I think itís safe to say that nobody, myself included,
really gave two shits about Dark Fortress until Century Media gobbled them up to release Sťance. Until now they were just another gangrenous sausage in the black metal link, but it looks like another case of solid backing + good production = quality black metal. I was pleased to learn that the legendary Alex Krull mastered the album despite the fact that† he hasnít done anything remotely interesting band-wise in well over a decade. Unlike his last ten years with Atrocity, the mix job on Sťance is fucking superb; everything is crystal clear, perfectly leveled, and brilliantly executed. However, this doesnít mean the album was a complete success. In fact, Sťance is
only a decent effort on the whole, being one part fantastic and two parts
Letís start with the mediocre. Dark Fortress is hailed (by people who have no idea what the fuck they are talking about, mostly ignorant dregs at large metal labels/magazines) as being ďextreme black metalĒ in the vein of Immortal and other Norwegian greats, but really, I heard very little
Immortal influence aside from the occasionally fuzzy guitar whine, which more or less defines just about any black metal band. Many of the songs are actually quite doomy and a majority of them are on the slower side. The album meanders here and there with a few unique tracks emerging from the morass but it doesnít really get to where itís trying to be in the end. Black metal albums should have good closers and Sťance is
anything but climactic. While the vocals are fairly interesting (plenty of
sinister laughing and cool vocal effects) and the guitar work is impressive, I
found myself dozing off through most of it. The keyboards didnít help me stay awake much, but thankfully Dark Fortress doesnít punish the listener with schmaltzy gloom and keeps the synth toward the rear where it belongs.
The real hook is the first track, probably the best intro song Iíve heard in a long time. Itís pretty god damn incredible now that I think about it. The guitar sound is morose, ferocious, and took me back to a time when black metal was something to be feared instead of ridiculed. Did I just say that? Letís just say that Euronymous wouldíve fiddled his cock to a pulp had he heard this track when recording De Mysteriis. The whole song is absolutely evil as fuck. Then, just when youíve been reeled in, Sťance quietly
sits down and takes a long, uneventful shit. You know, the kind of relaxing
shit when youíre not in a hurry, enjoying the comfort of your own porcelain and taking your time flipping through an old copy of Terrorizer (or Kerrang! if youíve never been laid). Yeah, that kind. A couple of pick-me-ups jump outin the middle of the album, namely the very catchy and excellent Poltergeist, but other than that, Sťance is pretty much a colossal snoozer. Two good tracks and a flawless opener just arenít enough to save it.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that Azathoth (vocals) appeared in a German fashion magazine to brandish his gorgeous, streaming mane.
The article states that he won the menís prize for long, wet hair, with a notable smoothness and glossiness. If anything is to be truly deemed ďblack metal,Ē itís healthy and regular hair care. Forget the swords and corpsepaint, itís all about what grim conditioner youíre lathering your locks with in the morning. While Azathoth does don some glorious hair, it doesnít hold a candle to Hellhammerís frosted weave which, next to Horghís nipples, is generally considered to be the epitome of black metal homoeroticism. Letís be honest, the black metal world is by and large a world without women, a world where the young and pristine suburban cocks of the socially inept fanbase stiffen defiantly in the face of
the Church, yet remain as untouched by female flesh as the very priests that
serve it. So if the picture below doesnít get you all hot and bothered, youíre
probably not much of a black metal fan.