without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
With a career spanning back to the late 1980's, black metal heavyweights Darkthrone are still making music. In their later years they have developed their own precise sound, blending the lyrics and vocal aspects of black metal with the speedy fast intensity of early punk and hardcore (along with a few aspects of speed and thrash metal). With their new release "Circle the Wagons," I found myself rather confused at the end of the album.
On the instrumental aspects of this album, it's pretty solid. I'd even go as far to say as it's pretty damn good in terms of staying true to the intensity and musical structure of the early thrash and punk bands of the '70s and '80s. This album provides straightforward speed riffs that don't aim to impress, or expand on the genre. All they aim to do is rock face and provide the listener something to bang their head and thrash out to. I viewed this album as an homage, of sorts, simply because it's so reminiscent of the early days of heavy thrash metal. In tracks such as "Stylized Corpse," both the fast groovy riffs, and intense melodic guitar solo that closes the track almost gives you the feeling that an old Judas Priest album.
The aspect that really bummed me out, and singlehandedly ruined the album for me were the vocals. I've never really been a fan of Darkthrone's vocals, but I've always been able to see past them and appreciate the "bigger picture," so to speak, of the album. With "Circle the Wagons," the vocals are so overpowering and have this tendency to hang in the foreground of every song, that it is damn-near impossible to ignore them. The random touches of reverb that were applied, along with the bloody-ear educing clean singing featured on this album come completely out of left field. I'm not exactly sure what the band was going for when they recorded the vocals, but they landed far off the mark.
The production on this album enhances both the pros and cons of the album in which I just listed. Darkthrone has never been known for top-notch production on their albums. But, again, it establishes them as who they are. The grimy tinge that the mix on this album gives the guitars tones makes the listening experience feel more D.I.Y. But, the production is definitely a double-sided sword. The low-end production, in turn, ends up making the vocals sound more atrocious on the final product. It really creates a giant conflict in giving this album a grade.
Though this album features so intense riffs, and a fun atmosphere for fans of early metal, the vocals overshadow all, leaving the wheels to fall of this dingy old wagon. The vocals tie it down, and leave it destined to sink, dead in the water.