Posts Tagged ‘Darkthrone’

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.

My friend asked me to do a blog on metal Christmas songs. Turns out that was a balls idea since I only know like 4, BUT it gave me an idea. Since it is the season to be cold, wet and generally miserable, I’ve decided to put together a list of ‘The Most Badass Songs With Winter In The Title!’

1. Blind Guardian – Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns): a fantastic piece of dark, bombastic power metal majesty

2. Sunn 0))) – Cursed Realm of the Winterdemons: The Immortal track was classic, but this cover is mind suffocatingly dense

3. Darkthrone – The Pagan Winter: Icy black metal from Norway’s finest sons

4. Sodom – Nuclear Winter: vicious early thrash from the German legends

5. Dragonforce – Black Winter Night: before they went all 500mph, Dragonforce were actually a pretty good power metal band

6. Immortal – At the Heart of Winter: the title track to probably my favourite Immortal record. At the heart of winter, there stands Immortal

7. Swallow the Sun – Descending Winters: crushing death/doom that truly feels like the cold is caving in

8. Wintersun – Winter Madness: melodic death metal at its purest, finest moments

9. Hail of Bullets – General Winter: an ominous air raid siren ushers in this juddering death metal classic about the harsh Russian cold

10. Cathedral – Aphrodites Winter: Another slab of finest English doom from the sadly retired legends.

So there we have it, that’s my top ten tracks involving winter. In fairness, I could’ve have just done an Immortal greatest hits, but that would’ve been lazy…!

In support of what little local scene there is around my neck of the woods (if I’m wrong, please feel free to contact me, Cumbrian metal bands), I got myself a copy of the new Helvellyn demo, ‘Hordes of White Light’. It’s a four track, black metal demo that has a very British feel to it. British black metal used to be Venom, then Cradle of Filth, but recently we’ve had brilliant additions to the canon from the likes of Winterfylleth, A Forest of Stars and Fen. Helvellyn could be another one to add to this scene, if they follow up on the promise shown here.

The title track starts us off with a very Drudkh style riff, weaving tremelo harmonies layered in thick, icy atmosphere. The drumming isn’t too thin and tinny, like some black metal demos can be, and underpins the riffing with a relentless rhythm. ‘In the Shadows’ then kicks in with a more crust punk style, akin to newer Darkthrone. It’s pretty straight for the jugular style black metal, scaling back atmospherics for a single minded assault. Variety can be important in black metal records; too often bands become stale by the thrid of fourth track because their style doesn’t evolve. Helvellyn don’t have that issue so far, but the acid test is when a full album comes out.

The two part ‘Sacramental Violations’ completes the demo, part one featuring a particularly nice chunky riff around the minute mark that slays. I personally prefer black metal with a bit of heft in the riffs, and that’s the type of riff that I’m looking for. Part two revels in its more moderate pacing and its Celtic Frost grunts at the start. Another plus for me is the vocals, which stay at a lower pitched howl rather than a piercing shriek. It makes them more understandable, and adds a bit of meat to the whole presentation.

Helvellyn is a band to look out for. They’re definitely one of my favourite discoveries this year, and hopefully we’ll get a full length out of them soon. Kvlt. As. Fvck!

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