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"Ravishing Grimness" opened a new chapter in the history of Darkthrone. The duo broke with its crude tradition of delivering very individual productions and ugly melodies. Some songs of "Total Death", for example its relatively smooth opener, had already indicated the modified style of the Norwegian mavericks. But "Ravishing Grimness" went one step further. Its monolithic and homogeneous appearance was something completely new for the band and its supporters as well. In terms of the production, an almost totalitarian wall of sound left no room for strange experiments. The endless flow of leaden guitar lines formed a previously unknown facet of the band and the comparatively polished sound emphasized the fresh approach additionally. Quite irrespective of the technical formatting, Darkthrone surprised with meticulously designed songs with an average length of more than six minutes. Guitar cascades and intelligently defined breaks formed meaty lumps of black metal. Four good songs and two absolute killer tracks were finally registered.
Despite its even overall impression, the album never gets boring. Darkthrone, in particular Nocturno Culto who has written five songs, show their keen sense for gloomy melodies. They enjoy each and every guitar line and give them enough room to develop their full flavour. While acting on the border to repetitiveness, Darkthrone never loose their instinct for compelling compositions. Consequently, they are able to find the balance between a healthy catchiness and the necessary degree of variety. Some breaks can be described as simple or minimalist, but they are highly efficient. In particular "Across the Vacuum" and the title track benefit from this approach. The brilliant lines of these pieces create perfect flows and thanks to the masterly executed breaks, the songs do not show any sign of incoherence. Every note hits the spot. The long instrumental parts carry the listener away and one can spiritually merge with the music. I don't want to say that these two pieces work like mantras and I will not compare Darkthrone with some Indian crybabies, but they trigger a process in my mind and enable me to forget my daily concerns for a while.
The remaining tracks fail to fascinate me in a similar way. This does not mean, of course, that they taste vapid or stale. "Lifeless", the opener, impresses with its very malignant and relentless mid-tempo parts, but the fast sections also reach a good level. Despite the fairly clean sound, the song - as well as the entire album - emanates a vile feeling and the raw vocals form a contrast to the everflowing guitars. "The Claws of Time", to come up with another example, is opened by broad, levelling guitars and the song reveals its cruelness slowly but steadily. No doubt, the tracks of "Ravishing Grimness" show a clear signature and express the attitude of the duo, although they are hardly comparable with the acoustic whirlwinds of the previous albums. Instead of heading for total devastation, Darkthrone have got everything under control. Due to the fact that this new approach had no negative impact, I appreciate this record very much. In other words, there are better things in life than "A Blaze in the Northern Sky".
Darkthrone had effectively settled into a sound of Ravishing Grimness. Despite their merits, both Panzerfaust and Total Death had felt like they were unsure how to innovate the band's sound following three of the most innovative records in black metal history. While it's always sad to hear the end of a band's golden era, Darkthrone's no-nonsense sensibility would never need constant innovation in order to pack a punch. Really, I'm sure the less inspired strokes were a result of the duo spreading themselves too far. Even gods may falter.
There was a three year silence prior to the release of Ravishing Grimness. I think their break as well-needed and completely deserved. More importantly, it helped them put out their first fully solid new record (not including Goatlord) since Transilvanian Hunger. Even if it offers little different musically from the mid-paced sound of Panzerfaust onward, this is the first time where that style is working to their full advantage as a band.
Having immersed myself in Darkthrone's work lately, it's not surprising they've come up in more than one conversation lately. Barring the same familiar banter regarding the "Unholy trilogy", quite a few fans I've spoken with would point to this album as a gem in their discography. I'm inclined to agree. While this description could never completely link to a band who pride themselves on DIY ethic and rawness, I do think Ravishing Grimness is the first point where Darkthrone ha found maturity in their black metal. The first three albums were wild risks that could only emerge from youth. The two black metal albums post-trilogy clearly wanted to settle down, but they were misguided. On Ravishing Grimness, we hear the black metal sound Darkthrone were looking for all those years in its true, realized form.
