Dark Thrones and Black Flags reviews
Felix%201666 on July 25th, 2016
Dark shadows and some rays of light
Haiger is a totally ordinary, sleepy village in Germany with less than 20.000 inhabitants. To hang out in this Hessian tundra is anything else but fun. But for eccentric guys who originate from countries with a rural character like, for example, Norway, Haiger is probably a kind of glittering metropolis. This might be one of the reasons why Darkthrone wrote a song about this place without any sights. Nevertheless, the song is as shitty as this village itself. Alarmingly weak riffs and crude vocals dominate, while a coherent structure is not visible. How fortunate that this insubstantial piece cannot be considered as representative for "Dark Thrones and Black Flags".
The vehement opener is also not a typical track, because Fenriz likes to play the black metal clown from Kolbotn. (I promise that I will vote for this lovely district as the next partner city of Haiger. Guess this would be the perfect combination.) Beware of his crooked style of singing during the chorus of "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker". I do not know his intention, but he sounds like an owl that suffers from insomnia. Nevertheless, this kind of vocals is an outstanding and somehow likable feature, because it needs a certain courage to offer such a strange chorus line. Apart from this detail, the fast-paced opener shines with aggressive riffs, catchiness and coherence. Additionally, the rhythmic emphasis of "The Winds" and "They Called" lends the chorus a dynamic appearance. A good entry - for a more or less difficult album. No doubt, the fourteenth full-length confirms the old rule: where there is light, there is also shadow. Please allow me to avoid the cold shadow for the time being.
As indicated above, "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" is not overloaded with highlights. Apart from the opener, only "Norway in September" makes my blood run cold - of course, in the most pleasant way. Its title alone is very atmospheric and the sinister mid-paced tune spreads a magic aura as well. Stoic guitars are the driving force, a short soft break adds a melancholic note and the intensive ending completes the picture. Long instrumental sequences allow the listener's mind to wander, but the harsh vocal performance is also well done. Further tracks, for example "Hiking Metal Punks", are pretty decent due to their creaking guitars, the crude vocals and, in the event of the aforementioned song, the lively guitars at the end which create a fresh feeling.
Nevertheless, broad sections of the album remain a mystery to me. The instrumental title track, for instance, consists of nothing else but lame riffs. This number does not make any sense at all; pure enthusiasm sounds different. Tracks like "Grizzy Trade" or "Launchpad to Nothingness" do not leave an impact as well. Despite some fairly interesting guitar sounds, they begin somewhere, meander aimlessly and end somewhere else. As a result, the music of this album falls short of expectations and the rather undifferentiated, relatively powerless production also fails to take the full-length to the next level. That's a pity, because the stylish booklet, which is ornamented with a lot of atmospheric or funny pictures, would have deserved a better recording result. Anyway, the solid and comprehensibly designed "Witch Ghetto" closes this unspectacular work, which finds its place in the lower part of the middle ranges of Darkthrone's catalogue. Recommended exclusively for fanatic collectors - and maybe for every sleepyhead in Haiger.
ConorFynes on March 1st, 2016
Good, but not as good as F.O.A.D.
In one of so many ways, Dark Thrones and Black Flags continues the tradition of F.O.A.D. by opening things up with one of Darkthrone's best ever songs. "These Shores Are Damned" felt like the legendary pair had thrown all of their inspiration into writing a truly classic tune 15 years past their golden years, and I think the same applies to "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker". As much as I appreciate Darkthrone, it's easy to take their basic riff format for granted, so when they don the daddy pants for even slightly nuanced songwriting, I'm quickly amazed by what they're capable of. I'm serious; if these guys wrote an album of songs as consistently fiendish and engaging as the opener for this one, they'd have a masterpiece on par with A Blaze in the Northern Sky or any of their other classics.
Generally speaking, Dark Thrones and Black Flags shows Darkthrone settling into the crusty true metal hybrid they introduced on The Cult is Alive and perfected (within reasonable expectations) on F.O.A.D.. Almost ten years on, and the debate still rages over the more recent turn in Darkthrone's career. Was their black metal style more majestic? Sure, but I'll never understand the segment of their fanbase who would have preferred more black metal mediocrity over hearing the guys play music that actually renewed their inspiration. While F.O.A.D. was a moment of refreshing affirmation for me as a self-proclaimed fan of these guys, Dark Thrones and Black Flags essentially does more of the same as its predecessor, burrowing Darkthrone's sound deeper into their concoction of all things traditional and greasy. It's a step down from the rush of the album before it, but like F.O.A.D., there's a lot of no-bullshit fun to be had.
