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If there is one thing that would appear to be an oxymoron it’s the idea of Darkthrone putting out a best of compilation. A self-respecting fan of this band would sooner sell himself on the streets of Soho at 6 pence a pop than be without their first 4 albums at his immediate disposal. However, a compilation carrying a large collection of songs that can’t or, at the time, couldn’t have been acquired is another matter. When approaching this particular album, you have to see it more as a collection of rarities than a best of; the fact that some of the band’s classic tracks from their more famous albums thus becomes something of a nice bonus to aid the listener in getting into the concept of the band’s pre-black metal demos and performances.
Insofar as the best of portion of this release, the band did an excellent job of selecting the stand outs of each album, particularly the “Transylvanian Hunger” selections. The principle flaw in that album was that when taken as a whole, it was a flat and near one-dimensional listen. But when taking these songs individually, they are a lot easier to appreciate in their unique blend of melodic minimalism and darkened atmospheres. “I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjød” in particular takes on its own individual character as it stretches out a singular chord for 80% of the extended main riff, frustrating the listener’s desire for harmonic cadence until the very end where a sudden three chord pass marks the end of the idea. When heard without the other seven similar sounding songs, each song establishes its own identity, as they contrast very heavily with the surrounding songs from the other 2 albums of the black trilogy and the pre-black material.
Indeed, the pretense of pointlessness that this album might otherwise carry completely vanishes when you take note of how heavily the material from the 4 various albums contrast with each other. The clean cut yet vintage 80s sounding death/thrash of “Soulside Journey” has a sense of commonality with the black metal material, particularly with “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, despite the radically different approach in mixing technique. Nocturno’s lead breaks are a good deal shorter and simpler on the latter album, Dag Nilsen’s bass is not as heavy and raunchy but it’s still recognizable, and Fenriz’s drums employ more blast beats than thrash beats but still sound pretty close in both cases. The material from “Under A Funeral Moon” is actually the most distinctive of all in its snowy, almost entirely static oriented delivery, and harkens back heavily to the primordial origins of the genre established on the Bathory’s debut and Sodom’s pre-1986 releases.
But the real point of interest here is the non-album rarities that have been included, particularly the live recordings. Most of these are in instrumental form, save the live version of “Neptune Towers”, but all of them prove unequivocally that the reason this band never plays live has nothing to do with an inability to pull the stuff off in that venue. Even without all of the mixing and vocal doubling that probably made his voice sound so much like a demonic tyrannosaurus on a few select spots of “Soulside Journey”, Nocturno’s vocals sound really large and powerful. The music is pulled off perfectly, including the agitated guitar solos, and is thankfully without all of the crowd noise that you often get with live recordings. The stuff from the demos is very different from even the “Soulside Journey” material, almost becoming technically oriented enough to sound like an instrumental 70s progressive rock meets Sepultura’s “Morbid Visions” style, particularly in the case of the 9 minute riff fest “Snowfall”. Even though in a few places the guitars either phase in and out or even cut out completely on one side from the flawed recording methods of the day, the song is highly enjoyable and a necessary step in the evolutionary ladder that led to their ingenious debut studio effort.
Although this is a great listen when taken by itself, rather than a compilation of material from other albums, the only point in picking this up is the live material. The demo tracks were another reason until the release of “Frostland Tapes”, which is definitely an essential pick up for anyone interested in the origins of this pioneering 2nd wave black metal outfit. This is more of a sample pack for some newcomer to the band who may or may not actually get into the black material than anything else and is only recommended as such. If you’re too poor to own the entire discography, at the very least, pick up “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, as it provides a versatile listen and can function equally well as a gateway to appreciating the later material put out by this band.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 12, 2008.
I usually hate "best-of"s, especially in this age of digital piracy, because there's no need to repackage songs that have already been released in another form. Let the people rip the songs to their computers and burn their favorites to disc. Usually, to be worth anything, there has to be something new. Most best of's don't have anything new. They're just cash grabs.
