Dark Fortress – Spectres Of The Old World (Century Media)

With members playing with bands such as Triptykon, The Ruins Of Beverast and Satyricon, as well as running studios and composing classical music, it’s a miracle that Dark Fortress have managed to release a new album – let alone one as sonically rich as Spectres Of The Old World.

Indeed, it has been more than half a decade since the Germans gave us some new material in the form of 2014’s Venereal Dawn.

But a lengthy writing process spanning four years, plus 11 months of sporadic recording, has brought forth an accomplished opus that stands tall among the quintet’s lengthy back catalogue.

Coalescence sets the tone: nocturnal tremolo riffs and a blistering performance from drummer Seraph make the track explode into life, but you’ll then find yourself hurtling across the dramatic, otherworldly Chilean landscapes which inspired the album, as Phenex’s cinematic synths start to take flight, with flurries of majestic leadwork not far behind.

Follow-up The Spider In The Web morphs from black ‘n’ roll into the kind of heart pounding mini-epic that Dark Fortress have made their trademark, while the third song in the opening salvo – the album’s title track – is a tumultuous, blackened anthem, propelled by V. Santura and Asvargr’s pinpoint, rapid fire picking.

It’s an opening 15 minutes which seethes and writhes with supernatural power.

Pali Aike unfortunately slows the pace right down and feels a little overly-bombastic, but the likes of Pazuzu and Pulling at Threads see Dark Fortress shift back into earth-scorching gear.

And by the time you’ve reached In Deepest Times, a war march into the abyss tempered by some of the record’s finest melodic vocals, you’ll realise why the band’s eighth opus might have benefited from its prolonged birth.

Accomplished, ambitious and as towering as the Antarctic mountains which adorn the gatefold LP, Spectres Of The Old World is a welcome return from Dark Fortress – and proves why its creators are in such high demand from extreme metal’s elite.