There’s a new Darkthrone album, so what the hell, let’s get into this and not waste a bunch of time. “Old Star” is their 18th full-length record overall, another that doesn’t feel the need to revel in black metal’s trenches and instead goes off in another homage to the sounds that were breaking out three decades ago when this genre still was young.
You know the boys by now—guitarist/bassist/vocalist Ted Skjellum and drummer/vocalist Gylve Fenriz Nagell—and with six songs here, we get three that came from each of them. It’s a nice democratic system they’ve got going and have for a long time, and this record rips, just as we expected it would. Funny thing about elder statesmen and women in metal is that age and years don’t seem to get to them like other genres. They barrel through and prove their meddle each time out, and Darkthrone have done that for years. Last time we heard from the Nordic duo was on 2016’s “Arctic Thunder,” and what you’ll find here isn’t too far removed from that one. Which is great. These guys have been pretty damn consistent for the past 32 years, and there’s still plenty of fuel in the tank.
The record starts with “I Muffle You Inner Choir,” a mid-year candidate for best song title, and it launches with deadly riffs, the drums decimating, and Skjellum howling away, with the vocals scraping at the back of his throat. “Click your shit boots together, we are not in hell anymore,” he wails, as the track then settles into doomy terrain, boiling and chugging while things comes to a raucous finish. “The Hardship of the Scots” has Skjellum calling out, “You buy your home and follow a dream, no politics here, just self-esteem,” as gruff meanness sets in, and the leads light themselves on fire. A tempered pace arrives and changes the complexion, while an outright killer riff sets up and spits bolts, pushing the track to its back half, where the guitars trudge, the vocals splatter, and the song blasts its way out. The title track follows with the guitars crashing through the walls, and a melodic underbelly making its presence known, as Skjellum howls, “The old star dies for us all.” The track hits a sludgy pace, while the veins bleed slowly, and Skjellum shouts, “Mankind dies … DIES!”
“Alp Man” arrives with cool guitar work, grimy vocals, and a mangling pace that later slows and mashes. There’s a doomy pull here that makes this more sinister, while the leads continue bleeding, and the drums bash in skulls. “Duke of Gloat” lays waste right away, with the tempo gaining speed, and the vocals gurgling along. “Hail the Satan, sinister duke of gloat,” Skjellum calls, as melodies roll downhill like a boulder, and an eerie sensation later moves in, feeling like a thousand years of haunting. Things then start back up as the song gets nastier, growls smother, and the intensity leaves bone dust behind. “The Key Is Inside the Wall” closes the album, getting things off to a calculated start before the vocals lurch, and the band hits on something that borders on crust punk. Later, a strange cartoonish voice narrates, feeling like a plot point in a videogame, as he says, “You create your own destiny,” before the riffs strike back up again. The guitars dizzy, Skjellum cries, “Fingers able, just stumps now, the key is inside the wall,” as everything burns out and leaves a thick coat of ash.
While it’s amazing Darkthrone remain active, relevant, and punishing, let’s also not take that for granted. The ride can’t last forever, and there’s going to come a day when this duo reaches its end. But that time isn’t now, probably isn’t going to be tomorrow, and the more records such as “Old Star” they put into the world, the better for heavy metal fans everywhere. Hail forever.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Darkthrone-101075189934422
To buy the album, go here: http://burningshed.com/store/peaceville/
For more on the label, go here: http://peaceville.com/