Unsurprisingly, Ravishing Grimness' greatest strength is its collection of riffs. Regardless of what style they're playing, Darkthrone have always been better with writing great riffs than songs as a whole, but when you're able to compose a song using those great riffs exclusively, the quality of the two can be judged as one and the same. Approached from this mindset, Darkthrone produced one of their best songs on this song with "The Claws of Time". The opening riff here is incredibly simple and endlessly evocative. The other truly great highlight here is this album's title track; "Ravishing Grimness" is surprisingly one of the most true-to-form Norwegian black metal tunes Darkthrone ever cranked out, and they nail the isolated beauty of it to virtual perfection.
Given the 1999 release date, Ravishing Grimness was stubbornly simple at a time where black metal was getting turned on its head by bands like Dodheimsgard and Weakling. I think it's a tribute to Darkthrone's passion and talent that they're able to give so much across using so little. Even for a Darkthrone record, the album feels barebones. Although a guitar/drums combo under vocals was clearly nothing new, the extra simplicity comes through in the album's production. I do not mean to say that Ravishing Grimness is rawer than their earlier stuff-- quite the opposite. Much like a frostbitten Phil Collins, the early Darkthrone would use the studio as an instrument of expression itself. For instance, the frigid way they produced Under a Funeral Moon evokes more atmosphere than any of the instruments themselves. Ravishing Grimness, on the other hand, is functionally raw, comfortably mixed. They lost none of their authenticity going this route, but I do feel it's the most straightforward listening experience they had offered up to that point in their career.
Ravishing Grimness ultimately succeeds because it sounds like the pair were immersed in their art again. It's not to say they didn't care about the prior couple of albums, but the risks they were making were paying off less and less. Compared to a mediocre dud like Total Death, you can hear the inspiration dripping off a lot of the riffs here. Even if they were past the point of their best innovations, Darkthrone still had it with this album, and even though their style has evolved plenty in the years since, they still wield that passion with most everything they do.
Darkthrone are one of my favorite bands, and have been for upwards of eight years now, so if you are new to this band or are just curious about this release (having forsaken them years ago) be warned of my enthusiasm for their completely original approach to black metal, and be aware of my bias in this respect.
There is very little I can say when trying to introduce this band, and so I find myself falling back to that tried and true cliche of sneering 'if you don't know about Darkthrone by now, well... there's nothing I can help you with.' Of course Darkthrone are one of the few bands in the entire history of metal whom you can apply such a sarcastic rejoinder to when introducing them - they are the essence of the cult approach both in their music and in their attitude towards their own reputation. If you aren't familiar with this band by now, I really don't know what to say to you. They are absolutely essential in any exploration of the dark side of music, as they have always had an unparalleled ability to summon the perfect level of inspiration in any of their compositions, whether it was the early technical death of 'Soulside Journey' (still one of the strangest and most idiosyncratic death metal masterpieces, in my opinion, taking the approach of Entombed and Dismember (read: Nihilist/Carnage) to new heights of trilling technical ecstasy or bizarre harmonic depths unsounded by any other outfit) or the later utter grim melodic brilliance of 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky' and 'Transilvanian Hunger' (the latter being the best black metal album of all time, in my opinion). In fact, in this reviewer's eyes, Darkthrone are the quintessence of black metal in the '90s - no other band can match their string of superior releases.
But what makes Darkthrone stand out above all others is not their technical wizardry or compositional mastery (even though they have both in spades, so much so in fact that they are satisfied with disguising these abilities if they can) but their seemingly magical capacity for reaching down within themselves, time after time, and coming up into the light with melodies and riffs that are absolutely beautiful in the way that they crystallize the essence of all mystery or dark occult mysticism. For me, Darkthrone is above all an evocative instrument for sounding the depths of the dark side of life. Their melodies are often morbid, perverted, sick, obtuse, malevolent, obscure, psychotic, elusive, and stubbornly pessimistic, but they are always beautiful - and always presented in such a way that you can not ignore their fantastic power. Darkthrone, more than any other band in the genre, has the ability to summon the blackened, blasted, and shadowed forces of 'evil' and then paint the resulting influences of evocation with unerring precision - they are the metal musicians closest to the withered heart of man's tragic fall from grace in the last part of this century, and they have always had the capability to further explore both their own dark side and the lightless underworld of civilization - the influences of isolation, misanthropy, alienation, hatred, violence, sickness, and despair. Darkthrone truly are 'Satan's poets' - the voice of the downtrodden, the forgotten, the souls swirling in the madness of modern life; they are the black metal touchstone, unholy alchemists in that they can take the sordid and grim aspects of life and turn them into purest spun gold.
