I still remember receiving a promo copy of these Spaniards’ sophomore effort “Call Of The Broken Souls” back in early 2008 and falling instantly in love with their brand of dark atmospheric Black Metal that occupied that space between early KATATONIA and BETHLEHEM. Whereas many bands that fall in the “Depressive Black Metal” niche often offer up nothing but entry-level BURZUM worship (replete with supposedly ‘tortured’ vocal cries), these guys take on the aesthetic just seemed more convincing and measured than the norm. Their 2010 follow-up “All Roads Lead To Death,” was another stellar effort, so when “Return To Deep Lethargy” fell into my lap I was quite stoked, to say the least.
Within the first minute of “Pain And Lethargy” it became clear that this album would be a slightly different beast. Like Italy’s FORGOTTEN TOMB, DANTALION seems to be moving further away from a purely Black Metal aesthetic towards a more tempered Dark Doom sound, with the blackened vibe coming mostly from the vocal side of things. Not the ideal scenario, if you ask me, but these Spaniards have proven song-writing chops, so let’s see how the rest pans out. That they can pen two back-to-back songs that both breach the 8 minute mark without letting a tangible sense of boredom set in is a promising aspect, yet it has to be said that neither the opener nor “Onward To Darkness” contain any real standout moments. They merely tick along confidently and without mush fuss. Things take a darker turn with “Until My Time Comes,” where the dreary melodies and piercing vocal wails definitely bring to mind a band like LUROR. Things get even better (read: more morose) with “The Arrival Of Silence”, which is essentially a textbook example Depressive Black Metal done right. The agonized vocals, melancholy atmosphere, slightly Post Rock-ish rhythmic beat – you name it, it’s all here. It took almost 23 minutes, but with this track the band definitely hit their stride in a big way...
...only to piss it all away with the remaining three tracks. What the?! Yep, sorry to say, but this album ends on a whimper. It’s not like the band radically altered their modus operandi on “Ode To Nothingness” and “The End Of The Path”, but the increased Doom influence definitely took the wind out of the album’s sails. The riffs plod along aimlessly, the tempo changes sound awkward and rather superfluous, and even the vocals began to annoy rather enthral. It’s a shame though, since the first half of the album, in spite of the occasional misstep here and there, managed to stay entertaining. They end things off with a faithful rendition of KATATONIA’s “Murder”, though I have to say I probably would’ve appreciated a cover of “Brave” a bit more.
“Return To Deep Lethargy” is far from a bad album but it is definitely not one of DANTALION’s stronger efforts. With more emphasis being placed on subtle melodies and slower rhythmic elements, one can call this a transitional album of sorts. Like SHINING and the aforementioned FORGOTTEN TOMB, the music straddles that fine line between Black Metal, Rock, Doom, and a host of vaguely burlesque soundscapes that are neither here nor there. Call it morbid mood music, if you will. Ultimately I was a bit let down by this album but I have a niggling feeling that the next effort will be the true litmus test of this band’s abilities.
(Online July 1, 2012)