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Fenriz is omnipresent in the German metal magazine "Deaf Forever", inter alia due to his special relationship with Götz Kühnemund. This crazy yet likable dude is probably the most popular German journalist in terms of heavy metal and so Fenriz has the possibility to play the clown. He does it successfully. But first and foremost, this kind of clowns may never forget to focus on their core competency. Our friend behind the drums and his partner in crime are fortunately aware of this situation and as a logical consequence, "The Underground Resistance" contains no overly theatrical moments. Instead, inadequate elements do not appear. Okay, some self-declared guardians of metallic morals will cry that the present status of Darkthrone has nothing in common with any type of underground. They will say that the album's title alone is a (bad) joke. However, when looking back on crude efforts such as "Under a Funeral Moon", Nocturno Culto and Fenriz have the right to proclaim the label "underground" for themselves.
Leaving irrelevant things like the wording aside, "The Underground Resistance" reveals a more serious problem. Four songs - and despite its playtime of more than 40 minutes, the album houses only six tracks - do not distinguish themselves from the masses of solid black / speed / thrash whatever metal pieces. To put it more precisely, the riffing sounds neither boring nor excellent, effective structures do not show up, great choruses are missing. Although the production does not suffer from any major flaws, the tunes fail to cause a massive impact. Only the chorus of "Valkyrie" and the second half of the excessive "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" attack insistently. But the expression of real fury is reserved for the magnum opus of this full-length. Of course, I am speaking of the finishing "Leave No Cross Unturned", which opens the massive gates to a greater dimension.
Already its vibrant riffing at the beginning, the straight verses and the concise chorus indicate the outstanding class of this song. Yet it needs more to shape a number of almost 14 minutes. Darkthrone have therefore realized dragging parts, an obvious Celtic Frost homage and dynamic solos, while lead vocalist Fenriz celebrates different styles in order to add the final touch. Although this mix of ingredients is exciting, the song appears neither progressive nor overloaded. Darkthrone have taken only a comparatively small number of different parts for the construction of this giant, but the result speaks for itself. No doubt, each and every other song of the here presented work pales beside the closer. By the way, it remains a mystery whether its playtime (13:49 minutes) is an allusion to 1349, the year when the pest came to Norway. Generally speaking, this was a terrible year for the inhabitants of the Scandinavian country - but, among other things, the constantly growing discography of our strange duo proves evidence that the ancestors of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have survived this plague. With that said, "Dead Early", the name of the album's opener, does not really match the career or the physical condition of the two musicians. Nevertheless, this song is the only one which is not completely doomed to failure when being compared with "Leave No Cross Unturned". Its stoic riffing during the slow parts has a fatalistic touch and the high speed sequences leave scorched earth behind. Finally, the slightly desperate feeling of the comparatively slow riffs is perfectly aligned with the compressed yet precise lyrics. No doubt, the album shines with a strong beginning and an elephantine ending.
Face the facts. When we take a look at the cold, clear and dark Norwegian sky, "The Underground Resistance" is not the brightest shining star that we discover. Yet Darkthrone stand their ground. Nobody expects that the sixteenth work of a band turns out to be its best album. One rather fears that such a long-standing formation runs out of ideas and offers more of the same, but in a lower quality. Exactly this is not the case. Darkthrone do not rest on their laurels. Their music still emanates a fresh and lively atmosphere. This is definitely not a matter of course after more than 25 years in the business. Moreover, the full-length from 2013 beats its two predecessors with great ease. Not only because of this performance enhancement, it is not hard to make the prediction that the aforementioned omnipresence of Fenriz will go on.
(originally published at valleyofsteel.net)
So I'm pretty sure that every single one of you is familiar with Darkthrone. Formed as a death metal band in Norway way back around the end of the 1980s, then transforming their sound soon after, becoming one of the most significant movers-and-shakers in terms of the Scandinavian black metal scene of the 90s; putting out over a dozen albums (not to mention countless demos, EPs, and compilations) since then, and consistently maintaining a core membership of multi-instrumentalists Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell and Ted "Nocturno Culto" Skjellum over nearly that whole span. The band responsible for some of the most essential, genre-defining releases in all of black metal, including Transilvanian Hunger, A Blaze in the Northern Sky, and Under a Funeral Moon. Sure, of course you already knew all of that.
But have you heard Darkthrone lately? For about the past decade, these guys have been back at Peaceville Records, which had been their home for their first four groundbreaking records in the early 90s. But this time around, they've been gradually drifting away from the signature sound that they helped forge, which went on to inspire entire legions (literally) of imitators; instead they've increasingly been sneaking in elements as varied as crust-punk, doom, and speed/traditional heavy metal. Which brings us to The Underground Resistance, their latest release (which was just a little over three years ago).
The six tracks here -- mostly in the four-to-five-minute range, with the exception of the last two -- bear very little resemblance whatsoever to the band's earlier material. For example, the introduction to the first song "Dead Early" has one guitar part that uses a fast alternate-picking style, but that's about as close to black metal as you're going to get; this soon turns into way more of a speed/NWOBHM-style galloping riff, while some time later incorporating more of a D-beat feel, creating an overall kind of thrash/punk/crossover vibe. The vocals here are sort of a gruff combination of grunting/growling -- certainly not "clean" by any standards -- but far more decipherable than your standard black metal fare.
This gruff vocal style is predominant in about half of the songs -- including the thrashy "Lesser Men" and the nearly nine-minute-long slow and heavy "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom." In other places, though, is a cleaner -- more like traditional heavy metal or, more specifically, NWOBHM-ish -- vocal style: for example, "Valkyrie" whose song structure and drum fills are both highly reminiscent of Iron Maiden. But in my opinion, the highest points of the album come when both vocalists work in tandem: "The Ones You Left Behind," another medium-paced Maidenesque gallop, features both in unison on its ultra-catchy chorus, almost sounding like these gentlemen are actually having fun with the material -- especially when one vocal part slips up to a super-high falsetto right in the middle of the song -- which makes it difficult to tell if they're genuinely paying tribute or playfully mocking cliches of the genre, but chances are it's actually a little of both.
The same could be said, to an even greater extent, of the final song "Leave No Cross Unturned" -- switching between fast and chuggy bits and some more intense riffing, sometimes employing straight-up NWOBHM soaring vocals and elsewhere a deeper style (that incidentally sounds a bit like Dr. Teeth), the song continues recycling sections of riffs and verses and choruses, getting more over-the-top as it goes along; later picking up speed, adding crazy guitar solos while the vocals continue to get more intentionally melodramatic as well. For fourteen whole minutes, every time it seems like it might be ending soon, they throw in one more iteration of one of the sections of riffs or another chorus -- finally leaving the whole thing feeling wonderfully ridiculous.
Any discussion of Darkthrone at this point is essentially a veiled discussion of Ted and Gylve's music tastes. Even as a casual fan of their silly "true" metal era, it's puzzling to place The Underground Resistance is the same sentence as A Blaze in the Northern Sky or Under a Funeral Moon, let alone in the same discography. Even if the Darkthrone boys were more tongue-in-cheek about evil than some of the less enduring Second Wave bands, there was something about the classics that reeked of a serious, primal malevolence. It takes some kind of vision to craft a sound and have only a handful of your followers match up to par. Now, I get that half a lifetime has passed since then. Darkthrone would have burnt out if they hadn't treaded away from black metal. In fact, they almost did. Plaguewielder, Hate Them and Sardonic Wrath were far more redundant than any of the 80s cult worship Fenris and NC are up to these days. But when The Underground Resistance arguably sounds more tongue-in-cheek and kitschy than they ever have, I do begin to wonder about where they're headed.
The Underground Resistance completes the transition to full-on "epic" heavy metal Darkthrone alluded to on Circle the Wagons. This is the first time where clean vocals have dominated the proceedings on a Fenriz-affiliated project since the Isengard days, and you can believe they sound more like an overly enthused metal fan than a trained singer. On the quasi-crust albums, the meta references to the metal scene were coated in a curmudgeonly scorn for all they deemed false. With this one, I've got to agree with observations that this is easily the "friendliest" Darkthrone have ever sounded. All of this brings me to an interesting impasse. Relative to Darkthrone's roots, I'd say this is the first time where they've finally pushed things too far. Yet, judged by its own merits, it doesn't stop The Underground Resistance from being my most liked and listened-to album they've done since F.O.A.D.. Dropping all pretences about whether Darkthrone can or should be taken as serious artists-- well, who cares, most of the riffs are solid as heck, and the "professional amateur" quality to the vocals has a uniquely endearing charm.
Although Darkthrone showed off their technical talents on Soulside Journey (only to hide them away for the rest of their career) it's refreshing in a certain light to hear them playing and recording with greater precision. While the shift of style is most apparent in the use of clean vocals, Darkthrone have probably ever been close to this sonic "fullness" on Hate Them, and even then, they didn't have the dynamic punch in the production. Considering how far they've treaded over the years, it's nonetheless impressive that they're still able to navigate without losing their authenticity. Even when they're playing riffs that sound drawn from the NWOBHM heyday (see: "The Ones You Left Behind") there's an enthusiasm here that makes you believe they were meant to make this sort of music. That is, provided you're able to forget the far-better work they've done in the past, but that's beside the point here.
The transition to heavy metal has worked out much better than the crust entry circa The Cult is Alive. There's a sense that Darkthrone are being guided on autopilot by the music they listened to as kids. I could mention the fact that they're now in their 40s, and that it might make a youthful mentality out of place for them at this point. That would be true, but Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have kept their enthusiasm for metal as bright as ever, and I don't know how they do it. I think anyone into this sort of music had a stage at some point where they were equal parts in love and obsessed with the music. For Darkthrone, that naive excitement never faded. Although Fenriz's attempts at operatic wailing is far from perfect, there's a sincere joy to his performance. It actually makes him more interesting to listen to than most conventionally gifted metal vocalists.
The Underground Resistance isn't a Darkthrone album so much as it is an enthusiastic celebration of the music they love. They're not putting up any images with this. Sure, I'd prefer to hear more albums in the classic vein, but I'd certainly rather listen to this than anything uninspired. These days, inspiration certainly isn't an area Ted and Gylve are lacking in. The album's first half is much stronger than the second-- I agree with the consensus that "Leave No Cross Unturned" is far too long for its own good-- but even keeping the less vibrant moments in mind, there are far more standout riffs here than I'd expect to hear from a heavy metal record on this side of the new millennium.
