While Germany's DARK FORTRESS has been ripping the corpse-painted faces off of black metal enthusiasts around the European scene since '94, it wasn't until signing to Century Media and subsequently releasing their breakthrough "Séance" in 2006 that the world stood up and took notice. Capitalizing on the momentum created by said release, DARK FORTRESS returns with the utterly annihilating "Eidolon".A concept album which explores an ancient Greek ritual in which a person takes a trance-induced journey to a new dimension through the surface of a mirror, "Eidolon" delivers nine tracks (split into three "chapters") of high-caliber melodic black metal. The energetic and atmospheric opener, "The Silver Gate" sets a rather violent mood with a flurry of breakneck, blackened riffs and machine gun drumming; all textured nicely by a haunting layer of keyboards. The onslaught continues with the equally devastating, yet decidedly darker "Cohorror", which could conjure up a few DIMMU BORGIR or early CRADLE OF FILTH comparisons, but in no way comes across as a clone of either band. A more straight-forward and traditional approach is taken on heavy-hitters such as "No Longer Human" and "The Unflesh". As is the case with the majority of the songs on this disc, the aforementioned tracks showcase the band's ability to take a song down several different paths without ever straying too far from the tune's original vibe. While "Eidolon" has more than its share of evil moments to offer, among the most maleficent would be heard on "Baphomet", which features a demonic guest vocal spot from CELTIC FROST's Tom Gabriel Fischer and the album closing epic, "Antiversum". The disc's two shortest tracks, "Edge Of Night" and "Catacrusis" also serve as what could be considered the only real weak points on "Eidolon". This is simply a case of trying to fit too much into a short amount of time. The songs themselves aren't bad by any means, but they do seem to lack the focus that the rest of that album has. Replacing the recently departed Azathoth, new vocalist Morean proves his worth with a grim voice that sounds like a cross between MAYHEM's Attila and some godless beast from the darkest depths of hell. In other words, he fits the band perfectly. With the number of black metal bands out there increasing by the hour, it's becoming hard to differentiate the leaders from the followers. With a penchant for intelligent and dynamic songwriting, DARK FORTRESS stands out as a viable force in the genre. While shades of a few influential acts may appear throughout the disc, "Eidolon" is largely a beast unto itself. Boasting a production quality that ranks right up there with metal's top names and an overall vibe that's deeply rooted in the underground, "Eidolon" will go down as one of the year's most memorable black metal releases.
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