Monday, May 10, 2010

Dark Fortress: Ylem (2010) Review

Ever since I heard Lo-Ruhamah, I have been on a black metal kick, especially the more progressive or experimental forms of it. And, after I heard Triptykon's debut album, I did more research on the members of that band, finding a connection with the German black metal group Dark Fortress.

Though not progressive per se, their latest album, Ylem, is definitely experimental, bucking such black metal cliches as poor production and total reliance on atmospherics instead of melodies. The result is stunning.

Their sound is more bottom-heavy than the average black metal, and you can actually hear the bass. The rhythms are interesting and sometimes even bouncy (notably on "Osiris" and "Hirudineans"), perhaps taking a page from Mercyful Fate. This is often balanced by high lead guitar, the part for which is often rather unusual (particularly on the amazing title track).

They also buck black metal convention by writing some songs which are in whole or part slower than the average (see "As the World Keels Over" and "The Valley"), even including some breathing room between notes.

On top of that, they close the album with two rather unusual offerings. "Wraith" would seem more appropriate coming from a gothic metal band, with its slower tempo and depressing clean vocals, and "Sycamore Trees" is an atmospheric dirge more appropriate to a death/doom band.

The Verdict: From reading other reviews of the album, it seems Dark Fortress has come of age in recording Ylem, and their prior work isn't nearly as worthwhile. But if you like black metal and want to hear something a bit different--or hate black metal because of its usual insistence on keeping the bad traditions with the good--then you can't go wrong with this one. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. I have warmed up to this album more and more every time I have heard it.

  2. So far, it's my favorite new black metal of the year. It really does grow on you, and that title track is an amazing way to start an album.