Has anyone else ever noticed that the plots in vintage Disney movies are pretty damn grim underneath all the multiple layers of sugar-coated sweetness? I mean, if the screenplays were subjected to thorough dissection by, let’s say, a Freudian psychologist, many of our childhood illusions would be brutally destroyed forever. On the same note, keeping these utterly sad underpinnings in mind, epic as the soundtracks of these much-adored movies are, they don’t really do proper justice to the stories. What they seriously lack is a good pinch of black metal with cinematic overtones of that golden-era DIMMU BORGIR variety. As luck would have it, we will be served this particular sound aplenty rather shortly. After 23 years of silence, the Finnish pioneering band of the scene, DARKWOODS MY BETHROTHED, are soon to mark their long-awaited comeback with a hard-hitting selection of new sonic incantations under the title “Angel of Carnage Unleashed,” due out on November 12th, 2021, via Napalm Records. The old horde, founded in 1993 in Kitee, Finland, has rejoined forces, now augmented by Tuomas Holopainen and Kai Hahto of NIGHTWISH. Unsurprisingly, the outing does not fall short in cinematic anthems and breakneck black-metal riffs.
The new full-length is the fourth studio offering by this cult outfit, following in the footsteps of those three albums released in the 1990s: “Heirs of the Northstar” (1995), “Autumn Roars Thunder” (1996), and “Witch-Hunts” (1998). The lyrics are based on the Great Northern War of 1700-1721 and since war is the number one bestselling human invention that never goes out of fashion, the album’s theme is as highly relevant now as it would have been in the 1990s. Only the dead will see the end of wars in this world. In a rather befitting manner, the album kicks off with the aptly named opening track, “Name the Dead,” that ruminates on the concept of war and the nothing-short-of hearty contribution that religion has made in this context. Musically, the song goes a long way to show that Hahto is one hell of a prominent drummer. His epic blast-beats pound faster and tighter than the virtual bitch-slaps of an offended online snowflake.
The second track on the album, ”In Evil, Sickness, and in Grief,” begins with a highly cinematic intro that resonates with the air of those lush orchestrations that we are accustomed to hearing on NIGHTWISH songs. The transition to raw black-metal riffing works like a genuine jump-scare though, as the song soon takes off on a wild tangent into the realms of ARCTURUS. For some unexplained reason, the classical orchestra and metal riffs of the harsher end of the spectrum seem to go perfectly together like basil in the Pomodoro sauce. It is not a match made in heaven, not in this case – more like a marriage of heaven and hell, or a pact made in the fiery pits of Dante’s inferno.
In general, the new songs form a robust and coherent bunch of black-metal awesomeness with subtle layers of Viking metal and score music. There is one track that stands out, though. “Murktide and Midnight Sun” sports haunting, multilayered vocal chanting, tribal drums, as well as soaring guitar lines that, all combined, subtly resonate with the air similar to BORKNAGAR‘s folk-influenced, symphonic black metal. What is there not to like?
The plot thickens remarkably on the track, “Massacre.” Holopainen goes into a saber-dancing mood for the intro, and from there on, the song morphs into one continuous, breakneck riff-massacre (sic!). On occasion, the keyboards throw in a bit more saber-dancing staccatos. In terms of mood, the follow-up track, “Black Fog and Poison Wind,” sounds like a sequel with the vocalist, Pasi Kankkunen, doing one hell of an ogre performance. Finally, the album is brought to a close with a brief instrumental outro, as though further suggesting that there is a unifying narrative to the album.
I have to confess that I was not aware of this band before this comeback release. To be honest, I was not that much into black metal in the 1990s. Thus, I might not be the best person to fathom how well DARKWOODS MY BETHROTHED conforms to the conventions of the genre. I guess the ballad-like song, “In Thrall to Ironskull’s Heart,” is not exactly kosher to many a black-metal puritan. To me, it does not really matter. What matters is that the album sounds pretty damn good. In order to revisit my quaint Disney analogy, this album would surely work wonders as an alternative soundtrack to a clichéd teenage slasher film, or a historical, war-themed movie, yes. However, try listening to it while watching the 1942 Disney feature film, Bambi, or the 1937 animated fantasy film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and your worldview may never be the same.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Name the Dead
- In Evil, Sickness, and in Grief
- Murktide and Midnight Sun
- You Bitter Source of Sorrow
- Where We Dwell
- In Thrall to Ironskull’s Heart
- Black Fog and Poison Wind
Pasi Kankkunen – vocals, guitars
Jouni Mikkonen – guitars
Teemu Kautonen – bass
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards
Kai Hahto – drums