I know that a number of Darkthrone's followers were concerned given the duo's inactivity over the last few years - many were of the opinion that the band had decided to quietly fade from the scene after the release of 'Total Death'. Thankfully Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have decided to return, this time gracing us with yet another journey into the 'true' black metal sound. Ever since 'Panzerfaust' Darkthrone has seemingly been satisfied to just hone their approach to creating 'primitive, atavistic' music, referencing for the main part their earliest influences and staying very close to their convictions about the potential this music has to offer. What does this mean? Hellhammer, Hellhammer, and more Hellhammer - oh, and throw a little Bathory and Celtic Frost in there to spice up the mixture. While I feel that these convictions left them without much room to maneuver on 'Total Death' (which was indicative, at times, of their boredom with black metal) they have had enough space and breathing room now to take these tools and forge something completely new even while it constantly references the past. They have taken the simplistic, driving, pounding black distortion of Hellhammer and updated it to carry their own sound forward, including (I believe for the first time) melodies and passages that are Scandinavian in influence, similar to Satyricon's past norse folk noir obsessions.
What that means on this release is that they finally sound very comfortable within the confines of their own convictions: sure, on almost every level, that they have taken the right path. This assurance and confidence is evident in every song on this record - the freedom that their compositional beliefs have given them becomes evident in the power displayed in the melodies. While some of the tracks are seemingly simple exercises in back-to-the-basics black metal, concentrating on a few riffs to carry the impetus of the song striding forward (an approach which this band are probably more practiced at than any other, and thus much better) there are a few selections on this album that I feel could stand easily with the finest material they have ever composed - and once again it is not the song structures or a fatuous 'cleverness' in construction that makes them stand out, but the entrancing melancholy beauty of the melodies. The third song, 'The Claws of Time', is such an example, with an introductory/main riff that is singularly evocative - arguably perfect in its slow unweaving of the agonizing emotions of regret, nostalgia, and hopelessness. Similar in this aspect is the fifth (and in my opinion greatest on the album) song, the title track 'Ravishing Grimness', which is in its combination of fast atmospheric strumming and slightly slower power grooves a genuine expression of the concepts inherent in the title and the lyrics: the mesmerizing loveliness of the darkness, the seductive charm of night and misanthropic isolation - the sweet lament of a soul proudly damned to perdition. The main thematic riff in this song is probably one of the most superb distillations of sadness Darkthrone have ever put forth.
Equally impressive is the production on this work - for the first time Darkthrone have been given a clear, clean, and loud sound on a release, and this goes to show (contrary to my first opinions of their production aesthetics) that the evocative power of their songs does indeed lay in the bewitching music itself, untouched by a deliberately 'cult' or 'obscure' production. The engineering on this record is amazing in that it fills the entire listening space using only the few elements of the band's 'live' sound - Nocturno Culto's monstrously cold guitar being the predominant component.
What else can I say? If you are a Darkthrone fan or consider yourself in any way to be a follower of the black metal scene, this is an essential release. If you are new to this band - what are you waiting for?
This is the point where most better educated followers of Darkthrone’s lengthy career agree was the beginning of their transition into what they are now known for, which is a good distance from what is considered true black metal, but not all that far from the characteristic sound of the genre’s pioneers in the early 80s. It consists of a careful blending of the low fidelity character of the band’s old sound, though in something of a warmer feel than the old frostbitten approach, along with a helping of minimalistic crust punk and hard rock influences. It’s naturally geared towards a very different audience than that of their Peaceville Trilogy days, but it does retain enough of the darkened characteristics to be accessible to fans who have stuck through all of the changes that happened between 1990 and 1996, which were pretty massive, though gradual enough to be classified as an evolution rather than a series of abrupt mutations.
