Darkend has come a long way from their early days of orchestral extreme metal. Fronted by Animae, they have developed a distinctive style that merges black metal with ritualistic ambience and classic metal influences. This evolution is evident in Viaticum, which represents the band’s most mature and fully realised work to date. This artistic development leaches into the enjoyment provided to the listener – this is easily the most accessible Darkend album yet released.

But don’t worry – increased accessibility does not here mean a watering down of intensity. Rather, Viaticum  unfolds as a journey from the “Sacred Spaciousness beyond duality,” wrapped in an aura of ancient ceremonial chants, dungeon synth atmospheres, and riffs that carve deep into the arcane metal framework. Each track on the album offers a distinct but cohesive piece of the overall narrative.

The opening track, In My Multitude, serves as an ethereal gateway, leading listeners into the album’s deep, meditative spaces. This transitions seamlessly into An Incautious Exhumation Of What Lies Beneath Forgotten Ground, a track that fuses the eerie melodicism of Mercyful Fate with the icy ferocity of Dissection. The result is a soundscape that is both haunting and exhilarating.

Indeed melody is ever present on Viaticum, especially in the at times incendiary guitar playing of Ashes and Acamar, who deliver a litany of excellent axework throughout.

At the album’s heart lies De Masticatione Mortuorum In Tumulis, a composition that blends raw power with reflective serenity, embodying the band’s unique approach to black metal. Following this is An Ancient Plague Has Silently Worn Our Garments As Its Throne, a track that combines dark classical metal riffs with ritualistic ambience, evoking a sense of timeless dread and transcendence. De Masticatione… is more than just a song; it’s an odyssey into the realms of consciousness and existence. As described by the band, it is the “Eye of Awareness observing itself,” a profound reflection on the cyclical nature of life and death, enveloped in a serene yet powerful musical narrative. The song, entirely composed by Animae, showcases intricate riffs and melodies that symbolise the purging of the ego and the liberation of the soul. This track speaks intensely to Darkend’s ability to blend intense aggression with transcendent beauty.

The closing track, In Your Multitude, is an epic in every sense of the word; It is the album’s crowning glory which, despite weighing in at over fifteen minutes in duration never drags or threatens to collapse under it’s own weight. A masterpiece of it’s kind.

Viaticum  is a fine slice of modern black metal, a compelling blend of dark aggression and spiritual transcendence. Each track is a journey into the depths of the human soul, making it a must-listen for fans of not only this band but also the genre itself. Darkend has succeeded in crafting an album that is both a reflection of their artistic growth and a bold statement of their unique vision. This is an album that demands to be experienced in its entirety, offering a profound and immersive journey into the heart of darkness and beyond.

Viaticum releases on June 14th.