Apparently Darkthrone are still putting out albums. Gotta give them credit for caring when no one else does anymore, at least sort of caring given the notable absence of songwriting on this album.
So around the time of Ravishing Grimness we started getting snippets from Fenriz about how he loves "boring metal" now and is trying to get Darkthrone in that sort of direction, and I guess it was kind of cool for novelty's sake with that album, giving us some nice tunes like "The Claws of Time" and "The Beast" along the way. But somehow this infatuation never seems to have ended and turned into some sort of obsession? People say Darkthrone is an ever-changing beast, and yeah, on the surface they display different influences now than they did in 1999, but it's still the same "boring metal" schtick they've kept repeating now for almost two decades, taking the most stock riffs they can think of and driving them into the ground by endless repetition. Different window dressing with epic heavy metal or whatever influences you claim to have these days doesn't hide the fact that it's just another retread of the same "boring metal" idea that worked once in 1999 as a one-off experience.
That isn't even the most glaring fault of the album. What really kills it is the way the songs and riffs are structured. After almost every single time they play a riff there's a sort of break/fill that has you feel they are moving on to the next part, but play the riff again instead. Ad nauseam sometimes. It gives the songs such a start-stop feeling devoid of any flow, the way they seem to start over after every time they play a riff, as if they're unsure if it's time for the next part and keep making a last-moment decision to repeat the riff once more again instead. And since every instance of a riff being played ends in the expectation that the next part is going to start now, you'd expect it to at least happen that way, but when a next part does start, they manage to make it feel thrown in completely randomly. Finally time for a new part after so many opportunities to start it, and then it seems they don't actually have any idea how to move on to it. Were they dissociating when they made this album? I thought cough syrup was something for hipster black metallers exclusively.
The vocals are another thing that bothers me. Vocals on Darkthrone albums in the old days were either overwhelmingly strong or offensively horrible, becoming charming after repeated listens and adding to the album's overall atmosphere - thinking of Panzerfaust and Goatlord here. The last few albums they just don't seem to give a fuck to go either way anymore, which I guess they wear as a sort of badge of honour like with their music, "Hey, we're Darkthrone, we don't give a fuck", but honestly, it's descended to an appallingly low level on this album. Nocturno Culto seems to do what Satyr of Satyricon always loved to do, just talking a few words in a raspy voice every time a riff starts, as if to say, hey guys, by the way, riff is starting. It sounds more like commentary on the song than actual vocals. Oh yeah, here's a riff, saying a few words. Pause till next riff. Then say a few more words. Annoying. Fenriz tries a little more with actual vocals, but not adding anything to the music, just accompanying it a bit. It's cool for stuff like Isengard or that exhumed doom metal project of his, but for the epic heavy metal thing they are apparently trying to go for in these songs there's just not enough character to his voice, the vocals are just there for the sake of having vocals. And I guess Fenriz wasn't too fond of his efforts here, either, or got shy in his advancing age, else I don't know why they'd put his clean vocals so low in the mix, especially compared to his bandmate's.
So, Darkthrone guys, you wanna old-school-up your sound more and more with each album. That's cool, I think you got the talent to pull it off. You're fucking Darkthrone, of course you do. But not as long as you keep hanging on to the loooooong worn-out Ravishing Grimness "boring metal"/"we're Darkthrone, we don't give a fuck" approach and repeating it over and over again, album after album. Had you abandoned that after trying it for one or two albums and given us the last few records with some spirit and some giving a shit - which is not a crime against true metal or whatever, whoever told you that? - we could have had some solid albums. But if you wanna keep doing your "boring metal" routine, it's me who doesn't give a fuck.
I was looking around at an HMV for some black metal stuff which was tough considering there was only the stuff I heard, but that's another story for another time. That story however lead me into buying this CD by Darkthrone knowing it's a black metal band. Little to my knowledge the band went to a more punky and thrashy sound with black lyrics. Now I am a fan of thrash metal and hardcore punk at times, but I really didn't expect this from Darkthrone and I was hoping for the traditional black take. This album is seriously a hit and miss but there's it's good points and it's bad points within it.
The songs all were very thrash styled but had some elements of doom, heavy, crust punk, and well duh, black. It mostly stayed towards the thrash and it was like Darkthrone were trying to be Slayer or any of those more evil sounding thrash bands with songs like "Leave No Cross Unturned". From my research after I bought the album I learned this album was a tribute to the speed, heavy, thrash, and doom bands out there, which it felt too much like Darkthrone was trying to be something they weren't. (And nobody likes a rip-off band.) I will say, I did listen to the crust punk by Darkthrone and I don't think it's that great so that really just adds to the fiery confusion of an opinion on this release. Some bands happen to begin leaning towards another genre and ditching the previous one only to the fan's knowledge to learn they start to sound not so interesting. (Metallica, I'm looking at you here.) This really seems to be the case with the actual musical content of this release because it felt like the most generic thrash ever and it was really hard to actually get myself to keep listening and enjoy it. For instrumentation, the drums were mostly just fast-paced with certain times they'd be slower, and the guitar was just like an early Slayer demo to be bluntly honest. Vocals, or just everything recorded; sounded very half-assed and like they really didn't give a fuck about the quality of the song structures like "Screw it, this will be good enough." and had a few more beers so they could forget this was their own album they just recorded.
The actual case of the limited edition mediabook is really nice. The artwork is done well, it's very solid, and the booklet inside has some interesting things. (Such as that long ass list of praise in Norwegian.) The photos in the booklet are quite well done and of course the lyrics are in there too if you actually enjoy the album and want to sing along to it. In terms of the packaging, they did quite the job though it would have been nice to get some little item in there like a Darkthrone patch or whatever memorabilia bands like doing for their merchandise. I also really felt Darkthrone's use of their logo is going to throw people off, considering that logo looks very much like black metal and not like anything they've recorded on this album. (People really pay attention to small details, and logos are one that's looked at heavily.)
Really, what I think of this album is that it really depends on the person listening. I didn't exactly enjoy it but I didn't hate it, and sometimes it's a little fun to hear, even if it's not the Darkthrone I know and enjoy. If you're a fan of Darkthrone's crust punk and non-black stuff, you'll probably like this. If you're more for Darkthrone's black metal, this really isn't worth the time and you'll most likely be disappointed unless you also listen to thrash. This is a solid 50% rating for me because as said earlier, really depends on the person listening. Personally, I don't think Darkthrone should have ever moved away from black but times change and we still have the old releases of their black metal days.
Having taken to playing for several albums in a punk-influenced style, this new Darkthrone release takes yet another anthological look at what originally inspired them, then to be thrown into a modern framework.
This has made for mildly entertaining material at times, though on an artistic level will never eclipse any of their material from ‘Soulside Journey’ through to ‘Panzerfaust’.
Notable on here is the exchange here between Nocturno Culto and Fenriz for individual songwriting. The former goes for more atavistic, punk and thrash influenced compositions and a Tom G Warrior esque vocal, whilst the latter takes a strong aversion toward traditional metal and a doom influence that recalls work with Isengard, using clean sung vocals.
At it’s most aggressive, some of the riffs used are very much akin to the Celtic Frost inspired motifs on ‘Panzerfaust’ or ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky’, some riffs even having nuances of the techniques on earlier Bathory albums, but often sound as if they were just thrown in as a sole means to please old school nostalgics.
For certain, the aesthetic alone will tick the right values for those seeking a record that is merely there to be enjoyed, but the depth and atmosphere that made Darkthrone essential years ago is gone here.
For instance, the first breakdown riff of ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’ sounds identical to the opening riff of ‘In The Shadow Of The Horns’, though is ill-fitting with an otherwise entertaining heavy metal song that early on recalls the likes of Omen, Agent Steel or Brocas Helm, only to wear out it’s welcome mid-way through its 14 minutes.
There are short moments of excellence, such as the mid-section of ‘The Ones You Left Behind’, with a quite resonating melodic lead, but it all seems stuck in a plethora of drudging motifs that merely entertain, but never transcend it any further.
Where newer bands like the NWOBHM inclined Enforcer and the now on-hold Hour Of 13 have put out work that treads old ground with clarity, Darkthrone sound muddled and confused.
The term ‘every dog has its day’ flashes heavily when listening to ‘The Underground Resistance’. It’s symbolic of a band totally bereft of ideas. Whilst they have more or less admitted to taking on a ‘give less of a fuck’ attitude, the sense of continuity wears itself thin quite fast.
Say what you will about Darkthrone's transformation over the past several years it certainly has not been a static stylistic shift, more a continuously evolving transmutation. The first seeds were laid a full decade ago with the attitude-laden “Fucked Up And Ready To Die” track from Hate Them, whilst the Punk influence was first really tested with the cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees' “Love In A Void” on the Too Old, Too Cold EP 3 years later. The next 2 albums, F.O.A.D. and Dark Thrones And Black Flags, typified the Blackened Metalpunk style that most people seem to associate the Darkthrone name with these days, but after shifting focus more towards lo-fi 80's Heavy Metal on Circle The Wagons that Punk edge has now been moved on from, seemingly as much of an afterthought on this album as even their Black Metal roots are.
With that in mind it seems fitting that this is the first Darkthrone album in 6 years without cover art from Dennis Dread, instead joining the rarified circle of Metal bands, along with Thin Lizzy and Manilla Road, to have collaborated with legendary Celtic artist Jim Fitzpatrick. As a fan of Fitzpatrick probably even more than I am of Darkthrone it is somewhat disappointing to his see his usual style of vibrantly coloured battle scenes replaced by such rusty and muted tones (though the drawing itself is unmistakeably his), but this almost sepia tint to the sleeve design suits the dust-hazed and vomit-fuelled filter with which Darkthrone reimagine 80's Metal here.
The lead riff of “Dead Early” evokes early 80's Judas Priest which announces this latest stage in Darkthrone's evolution perfectly, though a D-beat quality to the drums is still present but “Valkyrie” is the track that really shows the duo's new direction. The log-cabin production values and highness of the cymbals in the mix keeps thing suitably crust-ified and consistent with previous releases but that Bathory/Candlemass-referencing Epic Doom intro is like nothing Darkthrone have ever done before, and nothing could be a bigger ditching of convention for this band than introducing clean vocals. Naturally they are sloppy, untrained, out of time and out of tune, but not entirely out of place and certainly better than you might expect for Fenriz trying his hand at them. There's a definite early NWOBHM vibe to this track thanks to the vocals and although it is certainly something that should be worked on and improved for the next release no one can say that Darkthrone rest on their laurels and don't try new things.