“Ravishing Grimness” is, in a subtle way, within a similar realm to the famed “Transylvanian Hunger” release in its simplicity, though stylistically and atmospherically it is far from comparable. The production is a bit colder than that of “Total Death”, but still much warmer and smoother than that of their 1992-94 practices. The song construction retains a consistent sense of droning and slow development, but the perpetual blast beats have been fully phased out in favor of a rather groovy feel that is, if one can forgive the expression, moderated. The riffs, be they the signature 3 chord approach of the album opener “Lifeless”, or the more involved and evolving method of “Across The Vacuum”, are memorable, though a bit too predictable and sort of run together. In fact, the real weakness in this album, as well as that of several albums that followed this one, is that many of the songs run together.
As a whole, this is the best representation of this newly developing sound before “The Cult Is Alive” re-established the band’s credentials as a more metallic beast. It is pretty consistent from one song to the next in terms of energy, but the overall quality develops little by little with each song. “Lifeless”, “The Beast” and “Claws Of Time” tend to set the stage for the second half of the album, which is where the band’s more blackened material resides, and don’t really stand out as being above average. But as soon as “Across The Vacuum” kicks in there is a reintroduction of the band’s melodic character, and what ensues from thereon in is a solid 1-2-3 punch of ugly vocals and fuzzy guitar brilliance that runs pretty close to the otherworldly aesthetic of “Total Death”, but in a more tempered manner.
Although this is a notable step down from the last 2 albums under the Moonfog banner, it still shows a band with a strong sense of direction and a clear ability to keep a minimal number of ideas interesting for over a half hour. If one wanted to experience a rather interesting mixture of Hellhammer and Black Flag, but without the frequent lead guitar breaks heard on “The Cult Is Alive” and “F.O.A.D.”, this is the best place to go out of their middle era releases. It retains a bit more of their “true sound” aesthetic, particularly in the latter 3 songs, than their current material, but it is definitely pointing away from the more commonly lauded past of this band and towards a very different future.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 28, 2010.
After releasing an album each year from 1991-1996, it was inevitable that Darkthrone might face some sort of burnout...I mean, really, how can a band remain that good for that long? The answer is that they were going to remain great for a LOT fucking longer. To date, almost 20 years post-Soulside Journey, there has still never been a subpar Darkthrone album... If the band should decide to take a small hiatus for a few years while they eke out the material for their next opus, so be it. Hell, most good bands require at least 3 years between their releases...and Hank Amarillo & co. had just given us 6 straight... including their genre-defining work like A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Under a Funeral Moon, and Transilvanian Hunger.
In March of 1999, the new album arrived, with a strange album cover unlike any the band had used previously (though the woods were nothing new). And let me say this: it was worth every month of anticipation since the re-release of the Goatlord material. This is a new Darkthrone, but it's also the old Darkthrone, given a vibrant, crashing production with a killer guitar tone that rings of hollowed out trees. I've heard a great many gripes about this record and its follow-up Plaguewielder, that the band had gone all out 'black'n'roll' or that they had sold out, but I'd like to dismiss such claims as tripe and horseshit. The riffs here follow the same familiar patterns they've used on most of their albums starting with A Blaze in the Northern Sky, it is simply the production of Ravishing Grimness which has shifted. In fact, this is the strongest material the band had offered since Transilvanian Hunger, wisely kept to a neat length of 37 minutes for six tracks, with no filler and no fat to trim. The duo's duties here remained unchanged from Total Death, with Fenriz rocking the kit and Nocturno Culto handling the bass, guitars and vocals once more. Talking about overworked!
