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The third Dark Funeral is as much a continuation as it is a regression. The album is but a carbon-copy of the vastly superior “Vobiscum Satanas”. “Diabolis Interium” was where Dark Funeral started its gradual descent into parody, and its valiant attempts to come across as misanthropic as possible only end up pushing them into comedic territory. Outside of a glossier production “Diabolis Interium” is as regressive as its, stronger but no less artistically vacuous, predecessor.

A Dark Funeral album wouldn’t be complete without the requisite line-up changes. “Diabolis Interium” was the recording debut of drummer Matte Modin with Dark Funeral, and the only to feature second guitarist Matti Mäkelä. It was the last album to have Bröberg pulling double duty as bass guitarist. The album was penned in its entirety by sole founding member Mikael Svanberg. Of the two major Swedish black metal units Marduk would ultimately prove the most prolific and resilient.

Dark Funeral

“Diabolis Interium” is consistent in style with the preceding album. Svanberg’s melodic sensibility is true to his Swedish heritage but his riffs remain as limited and stagnant as it had always been. Keeping up with the tradition of Latin album titles “Diabolis Interium” translates to “Devil Within”. Where in the past Dark Funeral was at least mildly interesting because of its highly misanthropic lyrics, here they seem to become increasingly toothless. Various aspects of the album conspired against the band, the production and goofy artwork most prominently among them.

The abstract nature of the album title would allow for interesting explorations of a variety of Satanic theories, yet little of note is actually on offer on the album. The band’s steady lyrical decline first manifests itself in this instance. Most of the songs revolve around depictions of hell and Satan. Other themes include anti-Christian rhetoric (‘Hail Murder’, ‘Diabolis Interium’, ‘Thus I Have Spoken’), witchcraft (‘An Apprentice Of Satan’), and vampirism (‘Heart Of Ice’). In keeping with the tradition started on the preceding album ‘Goddess Of Sodomy’ is a thinly-veiled love song (akin to ‘Ravenna Strigoi Mortii’ from “Vobiscum Satanas”) wherein Bröberg describes his want for an unspecified vampiric succubus.

The majority of the record is blisteringly fast with the kind of swirling melodies one has come to associate with Sweden. The lowpoint of the album happens early with the lamentable ‘Goddess Of Sodomy’, a midpaced track that opens with the samples of moaning women. It is the same tiring and tired trick that Tampa, Florida death metal outfit Diabolic pulled on “Vengeance Ascending” with the track ‘Celestial Pleasures’ with similar lukewarm results. Like “Nightwing” era Marduk before them the track evinces just how limited the songcraft of Dark Funeral, or Svanberg rather, truly is. ‘Thus I Have Spoken’ has a few more pronounced slower sections.

The album was recorded and mixed at Abyss Studio, Sweden with Peter Tägtgren producing and Lars Szöke engineering. It was mastered by Peter In de Betou at Tailor Maid Production in Landsvägen. As expected considering the year of release and what facility handled it the production is bass-heavy and crunchy. “Diabolis Interium” that bathes in a typical Abyss Studio digital sheen and nearly synthetic feel while being tonally rich. The fuzzy, hazy digital guitar tone is an odd choice after two records famous for their crunchy tones. The production on “Diabolis Interium” is pristine, and very much what one would expect of a death metal band, guitar tone excepted.

Instead of working with Kristian Wåhlin as on its debut Svanberg allocated artwork and graphics by Daniel Valeriani. The design choices made here would be reflected in the subsequent two albums. It was the first of three orange-centric album covers. “Diabolis Interium” chooses burnt orange which is usually associated with pride, tension and aggressive self-assertion. That the album reveals its true colors and asserts itself as being completely interchangeable with its predecessor is then only expected. Interestingly, it uses the identical template for the production notes as “Vobiscum Satanas” did, only with a different shade of color. The production notes even incorrectly spell the name of Peter In de Betou on the Necropolis edition of the album which is frankly unforgivable considering this was released on a, supposedly, professional label.

If anything “Diabolis Interium” proves that Dark Funeral’s incendiary debut “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” was solely the work of guitarist David Parland. Where “Vobiscum Satanas” at least attempted to recreate Parland’s distinct riffing “Diabolis Interium” has resigned itself to superficially imitating its superior predecessor, and has Dark Funeral at the end of its already limited creative rope. Nothing about “Diabolis Interium” is particularly engaging, and Dark Funeral was as vanilla and populist as they came at this point. The next two albums would be superficially identical but with the inclusion of non-black metal writing - and production techniques.

cover-darkfuneral02Destined to become one of the more comically over-the-top black metal bands of the genre Dark Funeral managed to persevered where lesser bands would have fallen by the wayside and into eventual obscurity. After the unceremonious exit of founder David Parland forced remaining founding member Mikael Svanberg to exert his full creative control over Dark Funeral and inherit the brand name of the project that Parland had created. The sophomore Dark Funeral release fares as well as one would expect under the circumstances.