My first theory why Dark Thrones and Black Flags wasn't hitting me as hard was the fact that F.O.A.D. had beaten it to the chase in most respects. While there's probably some truth in that, I don't think an homage to the greats of heavy, punk and speed need be qualified based on its originality or lack thereof. Really, the quality to a post-classic Darkthrone album is dependent on how passionate they felt when they were making it. Fenriz's work exhaustion resulted in a less solid album on Total Death for example; the same applies to depression and the lacklustre result on Plaguewielder. For whatever reason, these guys started hitting hard again with these ones. I think you can hear the authenticity in what they're doing here. Although the style they're playing is best seen as an amalgam of sounds (it's not a crust album as some say) the music is just as straightforward and basic as ever. Unsurprisingly, the performance hits as hard as I could have expected. Nocturno Culto's vocals only seem to get better with age, and the drums and guitars continue to uphold the "less is more" mentality. Rehearsal quality production? Check. All of the elements of Darkthrone are here.
I think art of this sort needs to be caustic and wild to some extent. F.O.A.D. was basic as all hell, but it felt dangerous, like a train at the eternal brink of being derailed. I do feel some of the same with Dark Thrones and Black Flags, but I think with the familiarity they gained with this newer style, they started settling a bit more than would have been preferable. Darkthrone's songwriting has never been their strong suit, but this album showed to a greater extent that they weren't prone to consistent writing regardless of the genre they were working with. "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker", "Hiking Metal Punks" and "Blacksmith of the North" are the best cuts, all in the first twenty minutes of the album. The second half has its moments ("Hanging Out in Haiger" is good fun, if anything) but the album loses some steam. As it happens, I find myself listening to the first side of Dark Thrones and Black Flags a lot more than the second half, nevermind the album as a whole. It pales in comparison to F.O.A.D., but I would say Darkthrone put out another solid record here. If anything, it's good to hear the band having pushed on with their desired sound in the face of criticism. These guys were years removed from making great music at this point, but no one can say they weren't as sworn to their convictions.
VRR on June 19th, 2010
Black metal rebooted
Darkthrone is still one of the most spectacular monuments of the Norwegian scene even after two and-then-some decades of active service. And the new millennium seems to have awoken a whole new work ethic in the duo, who have released six albums, three eps and two compilations in barely eight years. Perhaps they are hoping for World Heritage status. Even by DT's own prolific standards '08 was a treat of a year for loyal supporters of the necro. First came the compiled release of the oft-bootlegged early demos - including a sans-vocals rendition of the entire Goatlord album - by Peaceville on CD and 12". Then to follow up they put out their 14th studio album at the end of the year. "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" is yet more pub-punk rock infused blackened thrash (talk about hybrid genres..!) in the style of 2007's F.O.A.D. But was the new Darkthrone sound A Good Thing, or A Bad Thing? This much was certain: we didn't know. So, with trousers wedged firmly into socks and with our crampons dangling out for all to see, we set out for a hike around Darkthrone's musical landscape once again...
The first impression of the new material is one of immediacy and drive (as opposed to the other, slow-working type of immediacy): the album flying open and the first riff coming at you from a solo guitar. Immediately. There are no Space-gothic synths or low rumblings and muttered cursings to ease you in or set the lugubrious tone this time around. DTaBF is presented as a straight-ahead rock'n'roll album. Considering the dirty word that "R'n'R" has become in elite metal circles, the stripped-down 3 minute song approach is probably the greatest piece of rebellion from the band since they handed the pre-masters of "A Blaze..." in to Peaceville all those years ago.
And that first guitar lead itself? Well, it still bristles with enough over-clocked distortion to disguise the loose-strum twangs of an otherwise pure punk rock tone, but the wind chill factor of trebles has now gone too. The remainder - of buzzing middles and fizzling high tones - walls in the punchy riffs like a proto-hardcore band might have done in 1983, all the time preserving the clear channel signals enough to throw out a killer melodic hook when necessary. The "...Black Flags" part of the album title may be a none-too-subtle signpost towards the band's intentions here, but the drive-time riff shapes - and the calm aggression which permeates much of the material - is perhaps closer to the cerebral mien of the Dead Kennedys than it is to the confrontational deadlift machismo of anything Rollins himself has ever had a hand in.
Marching on through the tracks; the evidence of Darkthrone's new, exoteric agenda is plain to see. Songs are built by that arcane equation of verse-chorus-bridge, which somehow makes them seem entirely organic and non-formulaic in their procession, such is the perversity of black metal's wrongheaded logic. Hearing a build up section which delivers on its promise and actually segues to a tuneful chorus with a real-life melodic line is something of a novelty in a genre that has become addicted to the coitus interruptus of verse-break-verse atonal minimalisms.
