Review: Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

Posted: January 15, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been surfing many music sites over the past few weeks, trying to bring together many respected columns and their myriad ‘best of 2013′ lists so I can see what I missed to catch up on. Some records appear on almost every single one; Altar of Plagues’ triumphant swansong ‘Teethed Injury and Glory’ and Carcass’ astounding comeback record ‘Surgical Steel’ are two examples of this. But there are many others that I had either forgotten were even released this year or had slipped me by completely. The new Darkthrone record falls firmly in the former, but now I have been overwhelmingly reminded of its place as a top record for 2013. So I thought I’d get it pumped up and review it.

The direction Darkthrone has taken over the past few records, really since 2005’s ‘The Cult of Goliath’ has been described as ‘necropunk’. Its a little bit less ‘Blaze in the Northern Sky’ and a little more Motorhead fighting with Immortal. All well and good, and to be honest I’ve really enjoyed them all, but on ‘The Underground Resistance’, Darkthrone head back into the forests and have produced an (almost) old fashioned black metal record, the essence of the sound before they themselves helped to redefine it.

‘Dead Early’ opens the record with conviction and power; it follows their recent sound closely but contains infrequent nods to Mercyful Fate with necro NWOBHM riffs. It stands up there with ‘Canadian Metal’ and ‘I Am the Grave of the 80s’ as one of my favourite Darkthrone tracks from the newer records. ‘Valkyrie’ however begins with delicate acoustic picking before the band release their serious Mercyful Fate worship. Darkthrone gleefully abandon expectations of their necropunk phase continuing, and instead have given us something that is pure Eighties heavy metal; laced with the epic, the occult and some simply brilliant fist pumping anthems. Not something I thought I’d ever find myself saying, but this is possibly the most accessible Darkthrone will ever be, but this is not in any way to their detriment. In fact, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have managed to give us one of the finest metal anthems in decades in ‘Valkyrie’, and ‘Lesser Men’ isn’t far behind in those stakes either.

‘The Underground Resistance’ takes its cues from quality, dark Eighties metal like Venom, Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost. In fact, there’s something almost TOO Fate-like about ‘The Ones You Left Behind’, but it feels more like a tribute than a thieving. Some will weep and gnash their teeth and complain that Darkthrone are not black metal anymore, that they should return to those seminal early 90s days where there were funeral moons and blazing northern skies. But I don’t. They’ve taken black metal’s core attitude of ‘fuck you’ and applied it to pure heavy metal. That’s what makes this record so good; its a celebration of when metal was about banging your head and clutching those invisible oranges. ‘Come Warfare, the Entire Doom’ will appeal to the more necro among us and it definitely has more of a Celtic Frost vibe. The lengthy ‘Leave No Cross Unturned’ is another great track, ripping out the gates with an epic scream and a cracking thrashy riff. Nocturno Culto gives us his best King Diamond impression here, and it feels like we’ve stepped back into 1984.

What’s striking is the feeling of, dare I say, fun about the record. Darkthrone show no shame in aping their heroes, and have produced what could be considered one of the purest heavy metal albums in years. For fifteen albums in, the band sound more alive than ever and that is something we should all be truly thankful for.

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