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Minimal Black art - 95%

Valleys_Of_Hades, April 6th, 2006

A Blaze In The Northern Sky was bit of a cross between Death and Black Metal, which sounded like an album that could have easily been released in the mid or late 80s alongside bands like Sodom, Celtic Frost and Bathory. But with this album, Darkthrone seemed to have taken minimalistic musicianship onto a whole new level. Yes, this album is harsh as fuck, but it isn’t heavy. The production is raucously loud, yet paper thin. There’s no bass work to be heard here and the vocals are so damn high in the mix, that they tend to turn off even the most extreme Metal fans.

Despite confrontations with the record label about the album’s sound, Darkthrone carried on with the recording of Under A Funeral Moon, which consisted of sloppy, minimalistic musicianship that required a particular taste to get into. In other words, most armature garage bands have better production than this. Many people accuse the band of producing such a minimalistic, low-fi album in order to disguise their lack of talent. And yes, there are plenty of shitty bands out there today who use this technique because they can’t play their fucking instruments, but must I bring up Soulside Journey again? These are the exact same musicians, excluding the bass player, playing on an entirely different album. The fact is, is that the sloppy garage sound and minimalism was done INTENTIONALLY, and those who bitch about the minimalism and low quality production of this record are clearly missing the whole fucking point! These truly are fantastic musicians whom are using the least of their ability to achieve great, black art, and with Under A Funeral Moon, they do that quite well.

Natassja In Eternal Sleep is one of the first Darkthrone songs I ever heard, and if not, it may just be the first! My first reaction was…”What the fuck is this crap?!”. There are something like…4 or 5 riffs through out the entire song, maybe even less. The drum patterns remain the same through out, and needless to say, this is RAW in the true sense of the word. The bass is practically non-existent. However, the absolute minimalism and rawness of this song intrigued me quite a bit instead of turning me off. Lyrically, this is like a Satanic love song which is dedicated to a dead witch named Natassja who was burned alive at the stake. I’m quite sure that the lyrics were inspired by Mercyful Fate’s Melissa..With the next track, Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust, the use minimalism gets taken to the extreme. The riffs are barely decipherable, yet, the mood and evil atmosphere that this song conjures manages to keep things interesting. The rather loud vocals, of course, help with this factor. There is a slower segment during the middle of the song in which this searing, long guitar solo comes into play. One of the best? Maybe not, but it’s still a damn good song.

The Dance Of Eternal Shadows begins at a very slow pace, yet still lacks the overall doomed feeling that the previous two albums had. The reason for this is because from this album on, all the riffs that Darkthrone came up with were made up solely of open strings. In other words, you won’t hear that thick, crushing or heavy sound that most Death, Doom or any other extreme Metal bands form their riffs with. The strings of the guitars on this album are all open in order to be played in a sloppy manner. There are no definitive riffs to be heard here. Anyway, this track manages to pick up the pace pretty soon, but to say that it’s thrashy would be a false statement. The drums are far too low in the mix to create a thrash break for any song on the album. The following song, Unholy Black Metal, truly lives up to its title! Of all of tracks on the album, this one is by far one of the most minimal, consisting of only 2 or 3 riffs through out the entire song. The drum pattern changes pace only once or twice through out, which is still minimal even in a song that’s only 3 and a half minutes long. The vocals, however, are loud as fuck! Bone chilling, to say the least! Combine all of these elements together, and you get one of the best Darkthrone songs ever made. Now THIS is what Fenriz meant when he stated that less means more. This truly is Unholy Black Metal!

To Walk The Infernal Fields is merely a carbon copy of Bathory’s Enter The Eternal Fire. It’s just played much sloppier, that’s all. Is that such a bad thing? I think not. I view it as more of a tribute than anything else. The entire song consists of mid-paced, swinging drum patterns that change very little through the song’s 8 minute length span. As for the riffs…well…I wouldn’t call them a rip-off on the Bathory tune, but they’re clearly identical to it, just played in the Darkthrone style. The original Enter The Eternal Fire is overall thicker and much heavier, while the Darkthrone tune relies all on open strings to convey the melody across. Overall, I think that this track obtains a great atmosphere, as well as some killer lyrics and the best Darkthrone quote ever; “With my art, I am the fist in the face God!”. Gotta love that line!

Despite there only being very few riffs (of course!) in the title track, the main riff is pretty damn catchy when compared to what else is on this record. The vocals, once again, are ice cold and harsh, very much in the vein of the Unholy Black Metal track. Both songs don’t differ much from one another, with the exception of this one having more riffs and a bit more variety. There’s also this part during the song where it all slows down to allow this extreme, rapid guitar solo to surge through the speakers. Now when Darkthrone does guitar solos, don’t think that they’re high quality material. Their solos are no more complexed than old Bathory’s, Celtic Frost’s or Sodom’s. But hey, any cleaner or more precise, and the solos wouldn’t go well the music.

Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn is the first song that Darkthrone wrote entirely in Norwegian, and let me tell you, when Nocturno Culto bellows out his harsh lyrics in Norwegian instead of in English, the evil atmosphere is like multiplied times 10! His harsh, raspy shrieks match the language so well. I mean, this is one of the harshest sounding languages next to German, so it’s only appropriate that it’d be used for Black Metal. The English translation of the title is In The Deep Forests’ Embrace. Gay song title, but good song. Perhapse it was put into Norwegian for that reason? Musically, this kind of foreshadows what the following Darkthrone album would sound like. There are like…1 or 2 riffs through out the entire song. The lyrics are entirely in Norwegian and the drumming is as minimal as can be. The only thing that this song lacks is the incredible atmosphere that the follow up album would have, but that’s an entirely different review to come…

In the closing track, Crossing The Triangle Of Flames, Fenriz really displays some unique variation with his drum work here. Through out most the album, he relied on the same drumming technique, but with the album’s last track, he tends to use much variation with the drum snare, providing a nice rhythm to go along with the blazing fast riffs. The high usage of crash symbols adds much to the effect as well. So needless to say, this is a great song to end the album off.

Very few bands have been able to mimic this style without sounding like utter crap. Hell, even most Metal fans would state that the sound on this album is utter crap, but truthfully, they’re missing the entire fucking point. We already know that Darkthrone are great musicians, so there’s no need to accuse them of lack of talent. After all, doesn’t it take much talent to create something so sinister using only little elements of what you’re really capable of? That’s like someone telling you to write a paragraph on a certain subject using only a few given words. It would be hard, wouldn’t it? So quit bitching people, because you’re missing the point. Even if you can’t stand this album, at least understand the point it’s trying to convey, okay?