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Black Eternal – Darkness Embrace II: The Oakenford Chronicles

Black Eternal
Darkness Embrace II: The Oakenford Chronicles
by Gary Hernandez at 23 April 2021, 12:24 AM

BLACK ETERNAL is a Symphonic / Cinematic Black Metal project from Las Vegas, NV specializing in dark narratives set to music. The project is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Nightmare. Since 2017 he has released one EP and three full-length albums under the Black Eternal moniker. The latest, “Darkness Embrace II: The Oakenford Chronicles,” was issued on January 13, 2021. It’s the second and final, perhaps, installment of the Oakenford Chronicles, a tale that began with the 2020 album, “Darkness Embrace.”

The album is a 165-minute, thirteen-track behemoth. Twice the stretch of a full-length album, but only half as long as a short audiobook. It’s also the length of a long movie, musical, or play. Whatever your metric, this isn’t your typical Black Metal album. In fact, it plays more like a radio drama than a musical recording. It features professional actors Tiffany Clare, Kim Reiko, and Julian Illman, all whom give strong, convincing performances. Tiffany and Kim were on the previous “Darkness Embrace,” so there’s some nice continuity there. The album also showcases music of the Atmospheric variety and vocals of the bleakest kind, both of which function as effective storytelling devices.

Tapping into multiple elements of a classic horror tale, the storyline unfolds through a series of memories, monologues, dialogues, and linear progressions. Essentially, paranormal investigators set out to explore a haunted castle. During their tinkering something is awoken, and terror ensues. One person survives; the rest are slaughtered. The lone survivor, thought to be a psychotic killer, is committed to an insane asylum run by an evil physician and his crew of miscreants. The demons from Oakenford Castle, however, hunt down the survivor and reclaim her. In the process, punishments are meted out indiscriminately to the wicked and not so wicked. In the end, everyone related to the nexus of the story is chewed up, and the entity, with its entourage of death and damnation, presumably returns to its haunt . . . or is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

There are, of course, a few additional plot twists to keep the audience’s interest piqued. None of them are too original, but still this trope constitutes a well-trodden path and, like most horror fiction, it’s more about how it’s executed. With that said, “Darkness Embrace II: The Oakenford Chronicles” is worth an uninterrupted listen. It works well as a standalone, but I recommend checking out the entire Oakenford Chronicles duology. The first installment, “Darkness Embrace,” is reminiscent of historical horror lore such as the Countess of Bathory, Gilles de Rais, and Rasputin.

I would place BLACK ETERNAL in roughly the same category as THE PROJECTIONIST (see my Metal Temple review of “The Stench of Amalthia”). It’s a unique subgenre and one which beckons to be explored. For the stout hearted, BLACK ETERNAL is an excellent entry point to a very dark place.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1.    The Oakenford Chronicles (Intro)
2.    Pavor Nocturnus
3.    Chronicles I
4.    Voices from the Crypt
5.    Halls of Madness
6.    Chronicles II
7.    Nocturnem Infernalis
8.    The Haunting of Oakwood Isle (Intermission)
9.    Thorne's Domain
10.  Chronicles III
11.  Demon Spirits II
12.  Darkness Embrace II
13.  Capta Est (Chronicles IV)
Lineup:
Nightmare – All Instruments, Vocals
Record Label: Independent
     


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Edited 14 May 2021
 

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