I'm just going to come out and say this because it keeps continuously going through my mind as I listen to this new record over and over again… We Are the Apocalypse is Dark Funeral's best record. Now, that's a particularly bold statement given this band's vast history as Swedish black metal pioneers, but I can't help but throw the gauntlet down here. It really is that good and I find myself going to it over and over again, even when I have a wealth of great new music available to listen it.
What makes this Dark Funeral's greatest record? First, it is the diversity in the songs. Yes, you are going to get signature tremolo guitars on top of tremolo guitars at blistering speeds with tracks like "Beyond The Grave," but you're going to hear some different sonic compositions as well. Take, for example, the first single, "Let the Devil In." It has a rather novel percussive opening that leads into a slower-than-usual, more brooding riff. The band takes their foot off the accelerator just a bit here and this allows some greater space for affect and emotion. If you listen to the lyrics, it's a devastatingly bleak composition that's also contemplative. Dark Funeral provides the soundtrack to emote here and it demonstrates the risk taking Lord Ahriman have embraced with this new record. With the absolutely outstanding video filmed in the bleakest parts of Wroclaw, Poland, you can't help but get drawn in.
Another magnificent song is the sorrowful "When I'm Gone." I would liken this a bit to their dirge-y, slower-tempo-ed "As I Ascend" from their previous record, Where Shadows Forever Reign. This is about as close to a black metal ballad as you're going to get and I have to admit, it took me by surprise. When I heard opening the first time, I had to double check my iPhone to make sure I was still on the Dark Funeral record and that some other band's track hadn't slipped in. Of course, then I heard the vocals and I knew that it was, indeed, Dark Funeral that I was currently listening to. Now some of you might have just recoiled when you read the term "ballad," but let me assure you that this isn't exactly Warrant's "Heaven" or Poison's "Every Rose Has it's Thorn." This is still unmistakably dark and unambiguously bleak. Frankly, it is a brilliant song and one of my most listened on this new record.
What also stands out to me on this record is the performance by lead vocalist, Heljarmadr. While he's always been an outstanding black metal vocalist and known for his clarity and delivery, he takes his vocal in some new directions here. This is ever-so-present in the opener, "Nightfall," which is, perhaps, one of the best black metal songs released this entire year so far. His haunting yell of "Nightfaaaaallll" in the chorus will stick with you long after you're done listening to the song. It's extremely memorable and it demonstrates just how much work Heljarmadr puts into his craft. You don't sing like that by accident. You sing like that by working your ass off.
When you put it all together, this is Dark Funeral's greatest record to date. The strength is in the diversity of compositions. There's nothing "one note" about this and the band explores new rhythms. It's a number of different styles, and while some may be taken aback by the fact that the band isn't going at maximum speed from start to finish, I find the change rather enjoyable. When it comes down to it, this is a record where all the songs are really not alike too much. Admittedly, I was surprised by this over the course of the first listen but after having spun this record a very high number of times, I've come to realize that the band is much more comfortable taking risks – and it worked just so well here. Maybe one could say that this is their most complete record and it demonstrates the apex in their evolution as songwriters. So far it's my favorite record of 2022 and that's saying a lot given the wealth of riches we've had the chance to enjoy in this first quarter of the year.