Despite the fact that Venereal Dawn is Dark Fortress’ seventh album, the listening experience that these Germans provide is not remotely indicative of that. It is instead made to appear as if the band is a young, ambitious group for whom a large dose of Ritalin would have been beneficial during their time in the studio. For across Venereal Dawn’s nine tracks, a clear lack of musical focus and ideas leads to an album that desperately wishes to dazzle with a variety of sounds without being entirely competent in doing so.
The crux of this issue is Dark Fortress’ attempt to spatter their take on black metal with hints of progressive metal and melodic tendencies. Accents added with the ink of Enslaved and Opeth are present throughout, such as on the track “Lloigor,” where a rumor of an Åkerfeldt co-authorship would sound entirely valid. Yet, there is a certain challenge that accompanies the composition of music labeled as progressive: retaining the listener’s interest. There is a pretty vast divide between intriguing passages and wholly well-written songs, a fact that Dark Fortress are seemingly unaware of.
Song length exacerbates this problem considerably as well. Right from the start, the opening title track provides eleven minutes of largely forgettable ideas, save for some quick-riffing that pops up a spattering of times. “I Am the Jigsaw of a Mad God” is another offender, with a well-executed breakdown towards the end of the eight-and-a-half minute track providing the only point of interest. The only two songs that remain on-point in their entirety are “Odem” and “Luciform,” two straightforward but ripping slices of blackened aggression that provide a glimpse at what Dark Fortress does well and probably should have been more focused on developing.
On the opposing end, however, lies “Betrayal and Vengeance,” by far one of the absolute worst black metal tracks released this year. The song’s utterly gutted and sanitized riffs and lifeless drumming might be decent festival fodder, but falls rather short of anything that could be considered a worthy contribution to the genre.While this lack of skill is not representative of the remainder of what the album has to offer, the bar is not raised all that much higher. Dark Fortress’ lack of sonic development in the span of tiring lengths of time provides Venereal Dawn with a pace somewhere between a limp and a crawl. The band may have aimed to sound progressive, but the end result is underwhelming stagnation.
Dark Fortress’s Venereal Dawn gets…