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Unholy Blackness Falls as Dark Funeral Invades Portland

By MIKE LEWIS // Black Metal visits Analog

I’m a fan of heavy metal and for those who aren’t well versed in the musical genre, it actually can be broken down in to a collection of sub-genres, not all of which I’m a fan of. Today it’s the sub-genres such as metalcore, deathcore, and djent which I’m not that impressed with but there was a time not so many years ago when I couldn’t stand black metal. Perhaps I just didn’t get it but the music and the imagery both on and off the stage weren’t something that I was drawn to. I certainly got it. Yes, you’re evil. Satan, hellfire, blah, blah, blah . . . . and then something happened.

I was introduced to Dimmu Borgir, a band who many black metal fans these days will say isn’t black metal anymore and that they’ve sold out. I’ll admit that on my first few listens I had fun but it wasn’t necessarily with the music. I was more involved in poking fun at the band but as I started to listen closely and that musician’s ear took over, I started to break the songs down and suddenly I felt very drawn into the music. This eventually led me to delving further into the world of black metal which itself also has a number of offshoots and I craved the music to be even faster and eventually the Swedish act Dark Funeral.
For purists of course black metal is supposed to come from Norway in order to stay within the “trve Norwegian black metal” style but there are bands outside of the country who write music that’s just as impressive and in some instance can surpass that “trve” spirit some desire. With many bands having been behind my camera lens over the years, and some of them black metal, Dark Funeral has been on my bucket list for a few years and fortunately they have come to the states in support of their latest endeavor, Where Shadows Forever Reign.

The tour stopped in Portland at the Analog Theater and with two separate tours booked at the location the same night, the black metal collective were forced to take their witchery to the downstairs stage. This is a much smaller portion of the club and from a photographers standpoint, terribly dark especially when you’re dealing with black metal bands who tend to relish in having one solid lighting color; red. Even with my camera set to an extremely high ISO I was barely able to walk out with anything I felt was terribly usable.

Along for the tour are openers Thy Antichrist, a black metal band that has been around for over a decade and once hailed from Columbia but in recent years the vocals relocated to Texas. The band does step away from the more traditional black metal sound and approaches it slightly different. There are the moments where Thy Antichrist unleashes bursts of rapid fire drums with a symphony of unholy guitar riffs to mirror the chaos, but they also are just as content going with a slightly death metal inspiration. Overall the band isn’t too bad and it would be interesting to see them on a stage with more space and certainly better lighting.

Again however, what I really came for was Dark Funeral and they didn’t disappoint. However with the Analog having a sold out crowd, this also limited my photography performance. The band kicked things off “Unchain My Soul,” the opening track from their latest release before delving into their catalog of past work. At least one song for all of their full-length studio releases made its way into the set list which included:

Unchain My Soul
The Arrival of Satan's Empire
Vobiscum Satanas
As I Ascend
The Secrets of the Black Arts
As One We Shall Conquer
Open the Gates
Hail Murder
My Funeral
Nail Them to the Cross
Atrum Regina
Where Shadows Forever Reign

There are songs I would have loved to have heard in their live set such as Final Ritual, The End of Human Race, King Antichrist and 666 Voices Inside but regardless, what they did bring to the stage was still more than satisfactory. It should be noted that for the Portland performance, since the venue is small, the last three songs at other locations thus far have been an encore. Instead the band remained on stage and simply continued. Also, while Septicflesh may be headlining the tour I needed to leave early and wasn’t able to see their set.

Black metal has been in the news quite a bit over the past few months with protestors taking on Marduk several months ago but with little success and more recently they have focused their attention on Taake who seems to have completely cancelled their North American tour after mounting pressure. Luckily for black metal fans that isn’t the case with this tour and this unholy trinity of underground metal is making its way across the United States and shouldn’t be missed by those who can look past “trve” Norwegian and instead simply embrace the genre as a whole.

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