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The same as before, but angrier. - 65%

ConorFynes, February 23rd, 2016

Darkthrone's career has had its ups and downs, but I can't help but respect them for doing whatever the hell they wanted, when they wanted to do it. Even having been established as legends, there's a DIY-approach to their music that's extended to everything they've done to the present day. They're nothing if not sincere about what they do, which is why I found it surprising they were even capable of releasing less-than-solid work. While Total Death still stands as the band's most lackadaisical work, I felt the same lacking inspiration on 2001's Plaguewielder. All of the ingredients for good black metal were onboard, but it didn't come together in a way that felt transgressive or dangerous. Luckily they fixed that issue on Hate Them.

By 2003, the "unholy trilogy" was already a decade behind Darkthrone, so an album in that same style could only be so scary or striking. I don't think Nocturno Culto and Fenriz had any illusions that they were continuing to push boundaries with their music at this point, but the timeless threads they're plucking on here only need passion to feel relevant. Part of why Hate Them sounds so damned angry is probably because of its improvement over Plaguewielder. Unlike Ravishing Grimness, this one didn't produce any classic riffs or songs for the Darkthrone pantheon, but it's one of the angriest-sounding records they ever did. Considering Hate Them was recorded and released in the band's third decade of existing, that's not the sort of feat that should go unnoticed.

The riffs on Hate Them are definitely slower than its predecessor, although songs like "Ytterst I Livet" and "Divided We Stand" offer a more quintessentially Norwegian sound of black metal. Although Darkthrone wouldn't make the total shift until The Cult is Alive two albums later, there's definitely a punkish vibe to the band's performance. I don't think they were trying to revive the success and style they had with the trilogy (although Sardonic Wrath would come much closer in this respect) but they were certainly aiming for the youthful, aggressive mentality that the few albums before this one seemed to lack. It's their impulse to stay naive and excited about their music that makes Darkthrone's post-golden era worthwhile.

The blunt anger of "Fucked Up and Ready to Die", and the Nordic-come-punk fusion of "Ytterst I Livet" and "Divided We Stand" strike me as standouts on the album. Although the songwriting's kept more interesting than it ever was on Plaguewielder, I wouldn't say Darkthrone really shake me with their writing this time around. Barring those well-penned highlights, the songs fall into a fairly predictable riff machine that doesn't help nor hinder enjoyment. Really, if you're going to be getting into Hate Them, it's the way Darkthrone plays their material that make the whole thing worth it. The drums and guitar sound beefier than they ever had before, and Nocturno Culto's vocals are some of the best in Darkthrone's entire discography. I prefer Ravishing Grimness for the songwriting, and Sardonic Wrath for the cold atmosphere and production, but Hate Them is competent, reliable, and every bit as wrathful as you'd come to expect from a band that once had the world in their grip.