Even more ambitious though are the final 2 lengthy tracks of this 6 song album. Firstly “Come Warfare, The Entire Doom” is the longest Darkthrone song since “Wreak” from 2001's Plagueweilder, and closing number “Leave No Cross Unturned” is the longest track they have ever penned, smashing “Kathaarian Life Code” by a full 3 minutes. The first of these two is far and away the strongest track on here as it rocks back and forth between Dream Death and Cirith Ungol vibes and even a bit of classic Transylvanian Hunger-style riffing, but the final track doesn't quite repeat the brilliance. In spite of at times successfully evoking early Mercyful Fate and being the most directly melodic track in terms of vocals and guitar leads they have perhaps ever done it is still essentially 13 minutes of done to death bog-standard Motör-beats and early Bathory riffs.
Even with such long songs taking up over half the playing time Darkthrone's notoriously lax approach to rehearsal and songwriting still manages to find a way to produce filler here, and aside from a bit of an Accept buzz on “Lesser Men” both it and “The Ones You Leave Behind” add absolutely nothing of value here. A bold attempt by Darkthrone then to move on yet again to new musical pastures, but ultimately an experiment yielding sub-standard results. [5/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts
Positives for this release have to do musically, not lyrically. I think that the "raw" sound in the guitar category was quite suitable and translucent. Finally a Darkthrone release that doesn't flip me into the realms of oblivion musically speaking. For the most part, the vocals were quite odd and didn't exhibit much intensity as I've been accustomed to. These 2 guys put together some great guitar melodies both clean and crunch, not simultaneously, just overall. It makes the album easier to get into. The tempo changes aren't subtle, they really aren't exceptionally vast either. I found that the combination of the music, vocals, production and uncompromising guitar riffs seeded the album greatly.
Variety in the vocals make the music more simpler to really get into. I like the fact that they toned down some and aren't all about extreme aggression, they have evolved and this release is commendable. The leads however are quite distasteful, and a good thing that they're for the most part kept to a minimum. I think that if the band took out all of the lead guitar work, the overall album would be held in higher esteem from me. So that is the reason for taking off some points from the overall album. I dig the variety in the vocal department though. It's not just scream filled with high pitch ends to the core, it's highly varied and likeable.
The drums were right on key with the guitar riffs, though they weren't in the greatest in terms of technicality. It encompasses the "raw" sound, but the snare can be quite ignoble. Not to set a complaint in this department, it's quite an ignoble claim to make, yet we're looking at reality here. I mainly found the guitar concoctions to be the most excessive flowing of rich and fresh melodies. Total thrash sort of tone of the axe seemingly falling into a blackened/thrash sort release kind of in the vein of Devian (RIP). Every track on this album contains a variety in the vocal department. Nothing really THAT brutal in terms of hoarse sound, some of it is actual "singing."
Definitely one of the top albums of 2013 in metal at least. A lot of originality in songwriting style and an album that's not filled with just blast beating galore like a lot of bands nowadays. Seems to drown out the music, those kind of bands at least. However, I'm just saying in general that they've worked hard on composition, something fresh and a great overall sound in the recording. Things seemed to flow on this one, with no things out of balance in terms of tempo changes, vocals and "raw" sound. Amazing that only 2 members for the band that really created something pretty monumental.
If you haven't heard any tracks off of this one, then utilize YouTube and see if there are any songs available before you go out and buy the album. But I'm supremely confident that on multiple listens and insight into the album labeling the peaks and valleys to the release. I'd say that overall, that this is an album not to miss out on. Definitely one that will blow your hair back. Best not to focus on the lyrics to this album since they aren't very strong in that department. I think that if they put a lot of emphasis on their writings, it would be more savvy to my palette. But the music is just outstanding! Get it ASAP!
Back in '06 Darkthrone released an album titled 'The Cult is Alive' and effectively switched musical gears to something entirely different that left their past behind and had me shaking my head and just wondering why. Sure, most of the bands post-90's releases had been just so-so, but I digged 'em for what they were - they were still black metal, and little did I expect icons of the black metal genre to ever compromise their vision as they had done so on Cult. Three more full-lengths would follow without making much of an impact, but perhaps my acceptance of change was coming as I did find some of the songs on 'F.O.A.D.' & 'Circle the Wagons' to be at least fun, which ultimately was where I think the band was going. The black metal days were done for them and they just wanted to embrace the bands and music makers that originally inspired them to pick up their instruments in the early 80's.
News of 'The Underground Resistance' came in through one ear and out the other as I anticipated more of the same. That is until a friend began telling me about how the band had taken a turn towards classic 80's speed metal and more or less that the record was fantastic. Flash forward a few days later and I'm drinking and spinning old NWOBHM records and I suddenly remember to look the album up on youtube and, well, to say the least I fucking loved it!
Throughout six songs and forty one minutes Darkthrone essentially delivers '80's Metal 101,' a total amalgamation of speed metal, Germanic thrash, NWOBHM and proto-black metal-ness and best of all its incredible. 'Dead Early' opens with a driving catchy lead that instantly has me hooked whilst the rest of the song is thick, heavy and hard hitting as Nocturno Culto grumbles out his words. 'Valkyrie' signals towards something more epic in its grand scope, howling high pitched vocals from Fenriz and an utterly memorable main riff that can't be beat. A total fist pumper and head banger right here for sure! 'Lesser Men' shouts Mercyful Fate from the get go with a soaring start eventually Tom G. Warrior styled vocals set the stage and the song moves back and fourth between Fate and early unstoppable Celtic Frost godliness, while 'The Ones You Left Behind' hankers with this sense of teenage ardency and just plain fun that you don't hear in metal these days. Couple that up with some killer ass riffs and a mighty solo mid-way through and you've got a killer on your hands here.
'Come Warfare, The Entire Doom' just drives on and on and gets mightier as it progresses, especially the riff that pops up around the five minute mark is by far one of the catchiest I've heard in a long while and perhaps solidifies it as one of the albums best. The album concludes with the epic beast known as 'Leave No Cross Unturned,' which is no less than fourteen minutes of speedy, thrashy, Celtic Frosty and even doominess that simply can't be touched.
Where most bands progress, change for better or worse, Darkthrone has regressed and they don't go past '85 in their musical stylings. Nocturno's guitar work is undeniably exceptional featuring an innumerable amount of killer, catchy, head bobbin', fist pumping and absolutely immense riffs as well as an assortment of solos that simply can't be touched. Not to mention that guitar tone is thick and oh so vintage that I just can't get enough of it. Fenriz' drumming is surely at its best too, and its impressive the way he took extra measures to ensure it had that vintage feel to it.
Darkthrone spares no expense at raising the middle finger a bit too, for example, the photo on the back finds Fenriz in a psuedo black metal pose, while the photo is credited to 'the hater of lame BM.' Similarly the quote, "This record is 100% free of any cut 'n' paste trickery" is found and "Vintage metal sound, contains non-triggered drums" as well as a few other instances of tongue and cheek humor are to be found throughout the booklet.
In the end I am and will continue to be amazed at just how good this record is. Sure, its not the band we all heard ten or even twenty years ago, but it is without a doubt one of the bands finest outputs, yes vastly superior to their alleged classics, such as, Transilvanian Junker. Darkthrone has always influenced and will continue to do so with this record - watch as more classic sounding metal bands appear in the coming years! Sure, the black metal days are gone, but Darkthrone has taken their music to surprisingly exceptional territories and it will be fun to see where they go from here. Until then, bottoms up and keep no cross unturned!
Originally Publish at Lunar Hypnosis: http://lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com
Darkthrone needs no introduction; everyone knows about these guys and the tremendous impact they’ve had on extreme metal. While they are largely known as a black metal band with their early albums engraved as milestones in the Norwegian scene, many don’t give their diversity enough justice. That comes to a screeching halt on their latest work however. You just have to love Fenriz and Nocturno; they do whatever they want, however they want, and don’t give a care in the world how anyone feels about it. Throughout the course of their career, they’ve gone from death metal, to black metal, to punk, to this. And what we have in “The Underground Resistance” is a very unique blend of eighties heavy metal and punk rock, all while maintaining traces of their early black metal form. Get ready to headbang to this one!
Listeners may be surprised by what they hear at first listen, especially those not closely acquainted with Darkthrone’s recent punk rock escapades. I personally did not see this coming at all from the same band that released “Under a Funeral Moon” twenty years ago. The riffing is very fast paced and the music is very reminiscent of 80s east coast punk-influenced thrash, much in the vein of Overkill or Anthrax. The guitar work is very nice. You obviously won’t find any shredding, but some of the finest and catchiest riffs in Darkthrone’s discography can be found here, and they are absolutely relentless. Fenriz’s drumming compliments the music very well as usual. As mentioned earlier, “The Underground Resistance” is great headbanging music and will no doubt draw in some listeners from the thrash crowd who typically don’t associate themselves with black metal.
Speaking of black metal, while Darkthrone may no longer play the style as prominently as they used to, there’s no doubt that traces of it remain in some of the riffs and vocals. This certainly makes sense, seeing as they’re pretty much the Godfathers of the whole thing. They mix it up a lot though. And I mean a LOT. There are just so many different genres on display here. Take “Valkyries” for example. It begins with an acoustic piece and slow black metal section before shifting gears into a relentless punk rock assault. Then there’s the thirteen minute long closer “Leave no Cross Unturned” that sounds strikingly similar to Mercyful Fate, with Nocturno singing in a style startlingly akin to King Diamond. That’s the theme of this album really; variety. One minute they’re playing punk, then black metal in another, then heavy metal in another, then, oh, you get the point! Fifteen studio albums in and these guys sound more versatile and interesting than ever.
I’ve always admired Darkthrone for what they do. They’re very uncompromising and self-fulfilling musicians who work hard to produce the music that they want to hear, not what anyone else wants to. Not the fans. Not the record labels. Not the critics. Them. How many bands can honestly achieve such success in doing that? No matter what dark alley Fenriz and Nocturno explore, they never cease to impress. Call their music whatever you want, but the bottom line is that no matter what style they’re playing, whether it be black metal, punk rock, thrash metal, or all of them mixed into one, Darkthrone kicks insurmountable amounts of ass. If only they would play some shows…
Originally written for Dermetalkrieger.com
This writer has been a Darkthrone fan since 1992, and I know most of you reading this know well the Darkthrone history of black metal-into-crusty-punk that left the fan base a camp divided over the last few years. So it's with casual hesitancy that I venture into The Underground Resistance. I bear in mind the black metal days are long over, and I suggest you faithful readers assign a like-mind to that as well. You may be very surprised.