Some Darkthrone albums have traditionally possessed a few layers of penetration before I could come to fully revel in their nuances, but not the case with Ravishing Grimness, and I took to it immediately as the feedback and whip-click herald the writhing power of "Lifeless", with its cutting chords that hiss off into the darkness as the edges, before the sick bridge rhythm at :45. After another minute, the track cuts into an even simpler riff of pure old Hellhammer worship, though I had yet to hear such a rhythm with the brighter guitar tone used on this album. "The Beast" has another of those simplistic, proto-black/punk rhythms that had gotten the band where it was by this point; equal parts Hellhammer, Bathory and Discharge, with only subtle changes in pattern much like an old rockabilly or blues number might pursue, before the inevitable collapse into a bludgeoning groove bridge. After this, the next three tracks pick up to over 7 minutes in length, beginning with the pondering of "The Claws of Time", in which a searing and melodic melody is anchored by Culto's raw throat, switching off into an even more subtle and beautiful rhythm. If I didn't know any better, I would almost say this was the first 'happy' sounding song from Darkthrone (perhaps it's the real reason so many stubborn cockslugs suddenly felt the band had 'sold them out', and refuse to acknowledge their body of work post-Total Death). But this airy warmth is fused with a sadness, and before long a cruising, majestic riff embarks like an ocean liner en route to an iceberg.
"Across the Vacuum" spans a terrain somewhere in between "The Beast" and "The Claws of Time". It has that punk heart fueling its engine, but manifests in long passages of slashing chords that emulate the rise and fall of a meat cleaver, before the 1:30 point at which the song starts to channel a more sinister cousin to their Transilvanian Hunger days. There's also a pretty powerful breakdown in the track with a dash of Satyricon or Bathory. "Ravishing Grimness" itself is the tune which stands out the most to me, a series of phenomenal riffs that manage to resonate through the simple ringing out of the higher tone in the chords, like a rush of cold water down a desolate fjord. The steady repetition of this passage eventually descends into a slower, fist-clenching rhythm alongside the low-riding ring of a bell (I assume), and then an uplifting, almost Viking concoction of driving chords which remind me of an Immortal breakdown. "To the Death (Under the King)" finishes off the album, with an early Slayer-styled riff blown into thundering chords over the steady shuffle of Fenriz' footwork, eventually rushing into an even faster charge.
Ravishing Grimness is an entirely level album, and though I dread to say it, probably the 'safest' they had released in the 90s. However, it is very much classic Darkthrone, and the rather reined in vibe of the compositions can hardly be faulted when the album sounds so good. This is not at the level of re-invention that some of their later efforts would pursue, it's just the basics re-organized with a new studio sound and a slightly more mellow set of lyrics (though they haven't lost all their edge, just read "Ravishing Grimness"). It gets a little unjust treatment due to its minor shift in tone, but I have confidence it's the type of album people will listen back on, and then kindly slap themselves in the head for having not appreciated it before.
Highlights: Lifeless, The Beast, Claws of Time, Ravishing Grimness
By the mid-90s, the members of Darkthrone appeared to be very much burned out on creating music. Fenriz, in particular, had been associated with a variety of projects and seemed worn out. After the disappointing release of Total Death, in 1996, it looked like Darkthrone was history. Yet, a couple years later, they reappeared. They also began doing a great number of interviews, which was quite rare for them. It was around this time that they decided to begin the process of killing off the mystique that had surrounded the band for so many years. Many were shocked as Fenriz even went so far as to display that he had a sense of humour in these interviews. It also appeared that, by this time, the band members were quite aware of the impact that they had on the Black Metal scene. One could speculate that this consciousness had some influence on their decision to alter the sound, to the extent that they did. While the previous album was extremely flawed and paled in comparison to the earlier ones, it was Ravishing Grimness that ushered in the second era of Darkthrone.
Released in March 1999, Ravishing Grimness was born into a musical world where Black Metal had seen some severe changes. The cookie-cutter symphonic bands, busy ripping off Emperor and Satyricon, were everywhere. Record labels, such as Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast, were signing them as quickly as they could in an effort to cash in on the new trend. It was a foul time for Black Metal purists. However, that isn't to say that the art form was totally dead; the real Black Metal bands were simply laying low. They were a little harder to find, for the most part, but they were still there. Darkthrone became the symbol of the old guard rearing its ugly head to show the world what real grim and nasty Black Metal was all about. It's quite unfortunate that the album was much more mediocre than expected.
