Their lyrical themes have traditionally pertained to Satanism and anti-Christianity. Certain past and present members including Blackmoon, Ahriman, Caligula and Chaq Mol have each declared an affinity for Satanism, with Ahriman and Caligula notably being practitioners of LaVeyan Satanism. In their earlier years, their lyrical themes usually revolved specifically around depictions of Hell and Satan. After Emperor Magus Caligula joined the band, their lyrics came to focus more on blasphemy and anti-Christian rhetoric, although there have been several exceptions to this.
The group have released six full-length albums and are one of the most prominent acts in the Swedish black metal scene.
Dark Funeral was founded by guitarists Blackmoon (David Parland) and Lord Ahriman in 1993. Shortly afterwards drummer Draugen and bassist and vocalist Themgoroth joined the band. Their self-titled and self-financed EP, Dark Funeral, was recorded in 1994 at Dan Swanö's Unisound Studio in January. It was released on May 4, the same day the band performed their first gig at Luse Lottes Pub in Oslo, Norway, alongside bands such as fellow live debut band Gorgoroth and Marduk (who performed their first show abroad). After the recording sessions, Draugen left the band and was replaced by Equimanthorn.
In 1995, the band signed up to No Fashion Records and started preparing songs for a full-length album. After an attempt to record The Secrets of the Black Arts at Unisound Studios (again with Dan Swanö), the band decided to relocate to The Abyss Studio and re-record the entire album. During the break between studio sessions, the band wrote the song "When Angels Forever Die". With engineer Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy) on board, the band finally got the production they were looking for. Shortly after, Dark Funeral played their first festival gig, Under the Black Sun I, in Berlin. A few weeks prior to this gig Emperor Magus Caligula (Magnus 'Masse' Broberg, the original vocalist of Hypocrisy) replaced Themgoroth and eventually became a permanent member in the summer of 1995. On January 28, 1996, the band's first full-length album, The Secrets of the Black Arts, was released and the album was soon licensed to Metal Blade (North America) and Mystic Productions (Poland). Equimanthorn was soon replaced by Alzazmon (Tomas Asklund, later renowned for his work with Dissection and Gorgoroth). The line-up of Emperor Magus Caligula, Lord Ahriman, Alzazmon and Blackmoon recorded their versions of Bathory's "Call from the Grave" and "Equimanthorn" for the Bathory tribute In Conspiracy with Satan. (These also appeared later re-mastered for the re-titled re-release of the band's debut In the Sign…). Blackmoon eventually left and founded War a year later. Together with Necromass, the band embarked on the Satanic War Tour I throughout Europe.
The second leg of the Satanic War Tour followed with Ancient and Bal-Sagoth as support. Dark Funeral played their first show in America at the Expo of the Extreme festival in Chicago. From there, the band embarked on The American Satanic Crusade Tour with Usurper in support. Originally, the tour was supposed to also feature Acheron and Deströyer 666, but both bands cancelled. In September, the band returned to The Abyss Studio to record Vobiscum Satanas.
The Ineffable Kings of Darkness Tour with Enthroned and Liar of Golgotha took place with Dominion joining the band as a session bass player. The band also made their second major festival appearance at the Swedish Hultsfreds festival. After the festival, Typhos was fired and Dominion, who originally was a guitarist, was taken on as the band's second guitarist, and Caligula reverted to doing both vocals and bass.
Before the band headed out on the Bleed for Satan tour with Cannibal Corpse and Infernäl Mäjesty, Alzazmon left, and the band's longtime friend Gaahnfaust, who was also in the band back in 1996 for a short time, was recruited. The band returned overseas for another mini-tour, Black Plague Across the West, when they played in Mexico for the first time before they headed to the US and the state of California. Afterwards, they also embarked on their longest and most successful European tour, The Satanic Inquisition, together with Dimmu Borgir.