The Spaniards in Dantalion have been knocking around for quite some time in Iberian obscurity. Having never heard of them, it was the cover for their fifth album, Where Fear is Born that grabbed my steely eye and got me to listen, and I’m quite thankful I did. Their older albums feature a blend of depressive black metal and melancholic doom, but they’ve abandoned the blackened aspect of their sound in favor of melodic, goth-tinged doom death, and from what I’ve heard of their older style, they’re all the better for the switch. With some line up shifts including a new vocalist and guitarist, their new sound borrows extensively from early Cemetery albums like Godless Beauty and Black Vanity, as well as Amorphis classics like Tales From the Thousand Lakes and vintage Moonspell. Since I love those albums, I’m certainly buying what Dantalion is cooking here, and it doesn’t hurt that they do the style proud with solid writing, excellently morose playing and a wonderfully bleak atmosphere. I guess sometimes you can judge a book by its creepy ass cover.
Opener “Revenge in the Cold Night” is a snazzy piece of mid-tempo death doom swaddled in all sorts of forlorn harmonies and doomy trilling, adroitly balancing the heavy and melodic sides for an enjoyable romp. The riffs contain a plethora of callbacks to the early 90s doom death scene which adds a strong nostalgia factor, and nothing goes better with depressive doom than nostalgia (except bourbon). “Raven’s Call” borrows a lot from old Amorphis and features terrific lead riffs alongside subtle, sedate noodling. A stronger goth vibe creeps in during “Lost in an Old Memory” and when combined with solid riffs and a heavy Moonspell influence to the clean singing, it leads to some mighty fine song craft. Even the eight minutes of “The Tree of Shadows” zips by smartly with lovely guitar work, and “Listening to the Suffering of the Wind” benefits from smart riffing and a nice nod to Saturnus.
At barely 43 minutes, Where Fear is Born ends before you know it and dare I say it, a bit too soon. That’s a shockingly rare occurrence these days and it actually feels refreshing. Every song offers something interesting and worthwhile and the overall mood of the album is note perfect for the genre. This also represents an enormous leap forward by the band in terms of writing, performing and production.
New vocalist, Diego is a big step up from Zeukram and both his clean singing and death roars are effective, pleasing to the ear and quite like those of Fernando Riberio of Moonspell, but without all his Count Dracula cheesiness. Quality vocals only go so far though, and ultimately it’s the guitar tandem of Brais and new axe Andres that wins the day with a great collection of doom riffs and the melodic ornamentation surrounding them which often strays into Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium territory. The solo work is often beautiful and emotional and their playing keeps every song engaging and sometimes gripping. There are no real flaws here (apart from Diego’s oft worn Sgt. Pepper jacket), and all the songs float between very good and great.
This seems like an entirely different band than the one that released the previous four albums, and the change makes this another sleeper hit from Spain just like Autumnal was a few months back. If you like moody doom death with plenty of melody, you can’t go wrong here. The Spanish doom scene is on fire lately and now Dantalion is firmly planted on my radar. They should be on yours too.