"Lifeless" starts with some strange sound effect before the song really begins. Immediately, there is a problem. Nocturno Culto has stated, in later interviews, that he didn't approve of the slower drumming style that Fenriz utilized on some songs, as he meant for these to be a lot faster. One can easily imagine the main riff from this song fitting onto one of the older albums, if only Fenriz has sped up the drums. There was still room for the slower section, but he certainly ruined the earlier part by being lazy behind the kit. The sound effects that began the track occur again, only irritating the listener. The slower section does have an ugly and grim feeling. The title of the album is certainly dead on. However, one gets the feeling that it could have been better. Vocally, Nocturno Culto does a bloody good job of maintaining the dark and evil feeling he is known for, being one of the highlights of the record. Again, near the end, the drums kill the feeling of the song. It does speed up, but not in the manner that one might expect Nocturno Culto had in mind when he sent Fenriz these riffs. Had the opening and closing moments of the song featured a faster beat, reminiscent of "Natassja in Eternal Sleep" or "Transilvanian Hunger", it would have sounded more natural and been more pleasing to the ear.
The next song is "The Beast", which is pure Hellhammer worship. It's not bad and, in certain moods, it's no problem to listen to; however, it doesn't stand up well to criticism. It's very mediocre and boring, to be honest.
"The Claws of Time" is another strong example of Fenriz ruining the song with his lazy drumming approach. For whatever reason, there was a disconnect between the two members, as Nocturno Culto has made it obvious that it was only after this album that he began to insist on certain drumming speeds for the riffs he created. At this point, they weren't even rehearsing together, so it's no surprise that some things got miscommunicated. The main riff is the best of the entire album, but it lacks any punch since Fenriz is asleep behind the drum kit. This riff would not be out of place on Transilvanian Hunger or Panzerfaust, had not Mr. Nagell been comatose. As it is, the song isn't bad; the problem is that one can tell that it had the potential to be better. This is only made worse by Nocturno Culto's later admission. The song does drag on, having a few less impressive riffs tossed in as well.
The Hellhammer tribute continues on "Across the Vacuum", though this track features a nice riff at the :13 second mark. If only they'd taken this simple riff and made a whole song around it... These two definitely gave Apocalyptic Raids a few too many spins, prior to writing and recording this album. That's not always a bad thing, but it is when it interferes with the sound of a band to the extent that it seemed to, here. Sure, there was always a Hellhammer / Celtic Frost influence in Darkthrone's music, but it became more dominant over the years. For those that felt that Darkthrone had created something special with their early works, it was entirely disappointing to see them opt for paying homage to their heroes, rather than to continue down their own path. Again, this isn't nearly as boring as "The Beast", but it's still lacking something.
"Ravishing Grimness" is the best song on the album, by far. Again, it opens with a fast tremolo riff that would have been better accentuated with a different drum beat, but it actually transitions into the next riff better this way. Though one could argue that the next riff would also have benefited from a faster drum beat, but it all works out a lot better on this song. As with the rest of the material, it could have been better, but it's still fairly enjoyable. The tremolo melodies are very memorable, Nocturno Culto's vocals are just right and the whole track is very cohesive. About half-way through, it slows down and one gets the feeling of being dragged into the endless graveyard. The funeral bell chimes in the distance, adding to the morbid atmosphere. Corpses rise from their graves, tearing at your limbs as the moon casts its pale light down on this grim spectacle. The pace then speeds back up, as the main riff returns. This one song is worth the price of the album, as it truly lives up to its title.
"For this I'll burn in Hell, for sure"
The album ends with "To the Death (Under the King)", which bears a faster pace than many of the other songs, while not being all that fast compared to earlier albums. Again, inadequate drumming plagues the song, not matching up to the guitar riffs, at all. One has to wonder what the hell Fenriz was thinking. This song is also the only one to feature any Norwegian lyrics, albeit only one line. Finally, near the end of the track, the drumming picks up and they end on a strong note.
