There are those characters, be it people in your lives, figures from television shows or movies, or folks you read about in books that, no matter what, you cannot help but like them. I’m a big wrestling fan, and every time the New Day comes out, I have a great time. I don’t care if people think their act is tired.
When it comes to metal, we have many of those figures as well, including that beloved Darkthrone duo Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. I know there are a division of fans who can’t get beyond “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and want them to be heathen black metal warriors forever. But long ago it was clear the two fellows who make up this band don’t feel that way, and shouldn’t that be the bottom line? So, over time, the band has served us black metal, death metal, thrash, and their latest amalgamation that mixes all those things together, with a nice, crusty 80s flavor. That spills over again on the band’s 14th record “Arctic Thunder,” another dose of good stuff for those of us who followed this band’s insane ride, no matter what sounds they threw at us from album to album.
One thing that’s supplied in major portions on this record is the riff. They are smooshed all over these songs, which, again, sounds like the band letting loose in their basement and playing whatever comes to their metallic heart. Unlike usual, Culto handles just all the vocals, save for a yell here or there from Fenriz, your friendly neighborhood politician against his will, while the drumming is skull bashing and frenetic. Part of the reason for that raw sound is the band recorded the album in their old rehearsal space The Bomb Shelter, where they worked to scuff up and dirty these songs as much as possible.
“Tundra Leech” sounds dirty and raspy from the start, with killer riffs, a pace that chugs along, and Culto’s grim growls. There’s a really old-style feel here, which obviously permeates the entire record, and later there’s a nice change of tempo that shifts. The guys thrash away, with Fenriz’s calculated drumming, only to mash fingers again at the end. “Burial Bliss” is fast and punchy at the start, with the growls scraping and cries of, “The circle will not be broken!” sounding more like an oath. The track is punishing and catchy, fading out at the end. “Boreal Fiends” starts with Culto howling, “Against the wind!” as you pretty much can envision battling against an icy assault. An outright killer riff wraps itself around this song like a snake, with clean calls blurting out, and eventually the pace hitting a sludgy skid. From there, slow-driving fury and a maniacal cowbell call out, while the soloing begins to scorch minds before the song fades. “Inbred Vermin” starts with, you guessed it, another killer riff, as the song lights up and blasts its way through, with Culto vowing, “We will ride the winds of the thunder god!” This song also slows down toward the end for the band to grind you through the mud.
The title track gets off to a raucous start, with the riffs pummeling, vile and creaky wails dropping, and guitars lighting the blaze with a thick 1980s sheen. By the way, the record, and this song as a result, is named after a Norwegian metal band from the 80s that Fenriz loves. Because of course. “Throw Me Through the Marshes” is situated in a doomy haze, with throaty howls crushing and speed driving through later and blowing everything to bits. The back end of the song gets eerie and foggy, staying that way until it bleeds into the night. “Deeplake Trespass” starts with black metal-flavored melodies, with the band throwing haymakers and bloodying lips. The pace jerks to a different track later, as guitars go exploring into the wilderness, with the track blinding and startling as it concludes. Closer “The Wyoming Distance” has riffs, slowly delivered fury, and a huge blasting end. It’s not the most dynamic song of the bunch, but it’s fun enough, and it ends with our Darkthrone heroes laughing in the distance, aware they’ve destroyed us all over again.
At this point, most people know what to expect from Darkthrone, and for someone like me who has pretty much enjoyed every era, it’s more destructive ear candy full of fun and substance. Fenriz and Culto have no one to please but themselves, and they sure as shit sound happy and smothering on “Arctic Thunder.” If these guys keep digging back to what makes them happy and only serving their own whims, these guys will stay young at heart and metal to the core well after we’re all but memories on this earth.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Darkthrone-101075189934422
To buy the album, go here: https://burningshed.com/store/peaceville/
For more on the label, go here: http://peaceville.com/