Dark Funeral initially took form in Stockholm, Sweden in 1993 as Ahriman, the project took its name from the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit", by the duo of David Parland and Mikael Svanberg. In its earliest form Ahriman included two ex-members (vocalist Paul Mäkitalo and drummer Nico Kaukinen) of local death metal upstarts Scum, the formative unit that would transform into populist genre institution Amon Amarth. Somewhere in 1993 Kaukinen exited the fold and Ahriman evolved into Dark Funeral with the addition of drummer Joel Andersson. A year after forming they released the “Dark Funeral” EP on Parland’s own Hellspawn Records imprint. The debut “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” followed two years later. That “Vobiscum Satanas” sounds nothing like the debut was expected.

A shift was expected seeing how three-quarters of the band was replaced for this album. Mikael Svanberg surrounds himself with capable musicians to carry his vision, even though half of them would be replaced themselves by the next album. “Vobiscum Satanas” is the recording debut of former Hypocrisy frontman Magnus Bröberg (who also doubles as bass guitarist) with Dark Funeral, as well as the only album to feature the services of drummer Tomas Asklund, and guitarist Henrik Ekeroth. The revolving door line-ups that characterized its early years would remain for quite some time.

“Vobiscum Satanas” was notable for being the first Dark Funeral album to be written entirely by de facto leader Mikael Svanberg. Parland had written the debut almost exclusively. While superficially identical in stylistic persuasion the keen listener will notice a rather jarring shift as to how the music is arranged. With the pioneering work having been done by fellow Swedes Marduk, Dark Funeral had no intention of carving out its own niche. “Vobiscum Satanas” leans closer towards “Heaven Shall Burn” than it does to “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” which is telling in itself. It was the first instance where Dark Funeral started to use Latin song and album titles. The album title is Latin for “May Satan be with you”, which is as sophisticated as the album is going to get.

Svanberg does a commendable imitation of Parland’s writing style but his melodic sensibility is more traditionally Swedish. Next to using a more melodic writing style Svanberg’s riffs differ greatly from what Parland wrote. The songwriting has been streamlined for the most part, and the dynamic range that Parland mastered so well is completely absent. More than in the Parland era does Svanberg rely on linear song construction. While not all tracks follow the verse-chorus-bridge format, each of the songs progress in similar ways using the same riff set, or slight variations thereof.

Musically and lyrically the album is a whitewash of the vastly superior “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” that preceded it. The lyrics primarily revolve around depictions of hell, suffering and Satan. Deviating from the norm is the track ‘Ravenna Strigoi Mortii’ which amounts to nothing more than a tepid love song put to stereotypical black metal imagery. On successive albums deviations like this would become the norm. On “Vobiscum Satanas” most of the music was written exclusively by Mikael Svanberg, except for ‘Enriched by Evil’, ‘Evil Prevail’, ‘The Black Winged Horde’ and ‘Ineffable King Of Darkness’ that were written with input from Henrik Ekeroth.

Once again the band chose to record and mix the album over a twenty day period at Abyss Studio, Sweden with Peter Tägtgren handling the production. Unlike its debut “Vobiscum Satanas” sound typical for the facility where it was recorded. That isn’t necessarily a detriment in itself, but the pristine production (while more refined and texturally richer) doesn’t the possess nearly the character that defined its debut. The artwork and design was handled by Guerrila Art. It is the closest to “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” in terms of color palette with prominent blue and gray shades. Dark Funeral would take a steep turn for the worse in terms of artwork after “Vobiscum Satanas”.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that “Vobiscum Satanas” even materialized considering the departing/ousting of the entire line-up, including the band’s key songwriter. After the defection of Parland, Svanberg became the de facto leader and main composer. His keen melodic sense and traditional riffing style perfectly complemented Parland’s thrashier inclinations. Now that this riffing has become the main attraction it is revealed just how limited it truly is. Adequate and functional to say the least Svanberg’s riffs possess none of the character and bite that Parland’s riffs had. As such “Vobiscum Satanas” sounds exactly like you think it does. It is superficially gratifying and viscerally intense, but doesn’t hold a candle to what David Parland had composed for this band.