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Of all the old boys from the early Norwegian black metal scene still lurking around, Fenriz is the one I'd most like to buy a beer for. He fucking loves old school metal, hates the tedious self-seriousness of modern metal, constantly talks about beer and recommends obscure and awesome bands, generally talks a lot of sense and I've read him implicitly condemn racism in interviews. Not to mention I've read him make reference to "when I finally got a computer in 2005..." fucking great. Compared to a snub-nosed boring sod like Gaahl that's all refreshing as hell.
Darkthrone meanwhile are fifteen albums into it and still putting out fresh, raw and infectious material like they formed yesterday and don't expect to be around tomorrow. They're like fucking South Park in terms of consistency, and that's high praise. If you like the idea of an album full of songs like 'Ace of Spades', 'Prowler' and 'Heavy Metal Thunder' sounding like they were recorded during the sessions for Welcome to Hell, Circle the Wagons is the ticket. The Cult is Alive, F.O.A.D. and Dark Thrones and Black Flags are often tagged with a blackened punk style which, while it may have had a little truth in it for those albums, holds less water here. Circle the Wagons is all about classic heavy metal, mostly at about the period the '70s was becoming the '80s and much of the best metal in history was recorded.
"I AM THE GRAVES OF THE EIGHTIES
I AM THE RISEN DEAD
DESTROY THEIR MODERN METAL
AND BANG YOUR FUCKEN HEAD!"
That's my mantra for 2010. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto, or Gylve and Ted as they generally refer to themselves nowadays, seem to be having the time of their lives playing homage to everyone from the punk bands of old, to the golden age of early speed and thrash, to the trudging machismo of late '80s heavy and doom metal. While 'Circle the Wagons' has the wailing attitude of Ramones and Static Age era Misfits, 'Stylized Corpse' marches along like a cut from King of the Dead. The '70s style guitars of the latter even suggest some Rainbow and Pagan Altar influences to my ears, and a bit of Metal Church's debut. Fan-fucken-tastic.
A bit of Angel Witch and Maiden in the awesomely catchy opener 'These Treasures Will Never Befall You'. The early, very early days of thrash and speed metal play their part in the galloping, anthemic 'I Am the Graves of the '80s'. 'I Am the Working Class' combines the lyrics of Twisted Sister with hardcore and the big honest riffs and leads of early Judas Priest and Motorhead. This latter is MY SONG, I love this - time to get personal. I don't want the navel-staring pomp of all this Agalloch crap or the hollow over-technicality of Meshuggah whose name I feel fouls a Darkthrone review, I'm a working class lad and my bread and butter is big, ballsy heavy rock riffs and lyrics about stickin' it to the man. Despite the fact Fenriz wrote it about how much he despises playing live and being expected to be a rockstar but fuck it, I identify with it and it's mine now.
Pretty dense name-dropping and track-listing there but that's what makes this maybe the most fun Darkthrone album as a lover of '80s heavy metal: the unashamed idolisation of Ted and Gylve's favourite bands. The album sound and (almost lack of) production is less in the style of black metal than it is a NWOBHM demo or early Venom album, and the vocals of the two band members are too bizarre to be pinned on any genre. There's some gurgling low vocals, gnarly rasps and piss-take NWOBHM operatic vocals, but nothing so aggressive as say, 'F.O.A.D.' The vocals are just there so that the lyrics could go somewhere, I feel, and are pretty much just for fun. Darkthrone are by no means perfectionists, but the vocal style works just fine for me since I like Lemmy, Cronos, Tim Baker, Zeeb Parkes and Alan Jones. Not that all or any of them sound like the vocals here.
I'm fairly sure noone listening to A Blaze in the Northern Sky in 1991 would have seen these progenitors of testicle-freezing northern black metal ending up playing this so-called blackened punk, let alone go on to be among the very best of the noughties' NWOBHM and classic metal revival outfits. Rather than rubbing icy nipples with Burzum and Mayhem in what feels a bit like their old age, Darkthrone feel more energized than ever as they join Slough Feg in slamming out some of the best straight-up balls to the wall '80s heavy metal in 2010.
"...all we need are some bands sounding like early Queensryche/early Fates warning or Liege Lord and we're completely self-sufficient in the underground with a whole parallel universe ‘80s metal land! YEAH!" - Fenriz