"What if death can't set me free"
Ravishing Grimness is not only the rebirth of Darkthrone, in a sense, it also represents a lengthy period of transition for the band. While Nocturno Culto was content to continue writing riffs that would have suited the earlier output of the band, Fenriz was determined to slow things down and drown this creativity in a torrent of Hellhammer tribute. This album is equal with Total Death, really. They both exhibit moments where they could have improved and given us something spectacular, only to fail. Overall, the record possesses several nice riffs, but they're rarely realized to their full potential due to the ill-conceived drum work of Fenriz. With that said, the title track is very good and worth the trouble of seeking this out.
'Ravishing Grimness’ is a continuation of the demise of Darkthrone. Most people have long since given up on a band that are often classed as legendary in respect to their early material. Is it a case of Darkthrone losing their identity over time? Seemingly so. Evolution of a band is nothing new to any of us, but I’m not sure anyone could have foreseen the demise of this band when, for example, ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ came out. There are times when things seem too good to be true, or some might even say slightly ironic. For instance, Darkthrone’s lyrics. Are they meant to represent the downfall the band have experienced over the years?
“In the Water of Life the Circuits are breaking
Eons of Numb Hopelessness Lies Ahead.”
Lyrics like those seem to equate to what happened to the band as a whole. For many fans, hope was lost when albums like ‘Goatlord’ came out of the works. Whilst their journey has continued, the fan base has weakened significantly. Whilst ‘Ravishing Grimness’ doesn’t represent the absolute worst that Darkthrone have provided us with, it’s nothing short of bland. There are no redeeming elements about this album, it’s another one that simply exists for the sake of existing. One would imagine, if perhaps, just perhaps, Darkthrone took a longer leave of absence to develop their material, may be they would come up trumps? It seems to be a long shot and not a feasible solution to the band’s problems, but as band’s release more and more material quickly, a growing number of fans tend to grow tired of their work. It’s happened here, if you ask me.
Darkthrone are a band that never seem content with what they’re doing, thus the reason they decide to change their style so often. If they’re not content, it’s a feeling that does tend to wash over the audience. This album seems awkward at times, if anything. It’s as if Darkthrone are almost completely out of idea’s and are resulting to an old style whereby black metal is crossed over with a thrash style. Most people tend to call it black n’ roll. It’s a sub-genre, which going by Darkthrone’s music, seems to lack any real substance. The percussion element of ’Ravishing Grimness’ is severely struck down. It’s just incredibly irritating. The only variation we’re offered are when double bass is brought into the picture, but that’s hardly inventive. If you’re going to take a thrashier outlook on music, it must be creative to withstand the test of time and this just isn’t. On the entire album I can only really pinpoint one song I really like, that being ’The Claws Of Time’. Otherwise the vocals are lifeless, the guitars may as well cease to exist as they offer so little to the audience in the way of atmosphere and the percussion is as lacklustre as it gets. Again, this isn’t the worst Darkthrone album, but it’s by no means good.
This CD is not a trend setter. This CD pushes no boundries nor does it amaze the listener with it's previously unheard stylings. No, this CD is just a quality slab of Norse black metal from the increasingly insular bastards known as Darkthrone.
Honestly folks...this CD is quality, despite the common harassments from the more "kvlt" of the whelp-infested black metal community.
Even so, this CD is not a "classic". It's double bass runs, rock and and roll backbeats mixed with Nocturnal Culto's rubbery black metal guitarwork make for a certain atmosphere of violence, while keeping itself from wanting to engage the listener too much. A strong production accompanies the feel as well, giving weight to the somewhat standoffish material cobbled together by the gruesome twosome of Fenris and Nocturno.
Overall, this CD is neither a failure nor a triumph. It is a nessecary purchase for all longtime fans ans a mostly ignorable release for those who are not. Like much of the "modern" era of Darkthrone the CD does it's expected job of dark lyrics being pressed through a haze of violence guitarwork.