The generous selection of guitar solos smatter broken black metal melodies, whilst remaining fluent in the pentatonics of classic NWOBHM axemen and the reptilian tongue of rock-monster licks. Nowhere is this more apparent than during the final build of the instant anthem stompalong "Hiking Metal Punks". A brace of hard-panned duelling guitar leads - initially separated only by their contrasting textures - duet on a novice soloist's wet dream of strutting perfect fifths.
As lead guitar number one banks, and peels away into the soaring altitudes of classic Maiden fretworking, a mountain of long-forgotten metal harmonies encroaches on the horizon of Darkthrone's brave new world. Where guitar solos are no longer dominated by Slayer-worshipping chromaticisms and needling Kerry Kingisms. If more music sounded like "Hiking Metal Punks", there is no doubt that the world would be a better place. Grab a tennis racket - you'll be air guitaring for the duration. No, on second thoughts get three tennis rackets. You can use the other two as snow shoes.
Vintage techniques are rendered modern in every track on the album. Venom-ous death gallops pull up sharp for ringing, plectrum-hand-in-the-air Thin Lizzy powerchords, which in turn flatten and bend under their own Candlemassive heaviness for a brief introspection of overcast doom riffage. Throw in some boxy garage-space percussion and a spartan eight-channel mix and you have an authentic mid-80s demo tape. Bottled, stored, and buried in the cellar, to be exhumed and released as vintage goods in 2008.
And here - essentially - lies the strength of "New" Darkthrone: the absolute emphasis on versatility, coupled with an understated expertise in their chosen field. As old bands jump the over-cargo'd black metal ark to reinvent or reinvigorate themselves in new musical spheres, Darkthrone have instead taken what they know already and shifted it on its axis. DTaBF is a black metal album, but black metal seen from a non-typical perspective. And this perspective has the benefit of 20:20 hindsight - it is the music that Darkthrone could have been playing in the 1980s when they first started out, if they had "known then what they know now", to paraphrase the late, great Rod Stewart. Wait, Rod Stewart isn't actually dead. Unless he died whilst we were out at the printers, in which case this review is now remarkably prescient. RIP Rod.
Where was I?
This album is like a reset button to black metal - something new which harks back to the old and chooses to completely ignore the barren wasteland of late-90s metal. Forget any grandiose notions of 'neoclassical rock music' concert hall fodder. Black metal's true Prometheus could be this Darkthrone album: the regeneration of a whole genre?
(Originally written for BLAST! zine #1)
Acrobat on November 6th, 2009
Too busy laughing to see the joke?!
Funny how having a sense of humour in metal can be so very dangerous to how you are perceived. Darkthrone give some hint to their tongues moving in slyly humorous manners and we, black metal’s fan-base with our inclination to analyse and dissect every movement every musician from Scandinavia has made in the last twenty-five years, can’t make heads or tails of it. Just gaze upon the abject repulsion Darkthrone have created by seemingly turning their backs on their early works (again, I suspect the pulling of limbs), and giving you a CD that recommends albums by Trouble -- one of the Rick Rubin produced ones, too! -- in its sleeve rather than solely featuring pictures of snowy landscapes. Apparently, in some circles having more overt fun with your music negates everything you’ve done to a slowly winding cog in the grand scheme of some masterful satire. Of course, the said view is complete and utter bullshit; all part of that ridiculous absurdity and over-analysis that we get with black metal… taken with a side order of absurdity, more absurdity and then -- here comes the clever part -- even more absurdity. Naturally!
I certainly don’t profess to understand every movement and decision in Darkthrone’s increasingly insular, icy little wilderness in which JD Kimball’s voice provides their only warmth. No, I don’t understand at all why after so many questions about certain burnings of certain wooden structures (that may or may not have lain on top of other wooden structures prior to this), and the repeated use of certain buzzwords to describe certain aesthetics of second wave black metal that Darkthrone’s official spokesperson would seemingly turn his back on the whole thing. Just getting back to the music would be nice after all that, wouldn’t it? I’d say some are a little too keen to praise the whole “fuck you/fuck off” aspect of Darkthrone, -- I, personally, just happen to like the fact that it’s provided us with a band that makes music exclusively for its own enjoyment, not yours (without resorting to the Lars Ulrich “Join us for the ride” defence) -- but, since I’m a nauseating sycophant massive fan I share the said enjoyment because I want to make Fenriz’s “thank you” list on the next Darkthrone album.