Off the top, the ugly and raw speed-metal-meets-NWOBHM cloak that Fenriz is so wrapped in rears its very impressive theads, shadowing over the legions of dark minions and boldly claiming residence in the new era. The guitar tone in the opener “Dead Early” is thick, heavy, and undeniably potent as Nocturno Culto growls and bellows his sermon. I'm pleasantly surprised right off the bat, and I have a feeling this may only lead to better places. Upon entry into “Valkyrie” and hearing those soaring vocals that remind me of any chosen NWOBHM vocalist worth his salt, I'm convinced that the new Darkthrone era has not only been cemented into the earth but lays waste to the notion that the band's better days are long behind it. The main riff in “Valkyrie” is so heavy and memorable that I couldn't shake it until “Lesser Men” pops into my ears and I immediately picture a young and hungry Mercyful Fate in some Danish studio going for it on all cylinders, influencing a young Norse band (and a host of countless others) for years to come. As the song progresses, old farts like myself will be treated to a mixture of Fate and early Celtic Frost ala Morbid Tales with that deadly, albeit blueprint vocal of Tom G. Warrior barreling through the tempo. Hearing some high vocals neatly mixed into the fray without being overdone sets a new standard for Darkthrone's upgraded style. Being disciples of the old school of heavy metal, this album encompasses all of the finer elements of said era to a proverbial apex of near perfection.
The “leaked” track “Leave No Cross Unturned” definitely grew on me upon repeated listens, and it moves along like an Agent Steel speed metal trek ala Unstoppable Force, which really tends to burrow into your brain and take root. “Come War, the Entire Doom” is a more sludgy doom-inspired metal that balances between abrasiveness and accelerated solemnity. All through the record, the guitar tone takes immediate control of the reins and is akin to a sharp implement poking around in random order; it's just a simplistic and fluid sound that grabs you and, while void of flair and dramatics, simmers underfoot. Fenriz' drumming is really on the mark throughout as well, and it's clear he took special pains to grab that antiquated sound and make it viable for the current day. His occasional vocals are a pretty good effort as well; you'll know where he comes in and either dig them or dismiss them, but I'm betting on the latter.
There is a gaunt stylistic approach to the haphazard feel of the record; that is, the 'patterns' followed here don't necessarily subscribe to anything you might consider “clean” or “neat” by definition. It's primitive and unpolished to the trained ear, but while it might appear easy to bash the effort simply due to the Under a Funeral Moon contingent pushing and upset apple cart it's not a fair presumption. The Underground Resistance is a galloping jaunt through the past glories of some of the genre's more impressive bands and artists, which might assuage some of the oldsters in need of a nostalgic fix and impress the younger generation enough to open its collective mind a bit.
I am pleasantly surprised at how entertaining this record is throughout. Yes, it's not your father's Darkthrone, but the corpsepainted faces are thankfully gone to time and dust. NC and Fenriz have managed to tap into the recesses of Heavy Metal 101 and issue an homage of heavy, tongue-in-cheek subservience to the aged art of thrashy speed metal in the New Wave fashion. When I say this Darkthrone record has something for everyone, it's simply the truth.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)
Here’s a band that needs no introduction. Well into their 16th album, “The Underground Resistance” once again under the fabled Peaceville Records, Darkthrone continue with indefinite experimentation. If adding punk wasn't enough but also with traditional metal, Darkthrone take pleasure in peeling the skin off of your eyes. Branching further and further and letting the venom take root for it will take you for a fantasy ride.
All the riffs are catchy and memorial. “Dead Early” blends a good brew of traditional and black metal with excellent punk riffing. From there we go into one of the most beautiful songs, “Valkyrie”. This is definitely my favorite for many reasons. In it’s unique way there’s a combination of punk and atmospheric black metal successfully accompanied by beautiful warm-felt vocals. These vocals soar into skies as you ride the heavenly steed. I’d like to call them folk vocals because they sound foreign to the mainland. Clean vocals that glide you to victory. I don’t know if you've seen the movie, “Remember the Titans” but this reminds me of that song they sing when someone departs. That scene where they are all sad and mournful but together. Just listen to the main rhythm of this song and see if you can fit the chanting “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye”. Soulful and in unison, kind of the vibe “Valkyrie” had.
Now we discover “Lesser Men” things start to get a bit sludgy along with the same catchy riffing. I immediately start to think about the likes of Motorhead and High On Fire. The solo sounds interesting, it’s fast but scatterbrained. Just imagine James Murphy playing an ambient solo and underneath it’s layered with a great riff assertively charging. Things start to get interesting in “The Ones You Left Behind”. Try visualizing a mental image of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto in fancy get-ups singing duets up onstage in elegant velvet clothing to a bunch of rich people. That’s exactly what it seems like but this isn't Hollywood instead let’s serenade nature’s creatures out in the Norwegian plains.
“Come Warfare, the Entire Doom” just as the title suggests it start to explore doom metal. They did a rather good job with it as well. Finally comes the killer and longest song, “Leave No Cross Unturned”. The title is a testament to signify that if the previous five songs have not worked for you this one will definitely convert you. Right from the get-go you are slapped in the face with high soaring vocals, Rob Halford style. If this doesn't indent your eyes backwards then I don’t know what will. The vocals are magnificent in its variance. He has this nice accent as he rolls his letters. He shows a varying degree of execution as his voice drops a few octaves and disperses into a few new realms. This song continues it’s effort with doom metal but also speed metal.
Going through “The Underground Resistance” once isn't good enough. You’re probably struck silent and baffled that it’s going to take at least another listen to fully appreciate what you just heard. It’s an acceptable release, you have to admire musicians willing to try different routes with a grand understanding of music. What’s excellent about it is its accessibility. I've already mentioned it before but the riffs are catchy and fun. It’s definitely one I see myself playing over and over.
Originally written for http://www.metal-temple.com/
After a few years of not releasing any content, Darkthrone has finally released their latest album "The Underground Resistance" and I must say right off the bat that this album is nothing what I expected at all. It is no surprise to us that Darkthrone has a tendency to jump around metal sub-genres quite a bit. First they started off with death metal on their debut album "Soulside Journey", went black metal with albums like "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" and "Transylvanian Hunger", then released a series of crust punk full-lengths like "The Cult is Alive" and "Fuck Off and Die". Now that the fans have been comfortable with their crust punk approach for some time, the band has made a change yet again with this release. Instead of playing their usual punk mixed in with black metal, they are playing a traditional '80s speed metal sound. It sounds awesome and it also reveals a side of Darkthrone that seems unique or new to the ear.
The album contains six tracks, all of which are amazing. For one thing, the sound is the same old Darkthrone we know and love. Sure, it sounds better in terms of production quality and the music itself sounds more clear and concise, but make no mistake that it still has that '90s black metal, low-quality feel that Darkthrone has put in their albums for years. As for the music itself, it reminds me of Judas Priest or Megadeth in their early years. If you disagree with me then it's safe to say that they at least sound a little bit like Destruction or other bands of the like. You can't really compare Darkthrone to them, but they at least come close to their sounds and music style. Second, the tracks all have this powerful kick to them; they all sound like they have taken a step up in their distortion, power, and have more of a kick ass quality. Their previous installment, "Circle the Wagons", was a fairly powerful release and comparing it with this album, it sounds as if the band were aiming to make "Resistance" sound ten times more powerful and stronger than the rest. They certainly did not disappoint here.
Finally, I really like the fact that Darkthrone didn't ditch their roots. You listen to any song from this album and you will know straight away that it's a Darkthrone track. They still have that Darkthrone sound and vibe that they've always had. The crust punk vocals are still there, but they seem more refined and sound much better than previous albums. The guitars and other instruments are what you'd expect: the conventional Darkthrone at its finest. Don't get me wrong here, this album sounds way better than the last three or so albums they've put out. Everything has been improved musically and in terms of sound quality.
There's a downside to this album. Maybe it's just me, but I would've liked to have a few more tracks on this release. To me, six tracks seems a little short. I personally believe that we've waited for the new Darkthrone album for three years or so and to only get six tracks out of it seems a little bit unfair to say the least. Then again, it makes sense why the track "Leave No Cross Unturned" is thirteen minutes long in length to make up for the lack of songs on the album. Perhaps I'm being a little selfish and just enjoy with what we've been given by these Norwegian legends. Believe me, I'm enjoying every second of this album. Still, a few more tracks would be nice. We just crave more from these guys and it just goes to show that they have done a great job on this album.
"Resistance" was a real track and all the tracks really stood out on their own. Every single one sounded powerful and unique. I really enjoyed songs like "Valkyrie" and "Leave No Cross Unturned", both of which were orgasmic to the ear. It makes it sound like the legendary Darkthrone has returned to melt the faces of their fans once again. I certainly can't wait to see what the dynamic duo conjure up next. I hate to jump to the next thing, but I'm merely excited what their next album is going to sound like. Darkthrone never ceases to amaze me and others and this album easily is a competitor for the album of the year category. To sum it up, this album kicks major ass and I highly suggest you buy it and make it a part of your collection. You won't regret it.
It is with delicious irony that a band once recognised as upholding the truest of ideals from their scene of birth while all others changed (or went to prison) is now the one gloriously morphing into a unchallenged, untamed beast. For Darkthrone, this retrospective transformation through the last ten of their 25-year history reaches an apogee in "The Underground Resistance" where the deadly duo of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have made a record so devastatingly corrupt that as a fountain of inspiration for future metalheads it could knock at the doors of their quintessential early black metal material.
