It’s not every day I get to write about a legend of the heavy metal world, a band that helped shaped what the music has become and has influenced countless musicians and bands across the world. And considering today we have the honor of discussing the latest album from Darkthrone, we’re also talking Fenriz, a man who bleeds, eats, and sleeps metal and was an inspiration for this very site.
When I started this site, I tried to somewhat pattern it so that I’d be championing music I love, but also adding the critical analysis aspect into the writing. Fenriz long as been a champion of heavy metal, not only though his music with Darkthrone, but also through his Band of the Week choices and now blog, where he’s exposed the world to many great bands such as Christian Mistress, In Solitude, Hooded Menace, and countless others. His music along with longtime creative partner Nocturno Culto also has espoused the magic and majesty of heavy metal for years, and this band is one of the great pioneers of this fantastic style of music, having dabbled in numerous subgenres in their time together.
“The Underground Resistance,” the band’s 15th studio album, in one of the duo’s most magical and powerful to date, another crazy curveball of styles and weirdness that only Darkthrone could pull off this seamlessly. As we’ve grown accustomed to from this band, there remains a heavy foot in the death metal and crust arenas, but they also remain somewhat tied to their black metal roots and even incorporate more sounds from the early 80s into their eclectic mix, thanks mostly to Fenriz’s contributions to this six-song, 41-minute gem. I imagine some eyes may roll at some of the stuff on here, because there still are major pockets of people who can’t handle that Darkthrone don’t sound like how they did on, say, “A Blaze in the Northern Sky,” but to dismiss it would be to ignore one of the most genuine expressions of heavy metal in a long time, and a fine, moving effort by a band that deserves curatorship for any future heavy metal hall of fame. Inclusion into said hall is assumed.
The record is evenly divided, almost obsessively so, between Culto’s submissions and Fenriz’s work, and it’s really fun bouncing back and forth between both guys’ ideas. Each guy has a pair of songs that are more standard in length and do a lot to expose their personalities and tastes, and each also unleashes an epic track that close out the record. It’s so perfectly balanced and wonderfully creative that I literally cannot stop listening to it. In fact, I don’t remember that last time I listened to a new Darkthrone release this much and this obsessively, and to me that’s a hallmark of a great record dropping at the right time.
Nocturno Culto’s work kicks off the record, so we’ll discuss his entries first. “Dead Early” is your opener, and it’s a fun, bashing song that’s pure death-planted Darkthrone through and through. Culto mentioned his songs being more personal in nature and being used to excise some of the things in life that get in his way and attempt to make life miserable, so maybe that’s what he’s aiming at when he howls the vow, “To do things right, to do things straight.” As good as that one is, “Lesser Men” is even better, as it starts off on one path, then makes a thrashy progression elsewhere. There is some great guitar work here, some mashing riffs, and it happens to be an extremely catchy song to boot. “Come Warfare, the Entire Doom” is Culto’s epic, clocking in at a little over 8 minutes and showing some true metal spirit and fire. No huge surprises here or anything, and there don’t need to be. It’s an awesome slab of goodness that’s mean, channeled, and really fucking good, and that’s all that matters.
Now, Fenriz has been elsewhere mentally since 2010’s “Circle the Wagons,” namely gorging on 1980s metal, the stuff that helped formed the genre’s foundation on an underground level. Fenriz has named Agent Steel, Uriah Heap, Celtic Frost, and Iron Maiden as some of his touch points, and you can hear that gloriously on “Valkyrie.” The song opens acoustically before it launches into a glorious lead melody line and Fenriz pushing his voice to the limits of classic power metal standards. It’s a great song, one that manages to get you every time its chorus sweeps down. “The Ones You Left Behind,” where Fenriz looks back in time as those who made heavy metal the great art form that is it, and those who have done their best to try to extinguish the flames, also has some epic vocal work that goes from gruff to melodic, and it, too, is a blast. Album closer “Leave No Cross Unturned” is one of the band’s greatest accomplishments to date, a song that mixes classic, power, thrash, and death into a giant pot and mixes them to perfection. The song is 13:49 (how fitting?) of twists, turns, unpredictable changes, passion, and glorious trips back to metal’s past. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but this is one of my favorite Darkthrone songs to date, a true triumph that those with metal in their veins will embrace and hail.
Bands that have been around as long as Darkthrone and have influenced as many musicians as these two have only seem to disappoint these days, releasing music with polished edges and taking no chances. That’ll never describe Darkthrone, a band that doesn’t give a shit what you think about their music and always will serve no masters but themselves. I enjoy this record as much as, if not more, than anything the band put out the past decade, and any time I feel the spirit of metal growing tired in my soul, I will revisit “The Underground Resistance” and feel alive again.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.darkthrone.no/
For the Band of the Week blog, go here: http://thebandoftheweek.blogspot.com/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.burningshed.com/store/peaceville/collection/233/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.peaceville.com/