Albums such as this one present certain difficulties for the reviewer, in that they don't settle in to one, at most two predominant styles. “A Dark Burial” covers a wide spectrum of Doom sub-genres over the course of its six tracks, making it somewhat difficult to evaluate as a single unit.
“Curse Of Souls” kicks the album off with some Traditional Doom riffing accompanied by growled vocals reminiscent of more recent work by Paul Kuhr (NOVEMBERS DOOM).The track has hollow production quality with a lot of bottom-end fill, and there seems to be a hands-off approach to mixing that leaves the lead guitar competing for attention with the rhythm. This cacophony of noise as a slow-to-mid pace gives the music a tortured atmosphere akin to being hypnotized by some malevolent entity.
Next track, “The River's Rage,” is a bit Sludgier, with a slower pace and a heavier, distorted bass presence. The riffing is a bit more punctuated, with frequent use of palm-muted chords pounded out over a pummeling 4/4 drum rhythm.
And so forth. Each track seem to take on characteristics of Doom styles not present in previous tracks, all of which makes the album as a whole a bit difficult to follow. On paper such a direction would seem like a strength, rather than a criticism, but here it conveys a lack of focus. The band clearly demonstrate themselves as musicians with a large bag of tricks from which to draw, and the music is not at all formulaic. Yet the listener will have a difficult time grabbing on to common elements in the songs that collectively define the band's cohesive, unique voice. This album is almost like listening to a retrospective package for a band whose sound has morphed over the years; you can hear evolution form one song to the next, which is great when viewed in the context of a band's entire career, but frustrating when listening to a single album.
This is certainly a heavy release, and not one for those who prefer the more melancholic and pensive styles of Doom. Fans whose tastes cover a wide gamut of Doom styles should find at least something here to enjoy, but the bands inability to bring everything together will leave many befuddled and frustrated.
(Online September 9, 2009)