I give it a thumbs up...but I won't write it into the black metal hall of fame.
After a long hiatus and silent period after 95's "Total Death" which was only interrupted by the release of "Goatlord" (which as you all might know is of a far earlier recording date) , DarkThrone returned with a very solid, unpretentious, honest, and strikingly mature album in "Ravishing Grimness".
Being that most BM fans often act as a herd unable to appreciate a work on it's own without referencing the band's past or production aesthetics, this little platter has been thoroughly ostracized to no end by the bedroom corpsepaint crowd. But, I assure you this, if this album was in any case released by Satyricon or any other "less true" band in 98 those same diehards would have probably hailed it to no end.
The album kicks off with whipcracks and the suitably sadomasochistic riffing on "Lifeless". Embedded with BM groove only DarkThrone can pump out it switches to a jumpy thrashy ending, but only after excessive repetition literally crushes in this song on the listener. "The Beast" follows, the only track with music written by Fenriz, and this is possibly DarkThrone's weakest song of all time, a thoroughly mediocre paean to Motorhead which still grooves and keeps pulse going rather well, but is a little far too "rockin" to avoid sticking out like a sore toe on an album of this kind. Third in line is the jewel of the album, "The Claws of Time". A depressive, thoroughly touching melody with a wailing sorrowful lyric gives way to an incessant repetitive hammering which ends with no relief following the narrative of the lyrics. Most anybody who has severe problems with latter day DarkThrone will quote this as the worst they have done, yet if it was a song by say Nargaroth or Abyssic Hate I doubt they could find a better work in the rest of the two mentioned bands' catalogue. "Across the Vacuum" lifts proceedings up in a racing fashion and keeps attention focused for another stroker in the title track. "Ravishing Grimness" is classic latter day DarkThrone filled with inertia and vigour, breaking apart in the middle for a round of droning torture only to pick up for final overkill yet again at the end. Closing the proceedings is yet another average track (though not as out there as "The Beast") in "To the Death (Under the King)" which reaches a rather astounding climax to round it all off.
The production on this is weird for DarkThrone to say the least, although similar in style to "Total Death", the bass drum is entirely subdued, while the guitars are a classic wall of sound DarkThrone didnt attempt before or after, apparently according to Nocturno Culto there's three guitars running throughout the length of the album which gives it the fullness this material needs. In content terms, this is very removed from the eerie and evil atmosphere of "Under a Funeral Moon" but the songwriting leanings are rather reminiscent of that album as there are plenty variations in motion within the songs themselves. If no-nonsense stripped down and serious BM is what you seek be sure to avoid the negative rants and give this a listen as it sure does hold value in "Lifeless", "The Claws of Time" and "Ravishing Grimness" to warrant the price asked.
Everyone always says that Ravishing Grimness is a forgettable and uninspired album from the gods of unholy black metal, DarkThrone, but I just don't hear it. No it's not ABITNS, UAFM, or TH it's not even Panzerfaust but it's still a great black metal album no the less. Yes it is my least favorite DarkThrone that I've heard but it is by no means a bad album. The riffs are as cold as ever and the vocals still spew forth hatred, though they are a bit more growled than usual. Probably the reason for the let down is the fact that Fenriz only write one song on here, though he wrote all but one of the lyrics. Starting off Ravishing Grimness is Lifeless, very good song with somewhat depressing lyrics. The second track is the one Fenriz wrote, The Beast. This is also the only song which he didn't do the lyrics for, a great song truly. The Claws of Time is my least favorite song on RG, just doesn't stand out from most other DarkThrone or DarkThrone styled black metal. Across the Vacuum kicks a lot of ass being my second favorite here. The title track is the fifth one on here and is good but somewhat subpar for DarkThrone's standards but it still makes an ass-kicking black metal tune. The best is last. To the Death(Under the King) is definetely the best song here, one of my favorite DarkThrone songs ever! Great riffs, vocals from hell, and extremely morbid and depressing lyrics which tend to suit my normal state of mind. Buy this if you're a DarkThrone fan.