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An Impressive Return to Form - 83%

Voidhanger2, January 6th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2003, CD, The End Records

The late nineties were a rocky era for Darkthrone. Armed with their newly-found reputation as "the most evil band in the world," they flirted with greater commercial appeal - hastily finishing and releasing the unearthed Goatlord, the "star power" of Total Death's lyrics, advertising their polished production for Ravishing Grimness, and an uncharacteristically colourful cover for the clean-sounding Plaguewielder. While none of these albums were singularly bad, they lacked the urgency of the classics that preceded them. Hate Them and the subsequent Sardonic Wrath formed an unexpected mid-career duology of vitality prior to taking a slight step down with The Cult is Alive. Of course, they then began a string of self-parodying albums that, in the interest of legacy preservation, would perhaps have been best suited for release under a different moniker, but I digress.

Hate Them brims with rejuvenated spontaneity and intensity. The songs are stylistically similar to those found on Ravishing Grimness and incorporate the crust sound that they would use ad nauseam in later albums in tasteful and unobtrusive doses. Fenriz’s drumming is powerful and confident with an hint of intentional sloppiness. Nocturno Culto’s vocals reverberate with a revitalized ferocity, especially compared to the relatively weak performance on Plaguewielder. The guitars wield a gritty edge with an appropriately lackluster sound, but retain sufficient clarity to allow the riffs to flow unobstructed. All these elements come together in a powerful, cohesive whole that allows the album to successfully forge its own sound of mechanized nihilism.

Hate Them is Darkthrone at an interstitial stage in their discography; they had found a renewed passion but still took their style seriously enough to hold off the abrupt and goofy change in direction they were to take several albums later on F.O.A.D. They thus turned to what they did best with this revitalization and yielded impressive results.