Formed in 1994, the German black metal outfit DARK FORTRESS have established themselves in the top ranks of the genre with intense live shows and fascinating, pitch black full-length masterpieces that meet the standard created mostly in northern Europe’s prolific scenes with ease.
The early years:
Their first musical sign of life was the 1996 released demo “Rebirth Of The Dark Age”. In 1997 the original line-up consisting of band founder Asvargr (guitar), vocalist Azathoth, Njord on bass, and drummer Charon established the band’s first live line-up with the addition of second guitarist Crom and keyboardist Thamuz (who got replaced by Paymon short after). Debuting live in February 1997 the young horde soon shared the stage with such underground figureheads as Lunar Aurora, Disaster and Nagelfar. Dark Fortress’ first label release was a Split MCD with Barad Dür entitled “Towards Immortality” which featured two new tracks by the band and was released on Fog Of The Apocalypse Records. The band was not informed by the label about Barad Dür’s national-socialistic disposition, displayed in drastic right-winged lyrics on the actual record, which forced Dark Fortress to explicitly disassociate themselves repeatedly from the so called “NSBM”.
The group kept busy composing material for their first full-length album, but a studio date already scheduled for 1998 did not come into being. The recordings did not take place until August 2000 when Dark Fortress entered Klangschmiede Studio E and with producer Markus Stock completed one of the strongest melodic yet viciously aggressive black/death debuts ever to emerge from Germany: “Tales From Eternal Dusk”.
The “second” line-up:
Due to internal conflicts drummer Charon and guitarist Crom left the band short after the recordings of “Tales from Eternal Dusk” and where finally replaced by Seraph and V. Santura. Together with bassist Draug, who had joined the group short before, Dark Fortress’ new line-up (consisting of Seraph on drums, Asvargr and V. Santura on guitar, vocalist Azathoth, Draug on bass and keyboardist Paymon) set forth for a new era in the history of the band which proved to result in a series of highly acclaimed records and concerts.
The group signed a deal with the US underground label Red Stream Records releasing the debut album and Dark Fortress’ second album “Profane Genocidal Creations”, which was produced in the famous Grieghallen Studios in Bergen, Norway.
With a stable line-up more live shows and festival appearances ensued seeing DARK FORTRESS share stage with such outstanding extreme metal acts like Behemoth, Impaled Nazarene, Pungent Stench, God Dethroned as well as countless underground acts and thus establishing the sextet further as a band that dares to evolve without betraying its roots. The hitherto musical peak of their career then hit the metal scene with the 2004 released, for the first time by guitarist V. Santura produced, “Stab Wounds” (Black Attakk). Crowned by a gloomy artwork by well-known artist Travis Smith (Opeth, Nevermore, Anathema, Death) “Stab Wounds” was overwhelmingly positive received not only by the band’s underground following but also mainstream metal press, e.g. German Rock Hard praised it as “too good, too original and heavy to be ignored. Simply the best German black metal has to offer!”. “Stab Wounds” also opened the door to Century Media records, who offered the band a long term deal over 4 records.
Séance was the next step to establish DARK FORTRESS not only as one of Germany’s most hopeful black metal acts, but as one that does not have to fear the international competition. The Century Media label debut is still considered as being one of the darkest and abysmal recordings of the band’s entire discography. Although being on the first peak of their career having fantastic shows with scene-heroes like Celtic Frost and Satyricon, canceled tours and diverse obstacles lead to discontentedness withing the group which finally resulted in the departure of vocalist Azathoth in May 2007.
Three months later the band decided to go with an old acquaintance of theirs: Morean, a freelance composer and guitarist of the progressive death/thrashers Noneuclid. Already having spent time with V. Santura and Seraph for several years in Noneuclid, he also appeared on “Séance” as the composer of the piece “Incide” and the arranger of the string section used in the song “While They Sleep”.
The decision was based on his immense musical and vocal abilities, his charisma and his dedication to extreme and dark music. The multi-talented Morean was also responsible for the lyrical concept of “Eidolon”, the fifth studio album of Dark Fortress. “Eidolon” appeared to be, together with the newest records “Ylem” and “Venereal Dawn”, the most successful album in the band’s history.
2010’s album”Ylem” showed the band from a more versatile side, playing with lots of different moods and tempos from high speed songs like the opening- and title track “Ylem” to abysmally slow and heavy mammoths like “The Valley”, also featuring progressive elements (“Redivider”) and almost balladic moments on songs like “Evenfall” or “Wraith”. “Ylem” was endowed by a 3 weeks European tour in December 2009 supporting Satyricon and Shining (Swe) short before the album release and a shorter European headlining tour in February 2010 with Serpentcult, Farsot and Sardonis.
More festival shows and a tour with Nachtmystium in April 2012 followed, but it took the band 4 years to complete their 2014 opus “Venereal Dawn”. “Venereal Dawn” might be the most epic and progressive album in Dark Fortress’ history featuring a complex and compelling lyrical concept. Short before the release of “Venereal Dawn” long time keyboarder Paymon decided to leave the band after 16 years citing personal reasons. In 2016 new keyboarder Phenex who had played live with the band already since 2012 joined as full member.
Supporting the release of “Venereal Dawn” Dark Fortress played a successful European tour with Co-Headliners Secrets of the Moon and Schammasch as well as various selected prestigious festivals such as Hellfest in France or Party.San Festival in Germany among others.
2020 will finally see the release of the long awaited 8th studio album “Spectres from the Old World” which will be released worldwide via Century Media records on February 28th.