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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.