Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Ugliness has never sounded better - 97%

Lord_Jotun, January 26th, 2004

This is where Darkthrone completed their metamorphosis from their Death Metal origins to one of the most quintessential and uncompromising Black Metal bands. Where "A Blaze In The Northern Skies" still showed sparse riffs and structures reminescent of the band's past, "Under A Funeral Moon" sports a totally cold, haunting and unfriendly musical attitude. This is not saying that the work presented here is anti-musical or performed by untalented players, it doesn't get more false than that. Simply put, Darkthrone got hold of the identity they were striving for, and such identity was never meant to please a large number of listeners.
The differences between this album and the previous are quite apparent. First, the departure of Dag Nilsen, bassist extraordinaire whose highly unappreciated skills were a fundamental component of early Darkthrone, who had agreed to perform bass on "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" before quitting the band due to his lack of interest for the new direction. His style would clash with the band's music anyway at this point, and despite that, this album has some inventive bass parts anyway (handled by Nocturno Culto).
Next, the production, or better the lack of. "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" had a very harsh sound, with the drums and echoy vocals often overpowering the trebly, fuzzy guitars and the barely audible bass. Here, it just gets worse. Everything on this album sounds incredibly thin. The guitars are a kind of buzz which seems destined to be drowned by static anytime, the drums are very flat and lifeless, the bass is heavily and unpleasantly distorted (although it stands out pretty well because of its thick low frequencies) and Nocturno Culto's vocals are a very raspy croak, very different from his usual style, and loaded with echo. This barbaric demo-like soundscape would be enough to put anyone off, yet I have to underline how well it actually works. No elements overpower others anymore, and the volumes are very well balanced.
Finally, the song structures themselves, no longer as epic as in the old days but way more minimalistic, although some technical solutions still stand out. This si something you cannot bang your head to, you cannot air guitar to... this is ugliness at its best.

Album opener "Natassja in Eternal Sleep" immediately gets to the point: a repetitive yet weird-tempoed tremolo guitar riff blazes along over Fenriz's droning beats, with Nocturno Culto adding basic bass lines and reciting the beautifully sorrowful lyrics. The middle section has some great guitar arragements going on. A great opener, which in time has become one of the band's best known anthems.
"Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust" (I'd never thought that a Norwegian Black Metal band could ever mention summer in their songs) opens with fast and furios strumming and beats, the verse riffs alternating with an originally developed melodic tremolo part. Near the middle the song evolves into a slow, menacing soundscape which reminds me a bit of the middle section of Mayhem's "Freezing Moon" (especially considering how both songs go into this slower part coming from a fast rhythm, and both have a solo in the slow section). The fast beats pick up again, and near the end the tremolo guitar part is closely followed by the bass and goes into one finaldifferent variation.
What follows is one of the strangest songs Darktrhone did this far, "The Dance of Eternal Shadows". This one begins as a slow plodder, then turns into another fast part backed by a rather complicated-tempoed riff (the part where only the vocals and guitars are left, with Fenriz inserting only a few percussion, is chilling), and closes as a mid-paced march.
On to "Unholy Black Metal", a title that says it all... this is where minimalism is brought to the forefront, as the song has exactly three riffs and the vocals follow the same pattern in each verse (and the verses themselves are all built on the same structure), most o fthe variation coming from Fenriz's well known subtle pattern changes. A seminal chapter for the band's evolution, which lives up to its title.

"To Walk the Infernal Fields" is a real surprise. This is the slowest track of the album, as well as the longest, and keeps a midpaced approach all the way through (expect for a variation which brings it into an even slower part). the riffs are very melodic for the band's standard, and are built upon an intimate interaction between guitars and bass; the guitars themselves show subtle variations under the main riffs, which is one of Darkthrone's trademarks.
Next is the title track, which once again mostly sticks to fast beats, yet is one of the more developed and varied numbers of the album riff-wise, and doesn't omit a more mid-tempoed variation in the middle.
"Inn i de Dype Skogers Favn" is in my opinion the least successful track of the album. Where the other songs successfully show the interesting achievements that can be obtained through a severely stripped down approach, this one comes across as simply repetitive and uninspired. I can see some importance in this one, as it foreshadows what the band will come up with in their next album, "Transilvanian Hunger", considering the rhythm that never changes, the very repetitive riffs and the Norwegian lyrics; but Darkthrone themselves would do the song much better on the following album as "I en Hall med Flesk og Mjød", the album where this apporach will really show its true potential in terms of intensity.
"Crossing the Triangle of Flames" finishes the album on a very high note, thanks to its unusal drumming and very interesting riffs, among the most melodically complex in the whole band's history. A very underrated song in my book.

Overall this is one of the best examples of Black Metal's beauty through ugliness, because in the end this album is simply beautiful. It's raw, intense and uncompromising. Even without looking at its historical importance, there's no denying its rich substance.