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Whimsical uproar - 90%

blackoz, September 22nd, 2007

If you’ve seen Nocturno Culto’s rambling yet oddly compelling DVD “The Misanthrope”, you’ll be on familiar territory here. Slip past the grinning gravedigger Mr Necro on the cover of the CD booklet and you’ll be greeted by (gasp!) colour photos of Ted and Gylve romping in their beloved Norwegian wilderness. The pix could easily be stills from the film. Since the excellent “Preparing for War” box of 2005 the Darkthrone boys have opted to give us more than just a glimpse into their lives. “Misanthrope” even shows them jamming in their studio – yes, the famed room with the tea-curtains – worth the price of the DVD alone. Now, on “F.O.A.D.”, they’ve pretty well invited us around to spend the winter. The lads have even provided an annotated listening list of great but largely unheralded metal albums (so glad it includes Mayhem’s brilliant “Ordo Ad Chao”) to while away the chilly nights.

The personal guided tour continues with Fenriz’ intros to each song, typically tongue-in-cheek, and it soon becomes clear that this is a tribute album of sorts. The punk propulsion of the last record has gone and old school riffs abound as DT hails Iron Maiden, Metal Church, Black Sabbath and Burzum, amongst others. Fear not – it’s unmistakably Darkthrone, although whether it’s a tribute or piss-take you can never be quite sure with these clowns. An example is “Canadian Metal”, a whimsical uproar (to borrow from the lyrics) that features a chorus line of BVs and a Bruce Dickinson-styled operatic trill. Why can’t metal be fun, hey?

There is more musical variety on this disc than any other DT album I can think of. Chorus lines and even a guest vocalist apart, the big changes come in the guitar tones. Ted has decided to broaden his palette and there’s an unprecedented amount of layering without, thankfully, forsaking his characteristic sound. “Church of New Metal” and “The Banners of Old” both sound like a ’throne take on Sabbath. There’s still the trademark chainsaw crunch of Ted’s guitars but the moaning reverbed refrain in the left channel sounds like it came from “Paranoid” era Iommi. It pops up elsewhere and it’s a wonderfully atmospheric sound to fatten up the album.

Those who mourn the passing of the old necro sludge of “Transilvanian Hunger” may take some consolation from “Splitkein Fever”, the guitars intentionally muted down to sound like the old days. Even Ted’s voice sounds more organic and less gravelly. When they rip into the fast double-kick refrain you’ll think it’s a long lost track from the corpsepaint era. Lovely.

But it’s the beercan-raised tributes that dominate here, none more endearing – or silly – than “Raised on Rock”. As on the title cut, Fenriz delivers his best Lemmy impersonation in this homage to Venom. What makes the track – and the entire album – live and breathe, of course, is the drummer’s gift for swing. He can play on my demos any day. Like all Darkthrone albums, “F.O.A.D.” romps from start to finish.

Darkthrone have always been jokers, often to the extent of their own credibility. Some, though, have never seen the gag and yearn for the “serious” days of corpsepaint and “Norsk Arisk Black Metal”. Me, I love Darkthrone, whatever they do and find their nudge-wink humour refreshing. Darkthrone’s music is the reset button that clears away the cobwebs and the crap and I often find myself turning to DT when everything else seems stale and wasted.

And so it’s almost impossible for me to allocate a mere number rating to Darkthrone’s music. It’s either all or nothing in my book and I like this album a lot. Before deciding on a figure, I pulled out all my DT albums (no, I don’t have them all – yet) and put them in order of most to least preferred. This disk was second from the top, hence the mark I’ve given. What was at the top, you wonder?

Listen without prejudice, and then decide for yourself. For those who don’t like this album, of course, the band has a few words of wisdom for you.