Preparing For War, for the most part, is no different. Now, I'm analyzing this as if I were a tried and true Darkthrone fan (I'm not). If you want my opinion on the actual song material, read the reviews for the respective albums. I'm just reviewing the usefulness of this compilation. And on that note, I really don't get the point of this, other than a cynical cash grab. It appears to be made for a darkthrone beginner, because it mostly consists of already released material. In that case, what's the point of the 2 unreleased demo songs? If you're just trying to get into black metal, why the shoddy death metal demo tracks? Unless, of course, this was meant for the Darkthrone enthusiast, in which case, what's the point of re-releasing all the "classic" material, which was already on albums that any black metaller, Darkthrone fan or not, should at least have already had in one form or another? Seems pretty sketchy to me.
Seriously, this "best of" is too unoriginal and contrived for there to be any other reason for its existence. It seems to be a blatant cash grab by Peaceville (or Darkthrone, I'm not sure which). Or a joke, in which case the joke is on the saps who bought this. I would say download it (not buy it) just for the 2 demo songs, but they're already released, along with ALL of Darkthrone's demo material, on the Frostland Tapes, so in that case, don't even bother. Just buy the Frostland tapes if you're a Darkthrone enthusiast and want "unreleased" material, and if you want an introduction to Darkthrone, simply get Under a Funeral Moon or Panzerfaust.
The problem with compiling any best-of is that you have two equally important markets to satisfy – on the one hand, you have the long-time fans who probably own most of the albums who will want to see all of the best songs there and something new, on the other hand you have the potential fans and casual listeners, who want the band’s “key” songs to get started with. Luckily, Darkthrone’s Preparing For War strikes that lucky balance. Having previously only really heard a jumble of MP3s and the 30 second samples HMV allows people to listen to of their albums I can honestly say, as a potential fan, its worked. The first five Darkthrone albums are all now on my list of CDs to get, furthermore, everything I’ve read seems to suggest the songs here satisfy the long-term fans as well. In particular there are two demos and a couple rare live tracks, making it a very attractive package indeed for the fan who has everything else.
However, the album is really let down by one thing – pacing. Nobody wants a 9 minute demo instrumental as the second song to a compilation – even the long-term fans expect the rough demos to close the record and (frankly) its just plain off-putting to the new listener. The whole album is a mess, with what seems to be no thought put into organisation. Its not chronological, its not in order of “biggest hits,” in fact, I can’t see any rational method of organising a CD which would have ended up anything like this.
Beyond this, however, there’s not really much to argue with (except the obvious fact it contains nothing Panzerfaust onwards, due to this being a compilation by the label which released their first four albums). If you know anything about Darkthrone you know what to expect – rough, raw, fast black metal with bare-bones production. If you like that sorta music you’ll like this, if you don’t, you won’t. Simple as. Everything is what you’d expect from one of the most important black metal (well, death metal on their debut Soulside Journey) bands in the universe.
On the whole, what you have here is a solid collection of fine songs by a legendary band, all of which are highly listenable if this is your kind of thing, its just a bit messy in terms of order. For this reason I’d recommend putting it on computer, making a playlist, moving a few songs about (in particular Snowfall) to an order that makes a bit more sense to your ears and enjoy!
Since their signing to Norway’s Moonfog label, Darkthrone have quite admirably, yet sometimes tediously, continued to follow their renowned path of reasonably under-produced and all in all rebellious Black Metal. Yet it is undeniable that the band’s absolute best and most legendary material was recorded in the early 90s whilst signed to the English label Peaceville. “Preparing For War” is essentially a collection of some of this early material, yet also includes two tracks from each of the Darkthrone demos as well as three extremely rare and desirable live tracks (especially since they vowed never to play live again after 1996.)
It is blatantly obvious that Peaceville put a considerable deal of effort into compiling this ‘best of’ release, by tracking down and including a selection of more uncommon tracks that fans were somewhat unlikely to own or have heard themselves. Also, with a brief two-page history of the band, written by drummer Fenriz in his customary humorous style, it is apparent to the listener that the band were happy to give their approval to this release, hence giving it a certain sense of credibility within the Darkthrone discography. The music itself is a relatively balanced affair, with the majority of the tracks taken from the band’s four Peaceville releases: “Soulside Journey”, “A Blaze In The Northern Sky”, “Under A Funeral Moon” and “Transilvanian Hunger”. However, the order of the tracks seems a little puzzling and perhaps random. Opening with the title track from “Transilvanian Hunger” and then proceeding with two demo tracks, the order almost seems to slow down the compilation. Evidently, it would have seemed much more logical to use this album as a chronological musical history of the band, starting with the demo tracks and finishing with the more recent ones.
