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"A Blaze in the Northern Sky" is the black metal album to own - there is no other. When I was younger, when I still thought that Satan was the ultimate personification of rebellion, this was the album that I blasted with car windows rolled down in freezing rain, driving around at 3AM and letting the music freeze my soul into a shard of ice.
Let me restate my point - there is no other black metal album, at least in the satanic/secular scene. Though our lads in Darkthrone have gone on further back in time to play even more 80's sounding black metal / punkish sounding music, this album is pure blood-freezing, ice cold black metal served straight, no chaser.
Beginning with bizarre satanic chants courtesy of Fenriz, the album descends into utterly barren and bleak madness. Guitars are as thin as reeds frozen solid in a field drenched with snow and permafrost, the atmosphere is autumnal and cryptic, the air outside becomes hazy with coffin dust and ice winds. "Kathaarian Life Code" still boasts the most grim-sounding riff of all time near the end of the track. Two notes, utter apocalyptic decay.
From there, one continues to trek across the most frozen fields of complete and utter misanthropy and evil. Nocturno Culto's cries echo across the steely mountains and shriek through the old cemeteries, haunting the listener like a ghost long forgotten and newly-resurrected.
Unlike later efforts such as "Under a Funeral Moon" and "Transilvanian Hunger", there is a lingering death metal influence here, and Fenriz's drumming is not relegated to the sound of clicking turn-signals just yet. In fact, his furious rhythmic drumming is quite front and center with the music, whereas the guitars buzz away viciously in the background.
There is no way around it - if you are a self-respecting black metal fan, and you do not own this album, you are not a black metal fan at all. This is the penultimate record, the best there is.
Of all the albums that I loved the most in my days within the satanic black metal scene, this was the one I cherished the most. I can still feel the winds outside at night, I can still feel myself driving in the deep of the morning, blasting this album at full tilt.
Thanks for the memories lads...