Perhaps taking a three-year break was exactly what Greek underground black metal stalwarts Dødsferd needed to regain their mojo. After close to a decade of releasing at least one LP per year (which peaked with four releases, two LPs and two full-length splits, in 2013), frontman Wrath was certainly spent. Though I’m sure not all of the time between 2015’s Wastes of Life and Diseased Remnants of a Dying World was put towards working on the latter release, it’s clear that taking a step back from actively writing and reevaluating the creative approach taken was a necessity for Wrath and his cohort.
It’s also clear from listening to Diseased Remnants that this was the right choice to make. The last few albums before the brief hiatus Dødsferd took lacked the pervasive feeling of raw hopelessness that characterized albums like 2007’s Cursing Your Will to Live and 2011’s Spitting With Hatred the Insignificance of Life. It’s this same inimitable gray apathy that colors Diseased Remnants; Dødsferd utilize the typical black metal playbook of simplistic, repetitive riffing and long-winded song structure to create writhing, churning landscapes of sound that hit the mark at “meditative” without ever stepping over the thin line separating that from boredom.
I always dislike using this word to describe metal because of the connotation it has with bands going too far into soft, weepy, pleasant territory, but Diseased Remnants of a Dying World is a very mature album. There’s a real thoughtfulness at play to how these songs are constructed, as with the album as a whole: opener “My Father, My Wrath!” runs almost a whole nine minutes through a gauntlet of sounds that, while distinctly not typical black metal, feel right at home on Diseased Remnants. The track reaches a crescendo that segues beautifully into “An Existence Without Purpose,” which explodes from the get-go, and Dødsferd keeps that energy up for quite some time. The riffs themselves aren’t anything out of the ordinary, really – they stick pretty close to the established sound of black metal – but it’s the way in which they’re deployed by Dødsferd that keeps much of the album from being a “been there, done that” affair.
The pacing of Diseased Remnants is one of its greatest assets: Wrath knows exactly when to slow down and take a slightly more contemplative approach before launching into another assault of tremolo-picked riffs. In these slower moments, the use of acoustic guitar to accentuate the melodies makes the influence the band takes from Xasthur and Agalloch all the more obvious, and the crunching bass guitar makes its presence known, underpinning the song with a melodic backbone as the guitar takes flight for some solos that are way more impressive and emotionally affecting than black metal typically has room for. The end of the title track, in particular, crescendos beautifully with some soaring lead guitar work that has echoed in my mind since the first time I listened to this album.
From here, Wrath once again switches it up, taking the next track into territory that starts off with a much more obvious DSBM (depressive suicidal black metal, for the uninitiated) influence before allowing it to build back into the energetic sound that characterized the album’s front half. The last track, which I don’t really want to spoil, takes the same trick used in its immediate predecessor to its logical conclusion. It’s a trick only a veteran would think to pull; it’s a trick only someone extremely well-versed in the art of black metal could make work, and work it does. It’s a hell of a way to close out an album.
Bottom line is, after a few years away, Dødsferd are back with one hell of an album to bring us into 2019. Diseased Remnants of a Dying World is an impressive album from any band; doubly so for a group that, up until this point, had a reputation that leaned much more in the direction of sheer quantity than quality of work. Wrath and co. have crafted an excellent black metal album: Diseased Remnants of a Dying World can stand now as a permanent proof that Dødsferd deserve the name they’ve made for themselves as a force in black metal.
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Diseased Remnants of a Dying World is out now via Transcending Obscurity Records. You can grab merch through the bandcamp embed above, which includes some pretty sick orange/black splatter vinyl.