After the release of The Divination of Antiquity, I wondered exactly where this band would go next but, then again, I expected to release more of the same atmospheric black metal that the band had become known for. Certainly then, I feel on The Dark Hereafter, I wasn’t really expecting anything standout or amazing, however as I put the album on, pressed play and the opening title track hit me – with its ever-familiar tones of black metal and screeching vocals. This band from The Mercian Sphere have really grown into something of an English revelation, coming from an underground status into one of the best English black metal bands.
I’m coming to this album quite late as this was released last year and I’ve done a lot of catching up lately. I got into the band through a friend, and then went onto buy the The Fathers of Albion – An Anthology 2007-2013 (right) which gave me three albums (The Ghost of Heritage, The Mercian Sphere and The Threnody of Triumph) and one CD of bonus material, demos, compilations and a split, which I think is rather throwing in the kitchen sink.
The album itself isn’t very long. Four tracks which each vary in length, the opening title-track which is just about four-minutes long, to “Green Cathedral” which is an epic 13-minutes long. The final track – “Lead Astray in the Forest Dark” – a cover of Ulver’s “I Troldskog Faren Vild” from their 1995 album Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler. In the liner notes they say that it’s a “classic and deeply influential album.”
It starts really well with the titled track, fast and furious right out of the gate, and both “Pariah’s Path” and “Ensigns of Victory” do well to carry on that momentum. “Green Cathedral” is where I feel come the band’s best writing. At 13-minutes long, the band decide to really build this track up – at least 3 minutes of keys and guitar – before a slow and almost doom metal rhythm hits you. It’s a brilliant track all around and it ends with keys and a spoken word outro.
Overall, I think this is a brilliant album. Again it’s a not very long album – 39-minutes in total – so it’s an album that you can really listen to and get a lot out of it. I still feel that the band are making the music they want to – traditional black metal – and, listening to their older albums until this one, I feel that the band have really progressed in recent years. For this I feel that The Dark Hereafter could be one of the best black metal albums of this year.