Despite being a strict no live shows band the Darkthrone boys are rarely out of the metal press these days thanks to the wonderfully outspoken Fenriz and his highly influential 'Band of the Week' blogs. Few veterans of any scene take such an interest in the underground and as an early recommender of Ghost, among others, his word carries credence, as has always been the case with his music. When the closing track from this LP, "Leave No Cross Unturned", was pushed online a few weeks before release I was not the only one frothing at the mouth for as an early indicator of style it positioned "The Underground Resistance" unashamedly in the 80's speed metal camp. A shift from the punky snarl of "Circle The Wagons" and "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" is no hint of the duo conforming to current trends; it would not be totally off-limits to suggest the prevailing underground trends are a reaction to the recent works of Darkthrone. Shunning digital production values, of course, the six tracks here fizz and bristle with enough pure passion to hopefully encourage more of the metal hordes so far unswayed by Darkthrone's revisionist efforts to take up arms and demand a similarly pure aesthetic from all modern acts.
The tracks penned by Fenriz in particular ("Valkyrie", "The Ones You Left Behind", "Leave No Cross Unturned") are filled with a sense of teenage enthusiasm and optimism as his banshee screams lead a furious charge of fast riffing in the style of ancient Slayer, Agent Steel or Exciter, while it is Culto's tunes that predominantly revel in the Celtic Frost influenced crust that has always been the cornerstone of the DT sound. Opener "Dead Early" is the fastest of Culto's three, morphing from a classic metal riff into a bass-heavy punk charge distinguished by his weathered drawl before "Valkyrie" sets Fenriz loose. His wailing vocals are surprisingly coherent but it is in knowing them to be the release of internal fires and not natural talent that endears. Slowing to a close with a touch of epic Manilla Road riffing it marks a neat contrast in the songwriting styles of the two. "Lesser Men" by comparison sounds much angrier but as the rhythms hark to distant works of their back-catalogue Culto's solos now better display the classic metal spirit for an altogether less hostile atmosphere, at least for those with a historical background in Darkthrone.
"The Ones You Left Behind" is a lyrical homage to past protectors of the heavy metal flame, specifically dedicated to the sound of 1984 in the liner notes and musically a brasher more punchdrunk version of the many obscure acts they are worshipping in the song. "Come Warfare, The Entire Doom" flies off some great rhythm riffs from the guitar of Culto atop the appreciatively simple drum backing from Fenriz, before the speed frenzy of "Leave No Cross Unturned" kicks in, leaving no stone unturned in a desire to peddle the most furiously catchy opening to an extreme metal song in a long time. The speed does drop to allow the Celtic Frost quotient to be fixed with the ratchet being picked up again before finally the classic pounding Darkthrone riffing closes the songs' overly elongated 14 minutes.
The wider state of metal may ultimately lay beyond the abilities even of Darkthrone but as a work of both protest and emancipation "The Underground Resistance" marks the most consistent of their recent works and lays forth such a feast of riffs that the winds of change will do well to miss this mark.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
As humans, it can be difficult for us to admit that we occasionally need to give up and go back to the drawing board, no matter what the situation may be. In music, the same applies; some bands may have experimented as much as they can with a certain style, or may have simply run out of ideas and lost their direction. When all else fails, it's usually a good idea to go back to basics, whatever those basics might be. While some, be it St. Anger by Metallica or The World Needs a Hero by Megadeth, may have been extremely weak reboots while some have pulled it off marvelously. Just look at Voivod's new record, Target Earth, for example; even knowing that the band's strongest link had passed away, they managed to set their time aside and release a hell of an album.
With different circumstances, this seems to be the case for Darkthrone's biggest triumph, The Underground Resistance. A household name in extreme metal, Darkthrone unfortunately started to slightly lose their way after the 1991-1994 legendary black metal trilogy was released. The addition of crust punk influences later in their career only added to the disappointment (though some may argue otherwise), and the polarized views people had of the band came in droves. So the next logical step for the duo was to...make a classic speed metal album mixing the old with the new? I'll admit, I thought this would be a trainwreck after hearing the news about their new direction...and let me tell you, I was dead wrong.
In the six songs within, Darkthrone play a blend of classic speed metal/thrash, black metal, doom metal, and numerous other stylistic hints here and there. Contrary to the last few releases, there's only a slight punk influence here. The vocals range from gruff thrash grunts, to the occasional black metal shriek, to dramatic power metal-esque chants, and so forth. Every song has a different vibe and yet somehow the band manage to tie every mood together with their trademark sound. The emotions vary from song to song, among them triumphant, hopeless, hopeful, angry, determined, etc.; the musical backing is always helping to convey these thoughts perfectly. Take the acoustic motif that kicks off "Valkyrie", for instance. The hollow minimalism of the sole acoustic guitar is strong enough to carry the feeling of distance and loneliness on its own, but when the doom metal riff follows, the entire musical portrait is realized. As the lead guitar soars over the burdening heaviness, there is thought to be a sense of hope all the same. Powerful imagery indeed.
Other songs are speed metal frenzies from the get-go, and even the thirteen-minute epic, "Leave No Cross Unturned", takes a stab at Hammerfall-meets-Overkill power thrash before opting for a mid-tempo swing and progressing from there. Similarly, "The Ones You Left Behind" sounds like a song from Metallica's Kill 'Em All if it was modernized and given a nice facelift in terms of songwriting quality. While its E-standard guitar riff is a dime a dozen, the chorus is really where the song hits home; the near-operatic vocals meld with the stop-start guitar work make this climactic portion a joy to listen to. Such moments like these are littered about the album and the consistency of the record only makes the whole experience even easier to digest. That, and the variety and the balance of how the band use each genre is just incredible. Want some of that aforementioned black metal? Get an earful of the blackened "doom" (it does pick up speed frequently, but generally has a doom metal-like atmosphere) number "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom". Want a nice shot of adrenaline? Listen to opener "Dead Early" or "The Ones You Left Behind". Want a moment to take in some atmosphere? Listen to "Valkyrie"'s folk elements and reflective nature. You get the idea.
It's tough to give this release the justice it deserves, so my only recommendation is that you buy it immediately. Whether you're a fan of black metal, thrash metal, death metal, progressive metal, or ANY kind of metal, this is one record that needs to be heard. It needs an audience. It needs to be listened to by heavy metal veterans as well as anybody who's listening to metal for the first time. This album is the sound of a band back in high gear after a long dull patch, and after a record like The Underground Resistance, it's time to treat them like kings. Darkthrone are back, and this may be the biggest crowning heavy metal achievement in recent years. Welcome back, guys!
Over the last eight years Darkthrone has undergone quite the change in sound. Starting with The Cult is Alive the band who epitomized "pure black metal" has blended elements of punk rock and various other types of metal (traditional, thrash, speed) into its sound. At first, punk was strongest element in the new Darkthrone sound, but with each proceeding album both the punk and black metal elements have faded in significance while the traditional metal elements have become more pronounced. With Underground Resistance—Darkthrone's fifth album since "the change," sixteenth overall—Darkthrone can no longer be described as black metal in any respect. They are now a heavy metal band whose primary influence is the NWOBHM, though Celtic Frost and viking-era Bathory are also major influences on this record.
Underground Resistance is the biggest and heaviest Darkthrone has sounded in ages. The guitars are nice and meaty while the bass and drums are thunderous. Yet, Darkthrone achieve a bigger sound without betraying its lo-fi aesthetic. The sound is still gritty and direct. Ferniz and Nocturno Culto offer two very distinct vocal styles. Ferniz provides falsetto wails that at times, are surprisingly good. His delivery on “Valkyrie,” for example, has a startling amount of power and bravado. Nocturno Culto does a very good Tom G. Warrior impression, offering a low, gravely hybrid of singing and growling. Both vocalists can be sloppy and times but nonetheless, their performances fit within the overall aesthetic of the record.
In contrast to previous Darkthrone records, the songs are fewer in quantity and longer in length. The change in songwriting has given Darkthrone a level of focus that has been lacking for ages. Though there are fewer overall riffs and more repetition, the quality of the riffs is very high, so you won't mind listening to the same three or four riffs over and over. While the riffs range from slow and harmonious to fast and slashing, they all share an epic flare that gives the album a unified spirit. The album cover captures the spirit of Underground Resistance quite well; these songs will have you envisioning barbarian hordes storming down mountainsides, prepared to die for the old gods. Yup, this album is fucking epic. Yet, even with an endless supply of kickass riffs and excellent atmosphere, it's hard to ignore just how derivative Underground Resistance can be. On a number of occasions Darkthrone fall into overindulgent passages of Celtic Frost worship that will make you wonder if you'd be better off just listening to To Mega Therion.
While Underground Resistance is the best Darkthrone album in ages, fans need to know what to expect going in. This is a very good piece of retro heavy metal full of awesome riffs, beastly drumming, and inconsistent but somewhat endearing vocals. If you look past the iconic logo and take it for what it is, then you're ready to enjoy a good old fashioned headbang, but if you can't get over the fact that these are the same guys that produced the “Unholy Trilogy” then you should probably pass this one by.
Originally written for Deafsparrow.com
From the evil, cold and grim mountains of Norway, oh wait this is not a black metal album...
There is some releases that I am actually looking forward to during the course of 2013, but I certainly wasn't looking forward to the new Darkthrone when it was announced with cover art and so on. I definitely do enjoy some nostalgia with some of their old black metal and occasionally some of their death metal as well. So when word came out that The Underground Resistance would be released I really couldn't care less because of the band's development into punk through out the last couple of years. And for the record, I do not like punk. At all.
But of course my mind was changed when a friend of mine told me it was like speed metal. To be honest my first reaction was: "You have got to be shitting me", but I was not dumped upon. There definitely is a good range of influences on this album. Heavy metal and speed metal are the primal influences and there is also a bit of Viking, but that is solely because of the track Valkyrie. Speaking of that track, when you look at the album and the tracks it contain Valkyrie is kind of misplaced in a way as it got that Viking metal influence to it and unlike the other tracks it got clean vocals the whole way through. But since it is the surprise of the year, I guess it was coming anyway, and do not think that it is a bad track, it is actually pretty good and I wouldn't say that there really is any weak tracks on the album.
Leave No Cross Unturned is the song that changed my mind about the new Darkthrone as it was the song that was put up back when the album's release date or something like that was released. The track reaches almost 14 minutes in total length and that is pretty long for a heavy/speed song, and maybe it should have been cut into two tracks. I actually can't quite decide because it doesn't really feel like it is that long when you listen to it, and that is a very fortunate thing for the track that it hasn't been dragged out! Or maybe it is dragged out and just too awesome for it to be a problem? Decide for yourself. A little side note, for the fans of the bands early black metal it contains a funny little gem for you/us. Simply wait till the 6:22 mark.
