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Of all the Norwegian Second Wave black metal bands, Darkthrone has one of, if not the biggest, discography out there, putting out albums almost each year. The last few of those have taken the band on a unique path, unknown to any of their fellow bands: black metal mixed with punk, all in an unmistakable old-school shell. Although somewhat apparent on albums such as Sardonic Wrath and Hate Them, the punk sound truly became obvious on the subsequent album, The Cult is Alive, and on this, the preceding EP, Too Old Too Cold.
From the first few seconds of this EP’s title track it’s obvious what this is going to be: black metal morphed into a rocking, punk-influenced form of music that is so unique to modern Darkthrone. The riffs are rather catchy throughout, driving the music forward and showing Fenriz’s fascination with old thrash, punk and even rock and how he was influenced by said genres during these last few years. Here Fenriz’s drumming has nothing more to do with the droning, repetitive style of Transilvanian Hunger, instead being quite varied and highly reminiscent of 80’s punk and metal, mostly thrash.
High on Cold War is much less catchy and a lot harsher than the title track, as well as having vocals by Enslaved’s Grutle, who fits into the music perfectly. It starts off with a weird-sounding guitar solo and then continues as a sort of harsh punk/black metal hybrid song with a rather noisy guitar tone throughout. Like the title track, this is played very fast until around the last minute of the song, when everything slows down to a quasi-doom atmosphere.
The third track is also the definite highlight on the EP: Love in a Void, a cover of an old British punk rock band from the late 1970s, Siouxsie & the Banshees. The original is pure punk from the band’s early years, complete with female vocals and all. The Darkthrone version is rather different, obviously so from a vocal standpoint (Nocturno Culto may sound like a lot of things, but a woman is not one of them) but also in other respects. The instrumental work is louder and faster but the production’s a bit worse and it sounds, well, a lot more black metal than the original, which really have a 100% punk vibe going on. All in all the cover is significantly different from the original: production, vocals, tempo, drumming, guitars, everything really. That said, the song still rocks pretty damn hard and it’s nice to see Darkthrone covering stuff one wouldn’t expect from a black metal band.
Finally we have Graveyard Slut, here a different version from the one on the album. From the moment I’d heard it I wasn’t terribly impressed with this song’s approach but I must admit, the instrumental work is exemplary, very well played and the riffs are fun to listen to. It’s just the whole yelling of “Graveyard Slut!” with the occasional “Graveyard Bitch!” thrown in for variation which makes this song seem a bit… too simple, even stupid, although this is new Darkthrone and I guess that it’s meant to be that way.
Too Old Too Cold can be considered the first example of Darkthrone’s new side and as such it’s significant for the band’s history. Additionally, the EP is pretty damn good, fun to listen to, and, for myself at least, an indication that modern Darkthrone is something worth checking out because it rocks. Hard.