Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult may not be as well known as some of the other longer running black metal bands out there, but they’ve solidified their space in the underground with five albums that captured the intensity and fire of second-wave black metal at its best. It’s been six years since the group’s last effort Necrovision and now they’re ready to unleash Mardom, a ten-song effort that scorches from start to finish. Though it pulls from a familiar template, the quality of the riffs and the band’s ability to perfectly balance tense atmosphere with sheer speed makes Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult’s latest stand above the hordes of imitators.
Rather than immediately launching into fast paced blasting the album starts off in a much more ominous fashion, with opener “Inception of Atemporal Transition” providing sparse, eerie instrumentation that may just have you looking over your shoulder depending on what time of night you’re listening. From there Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult goes from 0 to 100 almost immediately with fast blasting that feels like it is going to peel your skin right off. Mardom strikes a fine balance between sheer speed and mid-tempo sections where there’s a greater focus on atmosphere and tension, and this level of variety helps the album to feel more versatile. The guitar leads in each song have something slightly different to offer, as some of the faster passages incorporate some thrash influences for raging and violent riffing while the slower ones let the melodies seep in. It’s rare to find a black metal album of this type where the later songs haven’t started to repeat what came before them as a band settles into one direction, but there are still plenty of different nuances and surprises to be found as you get towards the end of Mardom.
The band’s vocalist Onielar has always been one of the main reasons that Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult has left a lasting impression on me, as her screams and shrieks are so powerful and ear piercing that they can be downright overwhelming. This continues to hold true here, and from the deranged cackling that greets you at the beginning of “Mardom - Echo Zmory” to some of the nightmarish high-pitched screams she is capable of reaching on many of the songs, this is the type of performance that makes this genre so damn appealing. It’s easy to see why Onielar has been a part of Bethlehem’s lineup the last few years and she’s just as powerful and in your face here, often coming through with even more intensity as her words tower over the instrumentals.
Mardom may not deviate significantly from the type of black metal Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult has been playing for two decades now, but their versatile songwriting and sheer quantity of killer riffs elevates them above many others in the genre. When they speed things up the band is just as chaotic and violent as the best of them, but they also know when to shift gears and let the darker atmosphere provide just as much tension. It’s clear that the longer incubation period has been well-spent, and when it comes to newer black metal capturing that 90s sound you’re unlikely to find too many other albums better than this one in 2019. Mardom is out now on War Anthem Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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