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Preceding Transilvanian Hunger, Darkthrone were able to conjure up some of the best and most important black metal of the second wave. Their unique take on the music put forth by bands like Venom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, and Bathory created the gem that is A Blaze in the Northern Sky, and finding their own niche they developed their signature sound with Under a Funeral Moon. According to interviews, drummer and main force behind TH, Fenriz claims that it took a mere two weeks to record Transilvanian Hunger. Usually a fact like that is not enough to pass judgment on the album, but when listened to it, it makes perfect sense that the album was recorded in such a small passing of time.
Right from the beginning of the album changes should be apparent to listeners. Darkthrone stripped themselves down to a level of minimalism practically unmatched at the time. Creating a large schism amongst fans, Transilvanian Hunger has constantly been heralded as a development, and perfection in minimalism, while others lay claim that it is a piece of music that anyone could of done and that it acts a ploy because of the musician's understanding of what would be accepted and how people would perceive it. Much like the well known painter Jackson Pollock, this work is fiercely debated and often sold to people as something they would not conceive on their own.
To claim, in anyway, that this album is mature, developed, or complex in anyway is a huge overstatement. Technically speaking this album is painfully simple: a constant drumbeat, an average of two to three riffs per a song and your run of the mill vocals. The riffs used are often simple, but catchy and enjoyable, they work greatly on songs like "Transilvanian Hunger" but fall completely flat on songs like "Over Fjell Og Gjennom Torner" and others are mediocre and become a chore to listen to.
The fault of this album is that at its heart, it is a good idea and something that could greatly work, but much like other early works of minimalist black metal (Filosfem) it suffers from some really poor choices and when thought about too much comes off as childish and uninspired. Part of me edges towards the notion that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto knew fans would eat this up and set out to task, not a passion, to create something that would raise their reputation; for the most part i disregard such a notion, but it's not a good sign that it floats around.
Beyond the stagnation of many songs, another sore aspect of this album for me is the production. The production is horribly weak and really hinders a lot of the atmosphere that many claim is present. I would like to say this album acts as a melodic response and nod towards a style of black metal bands like Von pioneered, and i guess that would make sense.
Giving way to countless imitators, Transilvanian Hunger has become a staple in black metal. Part of my disdain that surrounds this album is the fact that people are so head over heels about it. When it boils down to it, the album is mediocre. An album like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, or Vikingligr Veldi deserves so much more praise then the monotonous workings of Darkthrone's fourth album. The fanaticism and fanboyism that surrounds this album acts a miasma of ignorance and submissiveness. While I, like everyone else, have no right to impose my views as facts upon anyone else, I can't help but feel that people think that they should like this album and follow in a sheepish trend as an attempt to seem "true" in the underground's most judgmental eyes.
Many, as a reaction to the overwhelming fervency of this album, dismiss it as complete crap, while others adhere to that said fervency and just as mistakenly as the other party, build the album up to a gluttonous level of praise. The "goodness" of this album, as with any work, is in the eye of the beholder, and try as I might I cannot enjoy this album as others do. While I dislike the album in question, it is hard to deny its importance, and it is that importance and the influence it has espoused that I do not write it off as complete crap. A testament to its influence is a lot of modern black metal, a good example is Demony's Joined in Darkness, which takes the ethos behind Transilvanian Hunger and creates something a lot more powerful (and something as to which I greatly enjoy).
Listen for yourself, if nothing else, the album serves as an interesting point of reference and evidence to the Norwegian scene. I keep this album around in hopes that I someday will stumble upon it and fall in love with it, but that day has not come, and probably never will. In no way should this album be built up as some heavily inspired and thought provoking piece of work, if anything it should be a simpe enjoyment. Make of it what you will.