Burning Darkness – Dödens Makt Review

Swedish five-piece Burning Darkness has been kicking around since 1999, going through various periods of inactivity and releasing a number of demos. It was not until 2017, however, that a debut full-length record finally appeared, the self-released The Angel of Light. That raw chunk of melodic black metal sported heavy dollops of both death (“Demonic Bloodlines”) and heavy metal (“Crystallised Curse”), and was enough, it seems, to secure Burning Darkness a deal with Non Serviam Records. Now, the band returns with its sophomore effort, Dödens Makt (which translates as The Power of Death). Over the years, Burning Darkness has gone through a lot – and I really do mean a lot – of members but, with the line-up having largely stabilized after the debut, is Burning Darkness’ sticking to the blackened shadows wrought on that The Angel of Light?

Immediately as opener “Muspelhems Vrede” kicks in, it’s clear that the melodic quotient has been dialed up, if not to 11, then at least to 9.5 and this is before Burning Darkness lets rip with the raw fury of 90s-esque black metal that formed the backbone of The Angel of Light. Crashing blast beats do raucous battle with ice-edged tremolos, as Per Kolderup Finstad’s shrieking, rasping vocals set out a harrowing stall, telling a tale of monsters and demons. While tracks like “Sulphurous Wrath” cleave close to the black metal mold, across Dödens Makt’s run, Burning Darkness channels a fair amount of death metal into their offering, at times sounding something like LIK (“Neonaticide”) or even the blackened death of Necrowretch. This is seen as much in the jagged guitars of Daniel Wennersten and GhiauR, as in Finstad’s vocals, which sometimes shift from his favored rasping delivery into more of a guttural death metal roar.

“Chiropteran Demon” encapsulates in a single track both the black and death metal aspects of Burning Darkness’ sound, while “She Who Dwells Beyond the Branches” hints at a more progressive edge, even as the tremolos rain down and pandemonium rages.  The ever present melodic aspects of Dödens Makt’s sound is what binds the record together, however. Even the chugging “Draugr,” with its slightly out of place call-and-response vocals, feels like it belongs on the record. The dominant force on the album is melodic black metal but Burning Darkness keeps teasing out new threads in its sound, with elements of speed metal (closer “Dödens Makt Är Stor”) and traditional heavy metal (“She Who Dwells Beyond the Branches” and “Draugr”) playing their part

There was a risk that, with so many elements to its sound, Dödens Makt could have lost its way and sounded seriously disjointed. It’s to Burning Darkness’ credit that, for the most part, this is avoided. The shifts in style and tempo broadly make sense and flow well across the record. There are the occasional parts that don’t quite work – some heavy effects and chanted backing vocals, as well as some poor doomy semi-cleans on “Dödens Makt Är Stor,” for example, mar an otherwise very strong vocal performance from Finstad – but these are the exceptions. The dual guitars offer a great mix of harsh tremolos and melodic, progressive leads, with Germán Echiburu’s work on the kit and Severin Gottsén’s bass forming a strong foundation for them. The production is generally strong, with the sound feeling expansive and rounded. My only real criticism would be directed at the cymbals, which sometimes feel very thin and tinny.

Dödens Makt is a real step up from the The Angel of Light, with the band finding its own, distinctive voice on the record and playing with a variety of influences and styles. Burning Darkness shows real chops in its songwriting to effectively incorporate the different elements to the basic melodic black metal template they work from. There are some memorable riffs and Burning Darkness strikes a great balance between harsh brutality and progressive melodicism. Despite Dödens Makt’s relatively long 50-minute runtime, it’s not until closer “Dödens Makt Är Stor” that I find my attention beginning to wander, as the experimentation – particularly in those vocals – goes slightly too far. This is a real shame, as it’s weaker (as opposed to weak) note to finish on and slightly holds back an otherwise great record.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Non Serviam Records
Websites: burningdarkness.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/burningdarknesswe
Releases Worldwide: July 2nd, 2021

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