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For some reason I was convinced that Darkness Death Doom was the Runemagick album that changed the band’s dynamics for the worst, but fortunately I was rather mistaken. Yes, the band is getting comfortable here; meaning that these riffs and leads, as well as intros and outros start to sound identical to each other (something that would be more notable throughout the band’s career), but Darkness Death Doom is still a solid piece of Runemagick history.
While Runemagick’s albums fall either into the death metal or doom/death metal territory, fans should clearly recognize the different approaches of Nicklas Rudolfsson when it comes down to the latter. Requiem of the Apocalypse and Moon of the Chaos Eclipse demonstrated the band’s doom/death metal spirit in its most direct form. Darkness Death Doom marks a transition towards the semi-atmospheric, yet still riff-fronted approach of the band; making it more of an inaccessible record when compared to the previous two albums. The tremolo sections remain present, but anyone looking for instant and bombastic riff-fronted numbers such as “Beyond Life” and “Revolution of the Dead” would probably be turned off here. Nicklas Rudolfsson still toys around with his trademark riffing, but the results started to change here – as there are times when the songs structurally feel off; meaning that they rarely work towards a climax and at worst head into several directions without purpose. Add an unnecessary intro and outro (the latter is five minutes long and it sounds like the outtake of a song, after all) and you up with an inconsistent record.
The opener and closer already reveal some issues that weren’t part of Runemagick’s earlier records. There’s still mish-mash of different riffs present on “Ancient Incantations”, but the tremolo riffs aren’t as vicious anymore, slower riffs fail to create atmosphere and the leads function as unnecessary layers that serve little purpose whatsoever. It also doesn’t help that several breaks prevent the riffs from actually building momentum and the last two minutes are pretty much wasted, as the track slowly leads towards the end in a disjoined manner. “Winter” does feature some effective individual riffs that grind through the verses, but follow up with several uninterested sections, such as that breakdown halfway through or that slower, lead-driven section that appears about a minute later – neither which do the track any favors.
So, Darkness Death Doom may not open or ends on a high note, but fear not: once Runemagick get their act together, the results remain rather satisfying. “Eyes of Kali” quickly makes a change for the best, where an ominous introduction of fuzzy leads and foreboding riffs crash down before Nicklas Rudolfsson gets the ball rolling with a series of groove and speedier riffs that rush through the verses with mayhem. Granted, I could have done without that break, but the real action happens once those spiteful tremolos and chaotic leads ravage towards the ending of the track. “The Venom” is even better and from that unexpected jam session where high-flying riffs fill the first few minutes until Nicklas Rudolfsson makes his animalistic presence known, to that gradual final that defines the last two minute, everything falls into place here. Several subtle changes also make a positive change, such as early spooky Black Sabbath-esque opening of “Darken Thy Flesh”, before the track turns into a doom/death metal variant of Bolt Thrower, or those morbid leads that turn “Eternal Dark” into a gruesome experience, although the clean breaks prevent me from enjoying the song as much as the other ones here.
Darkness Death Doom just isn’t a favorite – while it includes some great material, I find it hard to sit through, as it doesn’t flow too optimally and yet, this sounds pretty wonderful when compared to Runemagick’s later albums (the last two almost sounding like a copy of this one by a band that seems to run on auto-pilot nowadays). You’ll probably have a harder time warming up to Darkness Death Doom than any previous album of Runemagick, but all things considered, it’s still worth it.
Release date: March 16th, 2003
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