One of my fellow scribes summarized his distaste for atmospheric black metal as follows: “Whenever someone mentions atmospheric black metal, I automatically know that there is going to be a lot of standing around and doing nothing”. While this is applicable to most of today’s bands that overdo the repetition part, not all bands can be generalized like this. Done right, this form of music can result in something grim and beautiful. Case in point is the new record from Raventale, titled ‘Dark Substance of Dharma’. The seventh full length from this Ukranian one man project takes a thematic shift towards Indian and Tibetan philosophy, and the music showcases a fine balance of atmosphere, synth melody and guitar riffs.

Raventale Dark Substance of Dharma

Starting with familiar sounds of nature in ‘Intra-Mantra’, the whisphered words add a mystic flavour and sets the mood for the rest of the record. The guitar tones slowly and steadily emanate to the ritualistic beat of the drums, creating an occult atmosphere. The subtle synth work provides the melody and imparts a soothing character to the music, which though contrasting, works well with the harsh guitar work.

Many of bands playing this style of music, produce music that is quite one dimensional, focusing on the atmosphere alone. Raventale on the other hand, takes cues from the likes of early Burzum and Drudkh and the music has a harsh side to it. The repetitive guitar riffs and melodies find measured usage which proves very effective. On tracks like ‘Destroying the Seeds of Karma’, the guitars tend to take a softer approach, contributing to the atmosphere, while the title track sees the riffs taking the centre stage. The band’s vicious side is revealed on the track ‘Kali’s Hunger’, where the black metal chaos is unleashed in short span of 3 minutes. This variation is what sets Raventale apart from the monotonous herd.

Black metal is known for it’s repetitive riffs, the whole point of which is to nail the idea deep into the listener’s head. But when not done in the proper way, it can be very annoying. In Raventale’s case, the repetitiveness doesn’t feel cumbersome at all. The atmosphere, coupled with acrid vocal work and the mystic tone of the music makes even the longer tracks enjoyable. There are a couple of instances, however, where a wild breakdown appears (‘Last Moon Fermata’ and ‘Dark Substance of Dharma’) and these little bits feel very out of place. Then again, these are very small bits and are nowhere near enough to disrupt the experience of the album as a whole.
The album has a rich, layered sound which aids the atmosphere really well. The subtle synth and the abrasive guitars are just perfect in the mix. The duality of the soft atmosphere and the harsh guitars is showcased very well in the music. This combination makes the music sound vile and beautiful at the same time. It’s hard to come across a band that balances soothing, beautiful atmosphere with vicious guitar work as effectively as Raventale. 

The band seems to be going strong with seven full lengths to their credit, each maintaining a level of consistency. ‘Dark Substance of Dharma’ is a solid addition to the Raventale catalogue and is a good jump in point as any other record in their discography.
Rating: 80%

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