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Unearthly Darkness - 100%

metal22, February 3rd, 2014

What is it that makes a good black metal album? I have always considered atmosphere to be the absolute key to black metal. Atmosphere can be achieved in many ways, through orchestrations or unconventional instruments (Lustre, Emperor, Summoning etc), but what I have come to realise, is that NO other black metal album creates the pure darkness and bitterly-cold despair that is heard on Under A Funeral Moon. And we are not talking dreamy keyboards and menacing symphonies, we are talking raw minimalism and by god is it effective.

From when 'Natassja In Eternal Sleep' kicks in, the riffs are very repetitive but teeming with menace. The ultra-thin guitars create an eerie, hypnotic soundscape unlike no other, and even though some might complain about the production quality it is a key factor in making this album so dark. Black metal is rarely based around good production, and sometimes it can be unlistenable (Pure Fucking Armageddon anyone?), but this is different. This is how the genre should sound in its purest form. 'Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust' is one of the highlights as it shows off the writing skills of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. Strange, otherworldly melodies that sound like they were built for the overall vibe of the production.

Another ingenious factor of Darkthrone's third record is the structure of the songs. Riffs seem to change without warning defying conventional patterns, with the title track being an example. The unpredictability of it all not only makes it more interesting, but also more creepy. The vocals here are incredibly harsh as well, and stand high and proud above anything else in the mix. Nocturno Culto's rasps and wails are proof of the darkness that human beings are capable of producing, and together with the guitars create a frozen, unrivalled listening experience. There are also slight elements of thrash in here as heard in the opening seconds of 'Unholy Black Metal', which shows that Darkthrone can take elements of other genre and give them a blackened twist.

The drums here are very muffled and distant, but it works well with the grim tone of the album. Although not being very clear the drumming itself is excellent. The lyrics are also more well written than on the predecessor, and are poetically evil. That is the word that sums up Under A Funeral Moon, evil, because it is so utterly devoid of light and hope that one cannot help but feel both creeped out and astounded by its unusual sound. This is as black as black metal can ever get, and no other album has used such minimalism to create such an eerie soundscape.

Darkthrone's finest, and an essential for BM fans.