The band hired a new man to do the album artwork for them in the likes of Jim Fitzpatrick. Maybe the name doesn't really ring a bell at first but Jim did create most of the cover art for legendary Thin Lizzy and has also made a cover for Manilla Road. For an album in the genre it is, the cover could be kind of misleading as it features Vikings... But the track 'Valkyrie' makes up for that! Great cover and hopefully they'll keep Jim on board for the next album.
When it comes to the tracks of choice regarding The Underground Resistance the mandatory winners are: Dead Early, Valkyrie, The Ones You Left Behind and Leave No Cross Unturned. Fenriz really gets the shit done on the drums, it is catchy and serves the album quite right. As for the guitar work. Just splendid, I did not know those two guys had it in them. There is heavy metal, then some speed influences, but also slower sections, and with solos to fit it at some times. I would like to find a way to clap my hands while still writing this review, because they did such a good job on the album. No matter if you're an old fan or new, this is something that must be checked out.
I named this review "Surprise of the Year" because I did not see it coming, obviously. Even though we at the moment of this review are in the beginning of 2013 I think at least for my own musical taste and also when I look upon what else is coming out this has got to be the surprise of the year. A really good one indeed! Who knows, maybe the next Darkthrone album will be Viking metal, it wouldn't even surprise me... or?
I am not really going to speak on behalf of the catalogue of Darkthrone since I haven't been through it. My listens primarily reaches their work up till '95. I have heard some of the newer Darkthrone in the punk vein, but as I mentioned earlier... I do not like that. This is such a fresh release and I would not mind if Darkthrone made another album in the likes of The Underground Resistance, though it only contains 6 tracks and reaches just above 40 minutes of playtime. For the tricky part, who the hell should I recommend this album to? If you expect crust punk you're in for a disappointment and the same if you expect black metal. If you however are open for an amazing sound heavy/speed metal album you won't be disappointed at all! Give it a try and if doesn't appeal to you, then try again.
Written for The Legacy Reviews
Originally written for Me Gusta Reviews. www.megustareviews.com
Darkthrone is one of the most notorious names within the heavy metal community. So notorious, in fact, that one cannot carry out a conversation about heavy metal without dropping the band "Darkthrone" once or twice (or so it seems). Along with the household name, the band is known for their unique attitude and for their strong ability to play whichever genre of metal that they wish. Not only can Darkthrone play whichever genre of metal they please, but they seem to blow "seasoned" bands, be it death metal bands, black metal bands, crust punk bands, and heavy metal bands (genres they have played in their respective order), out of the water! The much-anticipated release by this grim duo has been well worth the wait! The Underground Resistance not only pushes further into the genre of crust punk (the genre Darkthrone has been playing around with on recent past releases), but it delves further into the genres of heavy metal, all while holding on to the bands notable black metal sound.
Upon looking at the track list, I was surprised to see only 6 songs. Quickly overcoming my surprise and remembering that I was dealing with Darkthrone (they can do whatever they want), I quickly began listening to The Underground Resistance. One element of the album that was pleasing was the way Darkthrone arranged the songs. The band starts short and sweet and finishes in huge, grandiose fashion. What I mean by my previous sentence is that Darkthrone starts the album with 4 songs that all average out at the 4 minute mark and finish with 2 long songs (8 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively). Darkthrone wastes no time in setting the tone with "Dead Early". The killer groove that is established shortly after the songs midpoint is worth all the headbangs! Keeping with the opening pace, Darkthrone throws riff after tasty riff, build after successful build at the listener in preparation for the final 2 numbers, "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" and "Leave No Cross Unturned". Along with "Dead Early", "Leave No Cross Unturned" is a song that I am particularly fond of. Darkthrone fill all 13 minutes and 50 secs of time with immense builds and excellent riffs; riffs reminiscent of the bands old school death metal and black metal days with some crust punk spice. Be advised, "Leave No Cross Unturned" will ruin your neck! A final note to the musical side of this album, it was mentioned above that the band pursued further into the heavy metal (traditional heavy metal) genre as well as crust punk. I say this because many of the vocal parts take direct influence from the NWOBHM, however the uses of such vocal stylings are tastefully placed to fit, and function, very well over a particular riff.
To back up these great tracks is some razor sharp production! Nothing is lost in this mix and the sound of the band is sharper than diamonds. On a final note, Darkthrone is able to sound great without sounding over produced. Nothing is flawless or "too perfect" sounding, the music leaves room to breathe, and a raw feel is accurately conveyed to the listener.
The drumming, well... Fenriz does what Fenriz does, and he does it well! Another great performance from a heavy metal veteran!
Honestly, I was not expecting to take to this album as strongly as I did. I have always been a fan of Darkthrones' black metal records more than anything else they have ever done. Hell, even their recent crust punk releases didn't really speak to me! Finally, I have found the crust punk Darkthrone album I enjoy, The Underground Resistance! Packed full of excellent songs, well crafted and well exceuted musical build-ups, and a tasteful mix of each members musical influences, Darkthrone have once again set a high bar in the crust punk community. Clearly, the band is not anywhere close to folding up their banner! Support Darkthrone by buying this album, and as much merchandise as your bank account allows!
You love them. You hate them. You used to enjoy them, but now you cannot stand them. Flip the script. Few bands get both the hackles and beers raised as often as Darkthrone, and it seems each new release is a theatrical event missing only the popcorn. Thankfully, due to the advent of the microwave oven, we can rectify this. 'Goddamnit, I fuckin' loathe these poseurs and sellouts', quoth the twenty something armchair hack who fancies himself a 1st-2nd generation black metaller, who hates and trolls the world, privately wishing he had the time machine to back his claim. As if the notion of a band like this, with a long history of obscure and inaccessible audio recordings behind them, incorporating influences from music no one at large really gives a shit about, somehow justifies the claim that they're in it for the money, or they're 'artistic failures' because they tried to match two different shoelaces on their latest sneaker line. Hey, Vlad, how about you go troll some panties? Or some boxer briefs (I wouldn't wanna presume...). I'm not asking that you step out into the sunlight or anything drastic, but it might be time to harden the fuck up, take out the fake fangs, brush off the dandruff and church ashes, and get yourself a ghoulfriend (or equivalent).
Newsflash: musicians change. Bands change. It's a kinetic universe. Even the planets are fucking moving. Even the dead ones. You either change with them, change of your own accord, or you stagnate. 'I'll gladly take stagnant over something...different!' Really? I was wondering where that smell was coming from. Yeah, I realize that Motörhead somehow scored itself an exemption clause to this rule, but Nocturno Culto and Fenriz have been evolving, devolving, and sidestepping for well over 20 years now, and to their credit, just about every choice they've made has proven pretty entertaining. Ever since I first picked up a copy of Soulside Journey on cassette, wholly ignorant of what the future would bring, theirs was a journey worth signing up for. In fact, I can say without any hesitation that I've enjoyed every Darkthrone record to date. Yes, even Goatlord. Even Plaguewielder. And, yeah, the 'punk' years, the 'speed metal' years, when the death-gone-black duo started digger into their record collections, and expanding their quest for inspiration beyond their copies of Deathcrush, Morbid Tales, Under the Sign of the Black Mark and Apocalyptic Raids 1990 AD. So be it. Without this period of experimentation, I wouldn't have gotten Dark Thrones and Black Flags, one of my favorite of all their works, and one of my favorite metal albums of the 21st century to date.
Darkthrone has gotten goofier. More endearing. Self-referential, beyond a doubt. They're not putting out records like A Blaze in the Northern Sky anymore (they've been there and done that). Neptune Towers is ancient history. The Underground Resistance is perhaps the friendliest record these two have released beneath this moniker, and as billed, it continues to carve out the members' nostalgia for antiquated metal by mashing it into their Celtic Frost-ed fundamentals and seeing what happens. Sure, to some degree this is influenced by Fenriz' fanaticism for the sounds of the 80s. His roots love. His 'bands of the week'. But you have to give these two credit: through the process of retroactive evolution, they're churning out something refreshing and welcome. Just about everyone with a pulse who pays attention to metal news heard all the presages and doomsayers about how they'd be searching for an 'epic heavy metal' style after the largely speed metal-inspired Circle the Wagons. In truth, while there are faint whiffs of early Manowar, Thor, Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, and post-black/thrash Bathory, this fruit actually doesn't fall far from its 2010 tree. Surprisingly, the more 'epic' this record got, in terms of the more baseline heavy metal riffs and sillier clean vocals, the less I actually liked it...
Which leads me to a shocking conclusion, well before the actual conclusion: The Underground Resistance is the first Darkthrone studio album I would not qualify as 'great'. It's 'good', and I've been having a blast listening to half the tracks here, but certain overlong numbers and one particularly weak (if well intended) tune create a lot of inconsistency whenever I'm listening through in the proper order. I dug that they'd returned to the 'less is more' philosophy of their formal years (having first evolved into their black metal sound), but it's a double edged sword. With just six songs, you've got to fire on all cylinders, and I felt that the album's decision to back load its bloated content gave it a lopsided feel. Not that the cleverly titled "Leave No Cross Unturned" doesn't have its moments, but it sure as shit doesn't have fourteen of them, and even the superior "Come Warfare, The Entire Doom" could have used a slight hedge clipping. Not because the riffs are lacking, or that they've not pulled off some lengthy tunes in the past, but these don't exactly pad themselves out in any meaningful way. I kept waiting for buried thrills, and found none.
Yet the primary offender, "Valkyrie", comes earlier on in the proceedings. This, more than any other, is an honest attempt to create that epic heavy metal feel so publicized by the band and its slathering fans. It's the furthest from the Darkthrone comfort zone, in that it consists of pure speed/heavy metal with some doom and punk elements. No blackening. Fenriz' vocals throughout are almost entirely clean (there are some raving, harsher barks to give it personality), and unfortunately rather tuneless. I get what he was going for, and these sorts of quirky hooks worked for him in Isengard or on earlier 'throne tunes like "The Winds They Call the Dungeon Shaker", but there is nothing in there to snag me, and coupled with the really bland and boring guitar melodies and the rather underwhelming chord progressions, it fails to leave an impact in the midst of harder, Culto-fronted crushers like "Dead Early" and "Lesser Men". That's another thing, too. The N.C. sounds so goddamn good through this record, his ravenous T.G. Warrior-like rambling so archaic, like a tomb opening after a century of neglect, that the cleans sound absolutely ludicrous in contrast...
