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Darkthrone's 1994 release Transilvanian Hunger is considered one of the classic and best albums in the genre that is Black Metal. It's raw sound has captivated many for over a decade now, and has been cited as an influence on black metal bands since it's release. But does it hold up, and is it really that good?
The album was released in 1994 under the seal of the record company Peaceville. This was Darkthrone's fourth album, and their third as a Black Metal band. The album was recorded in two separate sessions; one in December of 1993 for the instruments, and one in 1994 for the vocals. The album was actually recorded in it's entirety by the band's founding member Fenriz himself. While some people have considered this a rumor, Fenriz has stated in two interviews at least.
As with most early Darkthrone albums, a member of the band is featured on the cover. For this recording, Fenriz takes the cover. The album originally had a little controversy with a phrase on the back of the cover. Originally, the back cover featured the phrase Norsk Arisk Black Metal, which translates to Norwegian Aryan Black Metal. However due to the negative reception by many distributors, it was later changed to the band's signature phrase "True Norwegian Black Metal." Another little fun fact that some people might not be aware of, is that Varg Vikernes is credited on the album under his name Count Grishnackh. This is due to the fact that he wrote the lyrics for the lost four songs of the album. Many people who heard this back in '94 thought that because he wrote the lyrics, that he was the one who appeared on the cover.
The track list for the album is as follows:
1. Transilvanian Hunger
2. Over Fjell Og Gjennom Torner (the unofficial English translation is Over Mountains and Through Thorns)
3. Skald Av Satans Sol (the unofficial English translation is Scald Of Satan's Sun)
4. Slottet I Det Fjerne (the unofficial English translation is The Castle in the Distance)
5. Graven Takeheimens Saler (the unofficial English translation is Tombs in the Misty Halls)
6. I En Hall Med Flesk Og Mjød (the unofficial English translation is In a Hall With Meat and Mead)
7. As Flittermice As Satans Spys
8. En As I Dype Skogen (the unofficial English translation is An Ás* in the Deep Woods)
* A Norse deity
The entire sound of the album is for the most part raw. This has never been uncommon when it comes to Black Metal recordings, especially for those from Norway and Sweden. Due to this, it helps paint a picture with the lyrics. If you close your eyes, and listen to the album in the dark at night, with headphones on, you can begin to imagine the landscape of Transylvania, and the interior of the castle sung about. I might get stabbed by my fellow metal heads for saying this, but this album could be a fun companion to the old classic Castlevania games for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Each instrument can be clearly heard. The guitar and drums are at the forefront as are with most Darkthrone releases. The riffs that drone out are some of the most classic in the genre, and can paint a bleak sound for the listener. The drums pound about throughout the album, bringing a thunderous beat to these black hymns. Hell, you can even make out the sound of the base on some tracks. The sound which is featured on Transylvania Hunger is what I myself, and many others consider the quintessential sound for Norwegian Black metal albums. It's one of the band's most complex and mature releases, and shows the progress from when they started as a death metal band in the mid to late 80's, and transformed into the cult black metal band they became and are now.
In conclusion, Transilvanian Hunger is one of the great albums of Norweigna Black Metal, and Black Metal as a whole. Is it the best album? Well no. Some of the production is not at it's best here. As I alluded to earlier, there are times when the atmosphere of the songs really comes through and can paint a picture. However, on the other side of the tracks, it can do the complete opposite and kill whatever atmosphere it had going for it.
Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it a piece of a crap? Not at all. But it isn't the be all album that many fans consider it, and go head over heels for. Of course, this is all just opinion. So don't start bashing the album because somebody says what's bad about it. And to that degree, don't attack the reviewer.
No matter what you think about the album, it is very enjoyable. I highly suggest this to anybody who comes and asks me for a good metal album, no matter what genre they prefer. It's not perfect, but it does the job of helping to cement Darkthrone, and it's members as some of the elite in the Black Metal scene.
***Originally written by myself for my review Blog***