, latter day Cemetery and Tiamat to this very muddled party.

Dark Fortress - Venereal Dawn 02Dark Fortress run a tight ship and there’s no lack of precision and talent present in the band. Seraph (drums) also plays for prog metallers Noneuclid and symphonic band ReVamp and I suspect this is where his demanding drum contortions have grown and developed from. Asvargr and Santaura (Noneuclid and Tryptykon) handle the guitars and for the most part they continue with the technical guitar lines that were a part of Ylem. They’ve tried to bring in the heaviness that was lacking in the earlier release and they certainly hit closer to home with the integration of their dextrous, snaking guitar work into Seraph’s uncomfortable tempo shifts.

With the band having worked on this concept for so long, my expectations were high, but in the end Venereal Dawn‘s concept strikes me as too generalized and too tough to spin into a workable idea. Worse yet, with everything Dark Fortress brings to the table, there’s too much happening simultaneously on Venereal Dawn and it isn’t cohesive. This makes it a record that doesn’t catch one’s attention or leave the listener wanting to hear it again. Dark Fortress have veered further away from the black metal of their past and instead, built on to the progressive tendencies and technicality that they worked with on Ylem. Unfortunately, this time around they’ve taken it a step too far, cramming in an over-abundance of variation and as many jarring switches as they possibly can. Finally, all Dark Fortress ends up with are a bunch of dead, bloated bodies in the water and one disappointed reviewer watching them drift downriver out of sight and mind.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: DarkFortressOfficial | Facebook.com/OfficialDarkFortress
Release Dates: EU: 2014.09.01 | NA: 09.02.2014

Show 1 footnote

  1. A fancy name for “the morning after,” which is usually followed by the Venereal Walk, known in other places as “the walk of shame.” – AMG.
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  • Andy_0

    Dammit, I’ve been looking forward to this record for so long as I adore this band’s back catalog. Hopefully I disagree with your opinion…

    • If you like Ylem I think you’ll dig this. It’s a bit more on the melodic side, I’d say, more cleans than I remember Ylem having.

    • Ben Perry

      Respectfully disagree with this review. Different strokes, etc. Love DF’s back catalog too and find them continually underrated. Maybe one of those bands that doesn’t fit anywhere in particular, so they get overlooked, but I think they’re groovy as hell.

  • Merijn Kooijman

    Actually your review made me pretty interested. I’m going to give this a listen.

  • DIABOLUS777

    2??? That’s crazy.
    It’s not their best but still very listenable and better than 80% or more of the other stuff that comes out daily nowadays.
    It’s easily a 3.5.

    • I’d give it a 3 if I were to score it today after 2 or 3 listens. I like the cut of their gib, but I’m not quite sold yet.

  • So I have to say that I deeply disagree with this review. While I’m not extremely overwhelmed by the writing, a couple listens through give me the impression that this record is quite cohesive. The songwriting is interesting, but I wouldn’t say that they’ve doubled down on prog at all. In fact, they’re still “black metal” enough that I find they get a little repetitive at times.

    I’m glad I checked it out, but I’m not sure where you’re getting the lack of cohesion from at all.

    • Selim Baradan

      There are apparently two types of reaction to this album on the internet. People who think there’s too much happening simultaneously and find the album hard to listen to like MadamX here. And people who liked the proginess and variety. I somewhat agree with the latter side and also repeat what AMG says: being a melodic black metal band kinda makes them boring at times.

      • enslighet01

        Agreeing with both of you, I completely, completely disagree with this review but I understand why someone wouldn’t care for this.

        On a side note, I reviewed Madam X’s top ten of 2014 article and sadly I disliked every album on it, so I think we simply have incompatible taste in metal.

        No worries though, to each their own.

  • Kreegwaldo

    Fwiw I agree with Madame X, even the one song posted with the review was boring (repetitive) as hell. I tried 3 times just skipping ahead by a minute for the duration of the song and I thought it was a joke because the tone, vocals and tempo were EXACTLY the same! For 11 minutes! Of course I also hate doom so maybe I’m just not their intended audience.

    I listened to the other songs and maybe being poisoned by this initial one, I felt disconnected from the album and whatever they were trying to achieve, which left the whole thing feeling disjointed to me.

  • C’mon, Veneral dawn has to be a worst name than Enjoy of deep sadness.

    • hubcapiv

      Oh it is. It is.

    • Absolutely terrible.

      • It’s a “Splinter Cell: Adjective Noun” era, but for metal bands.

  • kmal666

    Dark Fortress is cool , they can get a bit cheesy but whatever. The best project these guys have worked on is by far Noneuclid and it seems to get no love. Metatheosis was brilliant IMO. Still looking forward to checking this out.

  • AndySynn

    Interesting. Very different to my own opinion. Particularly with just throwing round random other bands as comparisons seemingly willy-nilly. Personally I thought it was a very well put together piece of work… difficult, deep, not very immediate despite the strong use of dark melody… actually feels a bit like the pre-Morean albums re-interpreted through the prism of Ylem.

  • Deron Baker

    Their album kinda bored me. No deep explanation needed, just my gut reaction to it. I gave it 2.5/5. Next!

  • Here’s Johnny

    Listened to this last night. Madam x is spot on about the first song, those last 2 minutes i skipped. It’s actually a great track but a strange choice for first song. It’s an ambitious album to say the least with many twists and turns. I wouldn’t say it lacks cohesion, to me what it lacks is focus. Songs can meander on for way too long. Some editing would have been beneficial.

    Having said that it’s a very interesting listen(great atmosphere) and you have to give them massive credit for being ambitious, it just doesn’t impress me as much as the last album though. That was immediately awesome. Maybe this is a grower.

    ps- The song ‘Luciform’ is excellent.

    Rating – 3.5/5

  • I loved the album

  • EXEbeast

    Dark Fortress is one heck of a band, before and after Séance era. This album too is amazing

  • EXEbeast

    After checking out MadamX other reviews and top lists (not to bash her taste or anything I swear!), I get why she reviewed this album as it is. It’s just a question of taste and opinions. Which shows how it hard it is to be objective in reviewing music, especially complex music like metal and aaall of its genres