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As someone said in a review before mine, there are 3 types of people when relating to this album. There are those who get it after a few listens, those who will never get it at all, and those who got it the minute they popped it in the CD player. I belong to the 3rd group. The year was 1998, December; almost 10 years ago. I had a friend who helped get me into extreme metal, and I in turn helped get him into more regular, or more mainstream, metal. We promised after finishing our football season to give each other one gift for the holidays. He asked for Master of Puppets by Metallica and I, wanting to test how he gets all his exposure to extreme metal, asked him for this album I'm reviewing. Lo and behold, the next day, he gave it to me. Haha, good times. So I eagerly went home after a little exercise and popped it in the player. Within hearing the first/title track of the album, I asked myself "WHAT THE HELL IS THE BIG PROBLEM WITH THIS ALBUM?"
Let me explain. Before getting this album, the only exposure I had to DarkThrone was Total Death, and a handful of websites with reviews and/or samples. There were no samples from this album back then, but you can bet your bottom dollar there were already a handful of sites complaining about it. I had such curiosity about this album, I knew there were a lot of people leading me to believe the production was horrible, but there were also an equal, if not greater, amount of people telling me this was the best Black Metal album there ever was at that time. So, going with the latter group's suggestions, I got the album, and was a bit skeptical. But hearing it, I found nothing to be worried about. When I heard it, all I could say was "Now this is Black Metal! The Black Metal I've wanted to hear. The one that people tout is so blasphemous, vicious and so aggressively metal!"
I must back track a bit, now that I remember, it wasn't just the production they were talking about, it was the repetitiveness, and (lack of) riffs. Well, they're right on both accounts. The album is insanely repetitive. On each song, I doubt you'll hear more than 3 or 4 different riffs. And only 1 or 2 of those are the ones used consistently in each song. The riffs are pretty much so simple, even a child or novice to the guitar can play them if they have a tablature. (If you don't believe me, try playing the main riff to "As Flittermice As Satans Spys") The riffs, however, are very good at what they do, which is creating a black, cold and evil atmosphere. It's as if you're stuck alone in an old castle at night, freezing, and you can hear some haunting chants from the dungeon or underground chamber. Not only that, but it is so trance-inducing and hypnotic, as is found in stuff like Burzum. Yes, it is those "simple, and so primitive that a child could have created them" riffs that make this album what it is. And IT is black metal. This album is truly what BASIC and TRUE Black Metal was meant to sound like. Maybe it's not the ugliest, most primitive or rawest (that belongs to Ildjarn imo), but without this album leading the way, the Black Metal scene of today would be VERY different. This album might not be the best anymore by today's standards, but it helped SET those standards. The drums are another factor. There is very little variation in the drums, but not to the point that it sounds like an Ildjarn record. But yea, the drums are typically really fast, almost blast-beat like, snare hits. Not much, if any double bass bursts/blasts. Even when the drums are slow, there is no variation, its hit at a constantly slow pace. As for the vocals, this album gives Nocturno Culto's best performance yet. His vocals have varied greatly from each album, but this is his best. Sure, he's no Vicotnik or Varg, but basically, he sounds like an evil knight from Hell, with a mission to spread the gospel of Satan.
In conclusion, this album achieved something no other Black Metal album could, has, or ever will do. This album is one of the foundations of modern Black Metal, and therefore will always have a special place in Black Metal fans' hearts. To the author, this is the best and ultimate Black Metal album. Every one of today's "true" black metal albums can be traced or related to Transilvanian Hunger. It is THAT important a stone in the building that is black metal. If Richard Wagner were still alive today and was going to make a black metal record, it would be either this or Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. Many bands try to do what this album has done, and 99.8% don't even come close.
As for album highlights, all the songs are great, but the weakest is "Over Fjell Og Gjennom Torner" since it is only about 3 minutes, and sounds too short. The best ones are undoubtedly "I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjod" and "As Flittermice as Satans Spys."