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Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance - 85%

ThrashManiacAYD, March 16th, 2013

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