That's not to say they're all a bust, because on "The Ones You Left Behind" the biting cleans are delivered with a grisly harmonic arrangement that works in the context of the song, but it seems as if too little emphasis was put on making them consistently catchy. In terms of the riffs, there are easily a good dozen or so on the disc that stick out, like the blistering, full-bore speed metal stylings in "The Ones You Left Behind", "Come Warfare, The Entire Doom" or "Dead Early". Nothing revolutionary, mind you, and in truth if you heard them on any obscure heavy metal record from the early to mid 80s you might just ignore them, but it's how they mix and match them with their slower, muscular Celtic Frost grooves that creates variety and balance. The highlight for me personally was the melody embedded into the bridge of "The Ones You Left Behind", which just hit me from nowhere and had me pressing the repeat button numerous times. The grand finale, "Leave No Cross Behind" also has some real scorchers in their, but I think the ideas might have been better served in 2-3 separate, shorter tunes, because they don't seem to transitional all that smoothy or emotionally.
In addition to Culto, who has really been on fire of late with this and his work in Sarke, the production is an obvious highlight. The guitars are enormous, with great reverb on the melodies and in the chords themselves that attain the larger than life, airy aesthetics of 80s metal. This is one zephyr primed for headbanging. The drums are crystal clear while retaining that live studio quality most of their records are known for, and the bass is copious. Corpulent. Not always written well, since most of the lines fall behind the rhythm guitar and stay there, but at least you can feel that low end once "Dead Early" picks up momentum, and it never ceases whenever the riffs are pounding along. I may personally prefer some of their darker mixes from the 90s, because I tend to enjoy the nuances (and even the sloppiness) of those grimy and formative years, but those seeking a blast of in the face heavy metal will not be disappointed by how fulsome and level The Underground Resistance sounds at any volume. As for the lyrics, they're as usually pretty good, trying to come off 'dumber' than they really are, but packed with striking images that makes you think (the one exception being "The Ones You Left Behind" which is more about shouting and rhyming the 'ing' suffix).
Ultimately, this album would have been a lot better without "Valkyrie", and with "Leave No Cross Unturned" chopped and rearranged into two different songs, but I still had a good enough time that I don't feel my money was ill spent. Of course, I'm an incalculable manwhore for this band and their side projects, so your own mileage may vary, but if you loved the shit out of Circle the Wagons then it's a safe recommendation. I didn't get a whole lot of the Manilla Road/Omen flavor I was sort of expecting, and there aren't any tunes as infectious as a "Hiking Metal Punks", "Eyes Burst at Dawn", or "...Dungeon Shaker", but its worth it just to listen to N. Culto's howling and a stellar mix redolent of rhinoceros-driven chariots across a Roman Empire battlefield. Or were they elephants?! Regardless, if you're on the way to pick this up and you happen to see Imperator Vlad of the Flat Earth Black Metal Society hiding out in the shade of a tree or awning, buy the guy a cheeseburger or some bus fare. You'll be alright, buddy. The world's moving on. Here's a ticket.
One of the more embarrassing habits that tends to be exhibited by critics of any art form, be it those annoying well-known ones or those slightly less-known and less annoying ones (mostly because they never get read), is that of speaking too soon. The writer of this review is himself guilty of an all too common sub-species of this miscalculation which could be dubbed the "this is the strangest shift in style ever heard of" fallacy. This could be seen as a forgivable offense when used in reaction to Celtic Frost's "Cold Lake" or Discharge's "Grave New World", but even those aberrations fail to capture exactly what has transpired with the premier of Darkthrone's newly concocted 15th studio album "The Underground Resistance".
In contrast to the expected motive of audience pandering, what occurs here is about as far removed from anything that could be mistaken for seeking after sales from either mainstream circles or the growing wing of fashionable non-conformists lapping up the so-called "cult" side of black metal. It is still recognizably possessed of the earliest black metal influences attributable to Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom and Mercyful Fate, but also loaded with epic power/speed metal elements that hearken towards something a lot closer to Manilla Road mixed with Quorthon's Viking era material. The songs are generally up tempo, yet simultaneously avoiding the blast happy tendencies of the 2nd wave sound in favor for the traditional speeding approach of early 80s Motorhead. Truth be told, this is arguably the most overtly 80s album that Darkthrone has ever put out, if going by the roads a bit less traveled during said era.
The first thing that leaps out from the opening throws of "Dead Early" is a combination of light rawness meshed with a somewhat polished production, not all that far removed from the last couple offerings out of Mark Shelton's projects, though the drums are actually a good bit more thunderous and exuding an uncharacteristic amount of clarity compared to Fenris' previous stints behind the kit in the studio. Soon following is a duality between doom leaning guitar themes and a generally speed/thrashing rhythmic demeanor that is not unheard of, but definitely uncharacteristic of Fenris and Nocturno's numerous works. Special attention should be given to the frequent lead guitar breaks, which don't quite reach the level of indulgent jam shredding that Shelton does with Manilla Road, yet is far more adventurous and captivating than anything that this band has done since "Soulside Journey".
For the most part, the arrangement tends to be simply and doesn't really exploit the frequent switch-up approach known to thrash metal bands from the 80s, but there is definitely an effort at development at play here. The album pretty much starts on a decent note and proceeds to get better and better with each song, culminating in two very well accomplished epics at the tail end of the album. "Come Warfare, The Entire Doom" proves to be an intricate mix of dragging doom themes played at high tempo with a smattering of tremolo picked riffs that hint at an early death/thrash sound, complete with a semi-guttural snarl that was the common vocal approach before Chris Barnes and David Vincent started going deeper. "Leave No Cross Unturned" kicks things off in a driving thrash fury not all the far from early Exodus with a denser guitar tone, before navigating through a variety of high tempo changes and shouted ravings, topped off with the occasional vocal homage to King Diamond out of Fenris.
It's a foregone conclusion that a lot of Darkthrone's regulars who managed to weather the change in sound that came in with "The Cult Is Alive" will be scratching their heads at this one, let alone what the archaic purists who swore off everything after "Transylvanian Hunger", and it is equally inevitable that this band will hardly be bothered at such a turn of events. These guys are making music entirely on their own terms, refusing to even dignify the calls for more cliche black masses at moonlight, and it is a delight to follow them as they continue to buck the trends and the naysayers while continuing to make great music in a variety of forms. Unsheathe your swords and prepare for a different kind of battle, and don't skip up on the mead.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 8, 2013.
Darkthrone needs no introduction. Their influence on extreme metal is almost unparalleled and the band has more than their share of timeless classics. After conquering all they possible could in the black metal category the band changed their approach and started infusing elements of crust punk and heavy metal though never entirely moving from their roots. This started from their album in 2006 entitled ‘The Cult is Alive’ and the band proceeded to release a string of albums that sounded rather different from each other though never they were all essentially Black/Crust albums with hints of heavy metal. It was evident from the aural experience as well as the lyrics that the band were having fun. Anyone who has been following the band, even if it has only been from their punk infused music days (however unlikely that may be), one thing has been evident. That has been the gradual shift from crust and the inclusion of the more traditional, heavier and thrashier sound. So, as the band releases its 16th album on Peaceviile Records (a label that has released albums from some big bands in the music industry like Opeth, Katatonia, Anathema and Pentagram to name a few) entitled ‘The Underground Resistance’ one could expect another album which embraced the traditional sound a bit more and let go of the punk attitude music a bit more.
‘The Underground Resistance’ is in a plethora of ways much much different from what the duo of Fenriz and Nocturno has ever done. Containing only 6 songs but lasting 42 minutes the band has opted for quality more than quantity and with long tracks the band will test the listener’s patience at times. The music on this record can be defined as a combination of Of Black Metal, Thrash metal, Heavy metal, speed metal, power metal and crust punk. It is not like the band choose to mesh all these genres together in each and every track but instead chose to pick a few of these genres per song and move on to the next and this is the reason no two tracks sound similar and make my job as a reviewer that much tougher because as much as I hate track by track reviews the band leaves me no choice here.
The album starts off with ‘Dead Early’ and as soon as it hits you one thing is clear and that is that the band unsurprisingly has shed the punk sound a bit more and embraced a heavier more traditional approach. If you’ve been a fan of the band’s last few albums there is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy this track with punky vocals and riffs (that would have made ‘Fast Eddie’ proud) played out with a tuning more suitable for a proper black metal album. Throughout the track the band plays with a Motorhead sensibility and even though it is less than 5 minutes in length it a bit dragged out. Nothing special this track and is a lukewarm album opener. It is the second track entitled ‘Valkyrie’ where things start getting interested. Starting off on an acoustic guitar this track is the unlikely mix of traditional metal, old school power metal mixed with a tingle of black metal. While the song structure if based on traditional metal Fenriz tries his hand on the operatic siren like power metal vocals while the cymbal work on the drums as well the guitar tuning is more suited to a typical black metal abum. As the soaring chorus of the track has a definite epic Manilla Road feel to it you cannot but praise the song writing skills the band has expressed here. The tempo changes, the placing everything here is brilliant, and as the track ends on a beautifully soaring melodic outo that conjures images of the artwork in your mind you can understand why this track will be many’s favourite track off of the record. Proceeding to track number three entitled ‘Lesser Men’ which starts off with a blatant rip off of the famous Mercyful Fate track named ‘A Dangerous Meeting’ the influence of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer in the drumming, vocals and riffs permeates through this track and acts as the precursor of what is to come for the rest of album. Yep, expect a lot of First Wave of Black metal worship from now. As contrasted to the previous track there are a lot of gruff Celtic Frost vocals here as well as the Hellhammer riffs. Also as contrasted to the previous track the song writing is bad and like the first track this song as well seems too stretched. The fourth track ‘The Ones You Left Behind’ is essentially more of the same stuff but instead of gruff vocals there is a duo of operatic vocals as well as raspy vocals. Like Valkyrie this track has a great melodic section here with an atmospheric build up and heavy metal influenced solo but the tempo change from this section to a more upbeat part is bad and really breaks the flow of what was a great track. It just seems forced and out of place. This brings us the last two tracks which length wise make up half the album. The first of these entitled ‘Come Warfare, The Entire Doom’ lasting more than 8 minutes sheds off all influences except Celtic Frost/Hellhammer with the simplistic heavy and catchy riffs with raspy vocals with a good bit of Venom thrown in. Even with the long track length it never gets tedious even with hardy any riffs and just one small guitar solo in the end. The last track is the epic of the album, and clocking in at 13:49 minutes (of course, the length has to deliberate, and for those who don’t know 1349 was the year of the infamous Bubonic Plague in Europe) entitled ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’. The riffs, the clean vocals which are at time operatic is the bands take on old school power metal. Fenriz never sounded better with his clean vocals approach and the track starts off strongly with his strong vocals and catchy riffs. It doesn’t take long for the abundant Celtic Frost worship to come in once again with those simple catchy riffs, supporting drumming and gruff vocals. Amidst the tempo changes and the switching between Celtic Frost worship and old school power metal worship even though this song doesn’t have enough changes in the tempo or enough riffs to warrant the massive track length the band manages to pull it off in all its epicness and glory.
