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Surface/Interior Dialectic - 91%

ben_parker, May 27th, 2008

On one hand, this is the most accomplished guitar-oriented album of 2007, and on the other hand, the gatefold of the LP jacket is a giant photograph of a forest scene obscured by a can of Heineken and someone's knee. The album cover is horrible; the album title is worse; the song "Canadian Metal" is unforgivable garbage; it's barely a metal album, even less a black metal album.

The most notable two things about this album, aside from all those appalling negatives, is the painfully-apparent desire to broadcast how into punk the band now is: the single for the album had a Testors cover; they cite Poison Idea, the English Dogs, and Amebix, and Fenriz is wearing a World Burns to Death t-shirt---all this from a band that previously was the most rabidly "orthodox" black metallers! The second thing is that Fenriz, the drummer, now sings on nearly all the songs which he writes (where previously Nocturno Culto, the guitarist, did ALL the vocals). Weird change to make this late in a band's career.

Everything I've said up to now makes it sound like a completely different band than that which recorded the sparse and ultra-monochrome Under a Funeral Moon.

That is not at all the case, though. This is classic Darkthrone. Or classic Celtic Frost, depending on how well you understand Darkthrone. It's true that Celtic Frost released a "comeback" album this year, titled Monotheist, but the best Celtic Frost album of every year since 1991 has been recorded by the band Darkthrone (or more recently by High On Fire).

Darkthrone were already releasing "hardcore"-style songs on the album Hate Them, but it is only recently that this has become full-on crusty gutter sleaze. All the songs written by Fenriz are ludicrous, punked-out "rockers," while the biggest irony is that the most "Darkthrone-sounding" songs are all written by the band member who did NOT write their classic albums. See?

Ok. So. Surface: black metal album by respected and original black metal band Darkthrone. Inside: cheesy slow rock album. Surface: cheesy rock album. Inside: insidious Celtic Frost influence. Surface: Celtic Frost influence taken to ridiculous extreme. Inside: bizarre regression to riffs from 3rd Darkthrone album. Surface: Return to sounds from their 3rd album. Inside: 3rd album already a rip-off of Celtic Frost. Surface: lifelong debt to Celtic Frost. Inside: This debt split into a schizophrenic songwriting labor that isolates the two ways that the Celtic Frost influence operates on their sound. Surface: songwriting labor split, vocal duties split. Inside: most ridiculous sonic aspect of new album is not this division, but rather the numerous and not-at-all-"metal" guitar solos on every track.

In conclusion, this has to be a concept album about irony and presentation. We might even say it is about what happens when the most "true" black metal band starts spelling it "tr00." But the real joke is on the listeners (the same fools who were left in the dust when Dylan went electric) who did not see this irony as quintessential (no shit) to Panzerfaust or in the band's originary moment, the abandonment of death metal on their second album.

last note: Fenriz's vocals are so unsettlingly bad, until you realize that they are exactly splitting the difference between Tom G. Warrior (Celtic Frost) and Cronos (Venom)--essentially an impersonation. I would love to say that one's appreciation of the album rests on whether one likes "Canadian Metal" or not, but I don't pass that test myself, so...