Formed in the Bavarian foothills when the second wave of black metal had grotesquely clawed out of the grave and into the unforgiving light, DARK FORTRESS benefitted from the rotten fruits of right place and right time. Like their black metal peers across Europe, the Germans were a product of a historically mystical environment—imbued consciously or not—and a ritualistically inspired musical movement, and fans, eager to experience their otherworldly din, poured unwavering praise on debut album, “Tales from Eternal Dusk”. For the past two decades, DARK FORTRESS have gone from strength to strength. Across six full-lengths, the Landshut-based sextet stretched the boundaries of black metal, while remaining pure to the tenets of a genre that pivoted (and continues to do so) solely around the axis of the dark and all that resides hideously inside of it.
Despite spirited attempts throughout the aughts to plague mankind, Venereal Dawn took four grueling years to unfurl out of DARK FORTRESS. The group’s seventh full-length is both a continuation and discontinuation of predecessor “Ylem”. On the grimy skin of things, it’s very much recognizable as DARK
FORTRESS. As with previous full-lengths, there is no middle ground on “Venereal Dawn”. There is no compromise. But there’s uncharted territory on display as well. In DARK FORTRESS’s none-blacker hearts, they’ve branched out, explored, and come back from their journey changed men.
“The band was in an involuntary coma,” Morean reveals. “But in the background, a lot has been going on with all of us. We’re in a different stage of our lives now—career changes, procreation, different priorities and obligations... A while back, we had almost reached a breaking point. We were not moving forward in the way we all would have liked to, and despite putting a lot of time and effort into ‘Ylem’ and the touring after and getting great response, it felt as if we were treading water, which can be frustrating after all these years of working so hard. But we decided that we're not ready to call it quits despite all that.”
“After writing the songs for ‘Ylem’ I was on fire and I felt like I just wanted to continue writing more music right away,” adds V. Santura, who also moonlights heavily in labelmates Triptykon. “But unfortunately that was not possible. The actual studio work, the promotion afterward, and all the business stuff always tears me out of the creative flow. And then it is hard to get back in. On top of that, Triptykon's debut ‘Eparistera Daimones’ was written, produced and also released almost simultaneously with Ylem. I had my personal breakthrough in December 2012, where I finally got the first great ideas for the album.”
And great ideas they are. Songs like opener “Venereal Dawn” and “On Fever's Wings” vampirically consume time across their 11-minute frames. One minute DARK FORTRESS are soloing brilliantly, the next they’re taking the tempo through an ancient cemetery. But they’re over in a flash, however. Elsewhere, the Germans captivate. “I Am the Jigsaw of a Mad God” is arguably one of the centerpieces of “Venereal Dawn”. Perched at the album’s apex, it’s the perfect mid-point mind-fuck. Then there’s “The Deep”, loose strings resonating unsettingly against a backdrop of spiraling Levantine note combos and hateful screams. When the percussion kicks in it crescendos evilly, like a cavalcade of undead horsemen marching out of the sands of death. This is DARK FORTRESS’s spell and there’s no escaping from it.
But wait until “Venereal Dawn” lyrical concept hits. This isn’t light-weight stuff about Satan spawning crayon demons or tirades against the fictional curses of Abrahamic religions. No, DARK FORTRESS, like its music, took a different route, opting to spark the gulfs of our imagination. “It centers around the idea of living light,” says Morean. “The confrontation of our world with beings whose body is mere quantum quivering, but who possess sentience, intelligence and a long history. The scenario is that the sun has acquired a new character which deforms and perverts all life on the planet. The only way people can protect themselves fleetingly is to anoint their skin with living blood. This has brought down civilization. The protagonist is one of those human sacrifices left to be devoured by those beings. Halfway through the album, the focus shifts from the outside world to internal experience. The story of his and mankind's demise and transfiguration becomes one of deep spiritual upheaval and catharsis, to the backdrop of a grotesque and extremely hostile world.”