I can’t really claim it to be the “same old Darkthrone” (which is an over-simplification; but, hey, that makes a change from the over-analysis, right?) but Dark Thrones and Black Flags has a lot of what I’ve always valued about the band. Firstly, there’s Fenriz’s masterful drumming -- he’s still demonstrating why he’s black metal’s best drummer; as he’s still listening to what’s happening in the overall picture of the song as to compliments it so wonderfully. The drums are a little more in the background that on, say, A Blaze in the Northern Sky but that’s perhaps just to ram the fact home: Darkthrone are a ‘riff’ band, first and foremost. There’s also that wonderful duality of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto’s sort of split vision of the band (despite construction being a bit more shared this time around). Fenriz’s songs seem to have become the face of the band: brisk, catchy and seemingly drunk, whereas Ted’s taken a more cryptic approach with his compositions. In fact, it is rather telling that those who say Darkthrone’s become a “joke band” pay absolutely no heed to songs like ‘Norway in September’ or, say, ‘These Shores Are Damned’ from F.O.A.D. whilst only focusing on stuff like ‘Hanging Out In Haiger’ (which certainly is a fun song, in most respects, even if it’s the album’s weakest for me).
Yes, there certainly is a lot of old school metal here (the type that predates 1993 AD, don't you know) -- but it’s never there simply for its own sake. I think there’s a inescapably genuine love that’s present here; less laboured than Too Old, Too Cold, and with fewer creases in its overall presentation than F.O.A.D.. You could say they’re boldly marching onwards, I’d probably just say they’re just going somewhere! And hell, whatever the direction Dark Thrones and Black Flags sure is a thoroughly enjoyable ramble. Well worth my £6! There’s a lot of surprises for me, too, the melodic content is both very high and extremely welcome -- I’m almost expecting Nocturno Culto to make us all jump up in excitement with a properly melodic Maiden-esque solo on the next Darkthrone album. Well, maybe not, but there’s some very refreshing thrash riffs in places, too, listen to ‘Norway in September’ -- after an initially grinding mid-tempo song we’re treated with some caustic thrash. I’m sure it’s a homage to some long-forgotten 80s thrash band, who I simply must check out (again, because I’m a nauseating sycophant who lusts after that golden, Fenriz-y stamp of approval not because I’ve actually got any interest in metal).
Yes, what with all the lauding of attention at songs like ‘Metal Hiking Punks’ you’d be forgiven for missing out the more serious side of this record. But anyway, I guess we must cover that rather infamous number, shouldn’t we? Now, my brother told me he heard a bit of Scott Reagers in this vocal performance; I agree with him -- but there’s more! The verse riffs sound a lot like the title track of Vitus’s second album, Hallow’s Victim. Funny then, isn’t it? That Darkthrone get stick for showing “too much” punk influence these days, and they’re still taking a lot of their punk from a fucking doom band! Darkthrone is no joke, folks, but they sure love laughing at you! I mean they’re obviously trying to trick me into thinking they’ve become a bunch rock ’n’ rolling simpletons with all these hidden depths that only I have the good grace of voicing, right? In the song, I guess Darkthrone are celebrating nature and a sort of outsider identity, so that’s, what? Two very common -- standard, almost -- themes in black metal.
Some folks are having a few qualms with Darkthrone’s choice of vocal production here. Honestly, it never really struck me as anything horrid or at all detrimental to my enjoyment. They aren’t too distant and they’re not inappropriately reverberated; it just comes across as a rather authentic homage to the days when metal bands would get slightly odd sounding vocal production because the producers would simply say: “This guy can’t sing! What are we going to do?” and the answer, of course, would usually be “lots of reverb!”. But hey, that’s something I’ve got used to… it’s fun! Let’s put it this way; if you found yourself grumbling about the production on Gates to Purgatory, you’ll do the same thing here, too. You’re missing the point, really.
So, all-in-all, Dark Thrones and Black Flags is a gloriously eccentric listen with more than enough to keep me actively interested for as many listens as I care to have. It’s the best yet of the newer style of Darkthrone, and I’m greatly interested to see where they’ll go next. Of course, you can still dismiss it as a joke and an absurdly silly little album, and hey, why not tell me I’ve just added another layer to the repulsive over-analysis! But then, I’d be inclined to tell you to fuck off and listen to albums on ‘Spotify’. Whatever the hell that is, anyway.
autothrall on September 26th, 2009
Hybrid of early black metal ethics and punk fervor
Darkthrone is such a personal favorite of mine that each new album is practically an event, something I anticipate every year or so with baited delirium. Contrary to the narrow views of most black metal mavens, I enjoy just about every 'phase' the band has explored, even their highly debated albums like 'Plaguewielder' or 'Ravishing Grimness'. They have never lacked for integrity or a refined sense of simple, infectious songwriting. Their latest opus continues upon the path of the previous 'F.O.A.D.', a hybrid of early black metal ethics and raw, punk fervor. And it is quite a show, each of its 10 tracks a small piece of perfection.
