Dark Black - Sellsword 3/5

Reviewed: 10-23-09


1. Sword of the morning
2. Icy tomb of time
3. Down from the mountain
4. Sellsword
5. Dark apostle
6. Ancient stone sentinel
7. With lightning speed
8. Breath of fire
9. Flame forest

With bated breath of fire and fury, wielding the mourning blade, with lightning speed mettle motives, thus descends the mighty warriors of Dark Black. This epic fantasy doom act from Portland, Oregon, began in Lancaster, Pennsylvania - the home state of many doom legions. In 2005, they released 'The Barbarian's hammer' (EP) on Hot Dog City Records. This earned them some noble praise, such that now they have just released their debut for Stormspell Records.

Said the band of the union, "Stormspell is currently in the midst of waging an unending, seemingly pitched battle against the followers of the False Metal Gods (more or less weakling usurpers). We now, with our newest allies, raise our weapons of war to the sky! Dark Black will be the vanguard for this righteous cleansing of the weak, uninspired and mediocrity that plagues our world! Stormspell Records are true believers in the true Underground Heavy Metal movement!"

This CD is exclusively limited to only 500 copies worldwide. I am very grateful for Tim sending me the actual CD to review here. The packaging is simple and trite, but still honest, given the new digital age. Fans are treated to a 3-panel fold-out with lyrics, but no band photos. Toxic Holocaust graphic artist - Halseycaust - painted the Manowar like cover art, and Tim Smith worked on the lay out design.

I do disagree with the Obi card Stormspell description which claims that Dark Black sound like Thin Lizzy and Slough feg. Sure, they have these inclinations; but they are not always as melodic as these acts, or even Bible of the Devil. Honestly, they are more like Pennsylvanian's Argus, or Sinister Realm on Shadow Kingdom Records, or Virginia's Valkrie, with some strong and vibrant NWOBHM drives.

I would not classify them as being doom, as they do not sound like Trouble, St. Vitus, Pentagram or even Black Sabbath. I also would not view them as overtly being too epic, either; since they do not remind me of the Greek and Italian acts fixated on stealing every riff from Manilla Road. They are definitely fantasy based, and the whole CD is centered on R.A. Salvatore's - The Sellswords Trilogy. Fans of Cirith Ungol, early Jag Panzer, Dark Quarterer, Omen and like-minded acts will be impressed.

I have not read The Sellswords Trilogy which provides the reader with an in depth view into the mind of the cold, calculating Artemis Entreri and the ambitious, opportunistic, dandy Drow Jarlaxle. The lyrics limn the designs and tactics of these characters and their truculent, shambolic affairs. Fantasy novels are just not my thing, nor are role playing games, like the new all metal "Brütal Legend" game which just came out, recently. I am excited about the new Wolfmother CD this Tuesday, and fans of this style of music, and perhaps The Sword will dig the tribal echoes of Dark Black.

Due to my ignorance for the provenience of the novels, terms in the lyrics like: "Destrier of doom" or "Trees of Tesla" are lost to me. However, this does not prevent me from enjoying the music, which is very well executed. What does interrupt my celebration, is the deplorable production. Was this intentional to inherit that vinyl solution? This was the same case with Sweden's Helvetets Port on Pure Steel Records, who also have a sound in common with Dark Black, as clearly the Picture, Portrait, Mercyful Fate and Heavy load edifications are present in aces and spades.

The CD is rather terse, but the songs all flow together, and increasingly become faster from track to track. "Sword of the morning" sets the pace for the style and system, followed by "Icy tomb of time". Each song is consistent with tight solos, repetitive chorus breaks, and fulsome evocations. Unfortunately the muddy production does affect and drown out some of Tim's vocal elements.

That dark apostle Tim sings with an ashen war cry, which pounds and hammers with a steady resonation, and shrill calm. This bellicose whisper cleaves to the senses, dominating with a stone cold sentience. He seems inspired by the likes of Tim Baker of Cirith Ungol or Sean Harris of Diamond Head. Anthony and Robert provide plenty of ear candy on guitar, and fans of bands like Holocaust, Blitzkrieg and definitely Budgie will take notice of their heathen criss-cross magic arrows of agony slung, flung and fired at the metal heart.

Currently on their Myspace they claim to be influenced only by the, "purest of heavy metal! burritos!" Hmmm, well that and a whole host of 80s-era epic and guitar laden acts, who I am sure also enjoy eating at Chipotle's. One more obscure band which springs to mind is Angus from the Netherlands. Sentinel Steel released a 2 on 1 CD of their work a few years back, and thankfully, I discovered this then unknown act. This comparison is clearly evident on "Breath of fire". Papa, don't freak! but I also detect a slight inclination towards Leon Z's vocal nuance; especially when Tim reaches for a higher octave, trying to sound a bit like Dio, but just missing the mark, somewhere over the rainbow.

The hellwhip riffs and galloping mayhem of "Ancient stone sentinel" make it one of the best cuts on this slab of glory. Here Ant and Rob wield their old battleaxes with fervour, responding with "in flagrante delicto" decisiveness; demonstrating their furtive, yet auspicious intent. Fans of early Riot's 'Fire down under' and 'Restless breed' will honour this tradition. The song "Dark apostle" clearly has the "Swords and tequila" spillover, and Tim truly mirrors Guy Speranza.

The tumultuous ending number "Flame forest" burns with an ignited passion, and serves as a good closer to this CD, and I am sure the concept overall, but who knows?. You can then just hit the play button, and the adventures initiates all over again, perhaps carrying the listener deeper into its mysteries.




MAIN - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - MISC

Email: metalcdratings@yahoo.com