This amount of Celtic Frost worship could be expected though. If anyone had seen the promo photos of Darkthrone there was a pic where some felt the band was throwing a pace sign, but if one noticed carefully it was homage to the famous cover of Celtic Frost’s “To Mega Therion”. This latest release is definitely a grower though, because a solitary or maybe two listens will not let you get hold of everything that is going around here. Just for the sake of summarization this album has elements of heavy metal, speed metal, power metal, 2 waves of black metal, thrash metal and crust punk. The vocals range from clean to operating to gruff to punky and to raspy. The track lengths vary from 4 minutes to 14, and from aggressive to laid back to atmospheric to epic. Though it was wise of the band not to incorporate all these elements on each track together because that would just have been a clusterfuck, this albums seem to me an attempt to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck. Because of the variance of style of tracks the band has little or no fluidity and continuity and seems like the band doesn’t really know what they want to achieve. Unlike previous albums where the band had their fun this was a serious attempt at creating some good music however on previous releases, the band knew what they wanted, a good time, but here the band seems unsure and confused of what they want. That being said it if definitely a better release than the last few albums and has enough on it even amidst the poor song writing to warrant a few listens except of course ‘Valkyrie’ and the brilliant epic ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’.
[Originally posted on http://toolatetopray.blogspot.in/]
Darkthrone is interesting because, despite what anyone says about them, they just don’t give a shit. Their entire aesthetic and songwriting practice seems to be based on emulating their old heroes and, consequently, winging out a never ending stream of cool riffs that gallop and flay like medieval crusaders on a blood-thirsty rampage. It’s hard to tell them that they’re being unoriginal hacks because really all they’re doing is getting drunk off their asses, putting on some Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate and Venom records and just turning them up to 11 while penning down songs, and if they can write such awesome music as they have in the last 5 years while doing that, who are we to complain?
The fact that they don’t care is part of the whole idea! It’s almost satirical of the entire metal scene after 1990 – here are two old school vets, with several classic holy-cow albums under their belts, and rather than succumb to that black-metal superstardom that morons like Gaahl and Varg Vikernes have succumbed to and just ride on controversy and infamy, the Darkthrone boys have chosen to release albums with no coherent theme between them, no real songwriting aesthetic besides ‘80s!!’ and no real credence given to any kind of serious philosophy or lyrical ideology – all things that are directly anathema to what the black metal kiddies want. Darkthrone do what they want and it’s pretty hilarious to see the reactions sometimes. However, on this new album The Underground Resistance, in which they’ve decided to turn their crosshairs to Manilla Road/Omen-style epic metal, I can’t help but think they’ve fallen a bit short of expectations.
For one, maybe it is just a personal thing on my part. After all, I listen to bands like Manilla Road and Omen all the time, so my expectations are naturally higher. It’s not that I don’t think this is good – it is. But it’s not that great. The previous new-era Darkthrone albums like FOAD were masterworks of loose, jamming guitars and the mastery of the rocking guitar riff – they exuded attitude and style like it was natural. On this album, I don’t really get that at all. The production is muddier and less sharp, so the riffs stand out less, and what riffs there are just don’t really gel as truly awesome – a lot of them repeat way too much in the confines of the longer song structures, and while Darkthrone tries their hands at making longer more “progressive” songs, it’s not totally there yet.
I just don’t think this is as memorable an album as the last couple. Everything is sufficiently old school and retro, without ever sounding poser-ish, but the songs aren’t as good – there is nothing here to match killers like “These Shores Are Damned” and “Oath Minus” off the last few albums, let alone the killer “Stylized Corpse” or “These Treasures Will Never Befall You.” For the first time, a Darkthrone album just makes me want to turn on albums by the bands they’re aping, rather than listen to the full Darkthrone album. I’m not going to say it’s bad or anything, as on songs like “Valkyrie,” “The Ones Left Behind” and the awesome Mercyful Fate-esque “Leave No Cross Unturned,” they do a good job at busting the heads of any posers in the vicinity. But none of them are really that memorable, maybe save for the howling chorus of “Leave No Cross Unturned.” None of them really stick in my head much. And generally, there’s also much less of the unhinged craziness that those other recent albums had. There’s a lot less of the odd lyrical musings, the strange vocal inflections, et cetera – Darkthrone has dialed down the humorous “ironic” touch to their music that made it so gleefully fun in recent years, and as a consequence, I don’t think this is quite as enjoyable.
I’ve been listening to this for a week or so and I enjoy it; really I do. But for an album like this to work, you really need to get awesome fucking riffs, which this album largely does not have. It has good riffs, sure, but the other recent Darkthrone albums have all had better ones in spades. There’s really just no comparison: between the jagged, flailing, head-stomping riffs on Dark Thrones and Black Flags, the searing Paganized heavy metal ownage on FOAD and the total Maiden worship on Circle the Wagons, this album falls short. I applaud Darkthrone’s efforts to go for this kind of sound, because it’s a good sound to copy, but they’ll need better songs next time.
Darkthrone has always been a very divisive band for me personally. From the minute I heard Under a Funeral Moon I was in love with their particular brand of stripped down, raw black metal; beyond the corpse paint and cover art, they were a no frills, no unnecessary elements, neck-destroying band. A lot of this could be attributed to the heavy Celtic Frost influence their music contained, especially on Panzerfaust, which one could easily call a love letter to Tom G. Warrior's innovators of extreme metal through tracks like "Quintessence". On the other hand, the then-excellent Transilvanian Hunger style of black metal was copied by hundreds, probably thousands, of bands that merely took the template that record used and recycled it until it overtook black metal and became what many people generally believe the genre to mostly or entirely consist of at first glance, leading to dozens of bands that in my own listening tenure with extreme metal I wanted to reach through the record player and strangle someone for making such bad music. Many of these same copycats decried the band with their shift to a more punk influenced sound with The Cult is Alive in 2004, a style they continued with through 2008's Dark Thrones and Black Flags. 2010's Circle the Wagons brought the introduction of speed metal elements to the band, a sound which has become fully realized with The Underground Resistance. Make no bones about it, this is the best Darkthrone record not only of their post-black metal era, but since Under a Funeral Moon.
A lot of this album's charm comes with the balls out rocking atmosphere that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have created here. In the 42 minutes that The Underground Resistance plays for, you just know that these two men are having the time of their lives playing it, something that many of the more modern sounding albums of the here and now sorely lack due to their over-processed, sterile nature. Even with the louder, room vibrating volume this record plays at, you can sense that there is some genuine rock 'n' roll magic taking place in these songs. Musically, as alluded to earlier, the speed metal influences from Circle the Wagons have overtaken the album, leading to a unique yet very entertaining mixture of influences ranging from Agent Steel to Celtic Frost to early Mercyful Fate even. The former two are the most prevalent musical influence on The Underground Resistance, with the latter only really showing itself through the use of high pitched falsetto vocals that are occasionally sprinkled throughout the record (or in the case of "Leave No Cross Unturned", the second main vocal style). About half the record is slower and more on the doomy side of things, with "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" best showcasing this, while the other half is balls to the wall speed and intensity, seen through tracks like "Dead Early" and the 13-and-a-half minute barnstormer "Leave No Cross Unturned". The latter I feel deserves special mention, as to me it encompasses the entire record in one song; half crazy speed metal, and half Celtic Frost, not feeling unnatural in the slightest when the song transitions between the two styles. The record could be construed as a throwback album to speed metal's glory days in the 80s; if that's the case, then I am all for it. Retro-inspired metal has been shown to produce some excellent music, be it the Satanic Blue Oyster Cult of Ghost or Attic's pure King Diamond worship, right down to their vocalist potentially being easily mistaken for one Kim Petersen himself. As long as the music is good, I'm game for anything.
Now this is not to say that the band's most famous style, black metal, is entirely missing from The Underground Resistance. Tracks like "Come Warfare, the Entire Doom" mix this hybrid style with some blackened riffage peppered throughout the tune. The whole record in fact has this very distinct feeling to it that one will almost instantly recognize as being Darkthrone. Performance wise the group is just as good as they've always been, if not better. Fenriz and Culto split vocal duties on the record, and it's generally not too hard to discern one from the other; Fenriz uses the Tom Warrior-inspired groan and falsetto voice, and Culto's distinct blackened snarl is noticeable the moment he opens his mouth. The duo's traditional roles throughout most of Darkthrone's discography are no different here, with Culto taking guitars and Fenriz handling drum duties. Culto blazes away with reckless abandon and Fenriz pounds his kit into oblivion throughout the record, best showcased, once again, on "Leave No Cross Unturned". The abilities of both are on full display, Culto shredding and Fenriz smashing. It only adds to the sheer fun one will have when listening to the album, something, as mentioned earlier, sorely lacking in many albums released nowadays.
Darkthrone have shown with The Underground Resistance that not only are they in top form, but they are wiping the floor and ringing the wet out of all the bands that aped their early-to-mid-90s style with no care to add anything to it that would make them stand out from the squillions of other bands using that style at the same time. Even nowadays many bands prefer to just use the formula Darkthrone made popular and throw all ingenuity out the proverbial window. Merely rehashing the same ideas over and over again is most definitely not Darkthrone's preferred method of thinking, as The Underground Resistance takes inspiration from the great bands of yesteryear and builds on that inspiration to create a very easy contender for best record of 2013. With its balls out rocking feel, unique mixture of various metal styles, and the sense that the band is having a bigger blast than the Tsar Bomba playing and creating this material, Darkthrone and The Underground Resistance exceed all expectations and firmly secures their place as a band and record you will have no choice but to headbang to. A job well done indeed.