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Review: Dark Fortress - Ylem
Dark Fortress

Label: Century Media
Year released: 2010
Duration: 70:16
Tracks: 11
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 3.75/5

Review online: March 10, 2010
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating

Rated 3.25/5 (65%) (16 Votes)

It's been a while since this band released the epic Stab Wounds back in 2004, though I have just not kept up with their output until now and I missed a couple of albums. This is full-length #6 for Dark Fortress, who have just gone about being a good, solid band without much notice or fanfare. Ready for another furious stab-fest like in their old days, I was brought up short by this murky, intellectual album of rather restrained Black Metal.

Dark Fortress used to pretty much be an Emperor clone with that harder-edged aggression that German bands can't seem to avoid, but Ylem is much more mid-paced, studied, and melodic than I was expecting. This is an album much more in the vein of Blut Aus Nord or Lunar Aurora than Marduk. There is an inevitable modern gloss to the guitar tone and songwriting, reminiscent of Behemoth maybe in places, but the guitars are deeply melodic and spend much more time involved in musical phrasing than just hammering away. The drum production is a bit weak, and the toms sound flat and amateurish. Fortunately this is not a blast-fest that rides too much on drum work to propel the songs. In places Dark Fortress go overboard with the slightly proggy stop-and-go arrangements and lose track of the song, but nowhere near the level of stuff like Enslaved. This band may be increasing their efforts in melodic experimentation, but they don't seem to be laboring under the impression that they are Pink Floyd.

This is an interesting album that sacrifices a bit too much urgency for complexity, and comes out as too intellectual to be gripping. There are enjoyable moments on this album, and overall I like it, but the songs never really gel, and the album as a whole has a disjointed take-it-or-leave-it feeling without a really commanding atmosphere. I'm glad to see Dark Fortress evolving, but they aren't quite there yet.

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