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Notes from the Underground - 80%

CrimsonFloyd, March 7th, 2013

Over the last eight years Darkthrone has undergone quite the change in sound. Starting with The Cult is Alive the band who epitomized "pure black metal" has blended elements of punk rock and various other types of metal (traditional, thrash, speed) into its sound. At first, punk was strongest element in the new Darkthrone sound, but with each proceeding album both the punk and black metal elements have faded in significance while the traditional metal elements have become more pronounced. With Underground Resistance—Darkthrone's fifth album since "the change," sixteenth overall—Darkthrone can no longer be described as black metal in any respect. They are now a heavy metal band whose primary influence is the NWOBHM, though Celtic Frost and viking-era Bathory are also major influences on this record.

Underground Resistance is the biggest and heaviest Darkthrone has sounded in ages. The guitars are nice and meaty while the bass and drums are thunderous. Yet, Darkthrone achieve a bigger sound without betraying its lo-fi aesthetic. The sound is still gritty and direct. Ferniz and Nocturno Culto offer two very distinct vocal styles. Ferniz provides falsetto wails that at times, are surprisingly good. His delivery on “Valkyrie,” for example, has a startling amount of power and bravado. Nocturno Culto does a very good Tom G. Warrior impression, offering a low, gravely hybrid of singing and growling. Both vocalists can be sloppy and times but nonetheless, their performances fit within the overall aesthetic of the record.

In contrast to previous Darkthrone records, the songs are fewer in quantity and longer in length. The change in songwriting has given Darkthrone a level of focus that has been lacking for ages. Though there are fewer overall riffs and more repetition, the quality of the riffs is very high, so you won't mind listening to the same three or four riffs over and over. While the riffs range from slow and harmonious to fast and slashing, they all share an epic flare that gives the album a unified spirit. The album cover captures the spirit of Underground Resistance quite well; these songs will have you envisioning barbarian hordes storming down mountainsides, prepared to die for the old gods. Yup, this album is fucking epic. Yet, even with an endless supply of kickass riffs and excellent atmosphere, it's hard to ignore just how derivative Underground Resistance can be. On a number of occasions Darkthrone fall into overindulgent passages of Celtic Frost worship that will make you wonder if you'd be better off just listening to To Mega Therion.

While Underground Resistance is the best Darkthrone album in ages, fans need to know what to expect going in. This is a very good piece of retro heavy metal full of awesome riffs, beastly drumming, and inconsistent but somewhat endearing vocals. If you look past the iconic logo and take it for what it is, then you're ready to enjoy a good old fashioned headbang, but if you can't get over the fact that these are the same guys that produced the “Unholy Trilogy” then you should probably pass this one by.

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