However, the order of the track list is perhaps the only quibble to be had here, as the songs included are utterly remarkable. “The Pagan Winter”, “Natassja In Eternal Sleep” and the live “Neptune Towers” all stand out as true Black Metal classics and demo tracks like “Snowfall” and “Archipelago” allow the listener to hear the very humble, yet exciting, beginnings of one of the most celebrated bands of the genre. Austerely, “Preparing For War” is absolutely necessary for any Darkthrone fan, purely for the rare tracks alone. Yet, this anthology would also be an excellent introduction to the band for those so far uninitiated, as it contains such an impressive variety of music from their earlier years. If you can look past the patchy, minimalist production (probably the hardest task when listening to Darkthrone), then this album is well worth purchasing purely as a basic preface to this phenomenal band.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk
First off I need to say that this is my first Black Metal cd. I will focus on the BM songs here mostly as they were my primary interest. Part of me expected an overwhelming assault on my senses, after hearing Marduk and random black metal from mp3’s. When putting this on for the first time, I found that the music is very non-intrusive. The music is quiet and from first listening sounds like the raindrops hitting the ground in the background or a howling blizzard.
After repeated listening, patterns emerge. The music sounds primitive, with several disjointed riffs that can be described as hypnotizing and trance inducing. The drums are fast and monotone on some tracks, but because they are in the background they don’t cause too much irritation. The evil croaking vocals appear out of nowhere. Each section paints another part of the picture. Some tracks start mid riff and are cut short at the end. Oops, someone pulled the plug.
Tracks vary in recording volume and between Death and Black metal. It all comes together as one amazing trip.
If you get lost in the trance, you see several images pass you by.
Sunless world. All life frozen over. Shadows in the forest. A small town from another time. Wooden houses. A small cemetery in the twilight. Descent into the grave. Funeral march. Eternal winter. It is not easy to keep track of time when listening to this. Listen to it yourself, turn off the lights, put the headphones on and you will see it for yourself.
Now, as for Death metal it is just a great listen as well. This is not a band that needs to prove how brutal they can be. Headbangable riffs, solid playing, no “what the fuck was that” moments. Everything is easy on the ears, even though it is crammed to the brim, you will wish this cd was twice as long. The effect is quite uplifting and addictive. Also, the tell-tale sign of a good piece of art is multiple interpretations; well this one passes that test with flying colors.
As for the content it covers 1988 and 1989 demos, first 4 LPs, two live performances recorded in 1989 and two unreleased tracks, if I got my math right. The recording quality is universally bad, which is not a bad thing in this case, as I cannot see music being this good otherwise.
If I had to choose a favourite, then Transilvanian Hunger tracks are the ones that sound with most potency to me.
This is a great way to get into Darkthrone, or you can get it for unreleased and hard to get stuff.
This is an awesome fucking collection of songs from a band that embodied all that Unholy Black Metal ever stood for. If you have just begun listening to Black Metal this is a sure essential, seeing as its a large variety of the bands best tunes. Few bands deserve a "greatest hits", but even fewer people would argue against this ones worth, and with that said this is a great commemoration of a bands music that has influenced a genration of Black Metal musicians.
With high lights like Grave With A View, Under A Funeral Moon, I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjod, and In The Shadow Of The Horns this album contains some classic Black Metal songs that otherwise would force you to purchase many albums just to have the tunes on here (not to mention the previously unreleased demo tracks). Inside the album there contains a very brief history of how Darkthrone came to be (basically a few notes about the inception stage of the band).
If you cant, or dont want to go out and buy the bands discography this is an ample substitute. A great album, even after many, many plays.
Darkthrone is for the evil in mankind!