Reign In Supreme Darkness
Review by Alex on April 28, 2019.
Reign in Supreme Darkness continues the ambient tempest that was proliferated on Netherstorm. Has anything changed on this new entry apart from the album length that's a few minutes shorter than Vargrav’s debut put out in 2018? I would say yes; its atmosphere is more potent on Reign in Supreme Darkness as opposed to the debut which was indeed ambient but not to this degree. Quite an active project though it's only been 1 year and a few months since the release of Netherstorm, a record that many appreciated due to its representation of the early days of 2nd wave black metal. It's slowly turning into a trend and one has to be very watchful because amongst the bands that truly hold dear the days of old are many genre hopping bands that don’t care about the magic created during the 90s but only how they can capitalize on the efforts of those before. Worry not Vargrav isn’t one of those bands; and I’m certain Werewolf Records just won't put out an album of any genre because it's the going thing or at least I hope not. So, second album in and it charms the wizardry a bit more, this time using artwork that is better at capturing the grim yet enchanting aura of the era. A time that saw the rise of Ancient (Norway), Emperor and many more use background keyboards to linger atop the grim and hostile trademark sound of black metal back. Though those mentioned evolved thematically and sonically, their work has definitely not been forgotten as its flame has been kept lit with much ardor.
As mentioned the atmosphere is stronger on this outing, credit to the keyboards coming a bit forward and almost rivaling the guitars on some occasions. However, there is less variation on Reign in Supreme Darkness as most of the songs are almost identically constructed. It's due to this other factor the atmosphere awoken is so ripe with second wave black metal nostalgia. Hardly ever taking a step down from the speeding drums and tremolo riffing, Vargrav still makes space to keep the music a bit diverse with slower intervals of doomy, eerie and melancholic passages. Still though it's not nearly enough to tuck away the overwhelming glare piercing down from the hash vocal shrieks and traditional style of playing second wave black metal. The chilling tempo of the genre long ago still comes to surface on Reign in Supreme Darkness modestly showing it’s features throughout the record. Though I would have liked to hear the speed toned down to let the keyboards have a more definitive spotlight or moment on the record, its collaboration shared with the guitars does enough to convince the listener.
“The Glory of Eternal Night” strikes the listener immediately with icy yet spacey keyboards and background choirs that play along with the crepuscular vocals of project engineer V-Khaoz. It’s the perfect opening song following and intro to greet the listener. If anything, the intro was not even required given just how powerful of a song it is. It's then followed up by yet another nostalgic tease of the senses “Dark Space Dominion”, being honest, it sounds like an extension of the previously mentioned, however, on here there are more diverse sections to be heard in addition to the dimming keyboards and operatic choirs. We get more of the same on “In Streams from Great Mysteries” further cementing the overall feeling and complete aesthetic of Reign in Supreme Darkness, hence the overall aesthetic has been established. To many listeners most songs will sound repetitive, but the differences really lie within the guitar leads, it’s the clash of the choirs and keyboard symphonies that somewhat cloud the music but not in a bad way. The vocals can get a bit too overwhelming as they're featured on each song and could have taken a lengthy break on some instances as to let the atmosphere take greater precedence over the music. Hence said, there were some opportunities in which the atmosphere could have been elaborated in the music a deeper and infinite quality. “Arcane Stargazer” is sort of the idea I’m poking at, the melody is there, the space for each instrument to take the stage is also present and the read passages conjure memories of Ancient’s "The Cainian Chronicle". Plus, there’s more playing room for the ambiance to take full effect; it’s easily the best piece of material on Reign in Supreme Darkness, just wish it had been used as guide for the rest of the music.
Reign in Supreme Darkness doesn’t do anything new but what it does is awaken a longing to rekindle with the agenda of the early to mid-90s black metal era.
Rating: 7.6 out of 10