No, you won't find 'Transilvanian Hunger' or 'Under a Funeral Moon' on this disc. And why the fuck would you want to? They have already achieved the apex of that form, and I for one am excited that they continue to redefine and reinvent their approach. As aforementioned, all of the songs on this album are wonderful. To pick favorites is nigh impossible since I love the placement of every note and every vocal on the album. One might first be thrown off with the rather 'goofy' sound of the clean vocals on track opener "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker", but listen a few more times. It's absolutely fantastic, and re-captures the charisma of early metal and punk when the individual voice was an important force in underground music, rather than the formulaic snarl-by-numbers you hear so often these days.
Both halves of the legendary duo have contributed equally to the songwriting here, and you can almost hear a division between the production of the tracks. And yet, despite this, they all fit wonderfully together into a grim, delicious whole. The influence of Celtic Frost, Bathory and other prototypical staples remains very apparent, yet each track embellishes with something you wouldn't quite expect. The somber melodies which illuminate the second half of "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker". The wild vibes of "Hiking Metal Punks" with its inspiring, NWOBHM guitar solos. The infectious riffing of "Blacksmith of the North". The desolate, thrashing atmosphere of "Launchpad into Nothingness". Just too many moments to choose here.
Lyrically, the album retains the tongue in cheek self-exploration of the state of 'metal' music kick which they've been on for some time now, but not restricted to that. This is a band whose lyrics have always been worth reading, from the worst to the best, and that is a trend which thankfully continues on 'Dark Thrones and Black Flags'.
Yet another masterpiece from the world's greatest black metal band, even if that tag no longer strictly applies to their sound. This is my favorite release from the band since 'Sardonic Wrath', and one I will probably not cut from my aural rotation until the inevitable follow-up.
Which I will eagerly await, with delirium bordering on frenzy.
ThrashManiacAYD on August 31st, 2009
Darkthrone - Dark Thrones and Black Flags
Forgive my touch of fanboy worship here but I'm willing to argue that there is no one cooler in the world of Metal than the duo of Mr. Ted Skjellum and Mr. Gylve Nagell, Nocturno Culto and Fenriz to you and I, than perhaps Lemmy Kilmister. As I should hope you know of my dislike for elitist black metallers by now that statement infact means I don't worship at the altar (great that it may be) of 1994's "Transilvanian Hunger" like the thousands of identikit bands out there, but more appreciate the 'realness' of said duo, who speak their mind and have their balls to do what the fuck they want. You'll see many bands who say no outside influences have affected their output yet they have 'conveniently' jumped ship to the current trend, but with Darkthrone you know it's true. Not giving a toss about the elitists out there and willing to accept their non-black metal and even non-metal influences, Darkthrone have found themselves a new identity and direction the latter half of this decade by combining the raw and harsh black metal that has always been their forte (excluding the death metal debut "Soulside Journey") with punk and classic metal influences in recognition of from whence they, and black metal, came.
Album number 14 "Dark Thrones and Black Flags" simply expands on what "The Cult Is Alive" and "F.O.A.D." have laid out in the most unpretentious of manners, featuring no irony in a sound terrifyingly 'amateur' and unpolished that will instantly see the majority spit it out in derision. But give it a second please - isn't it nice to hear a band record music purely for the very simple pleasure of recording music itself, playing very much within their abilities and not layering it in special effects and undignified sounds and samples? Listen to "Hanging Out In Haiger" - it has the essence of the classic NWOBHM/Accept template with the added bonus of some serious crust and the smell of last night's whiskey that should surely contain nothing anyone into raw black metal or NWOBHM can't tolerate. Much the same can be said of the rest of "Dark Thrones..." - there is no overt technicality, no polish and nothing pretty about it, but the glory of Darkthrone is precisely in those packages.
Opener "The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker" is symbolic of the pace and metallic nature of Darkthrone these days, with more than competent riffs seizing the moment from Nocturno and Fenriz hammering out simple but effective drum patterns resulting in an album that is pleasurable from the first listen. "Death Of All Oaths (Oath Minus)" hones the darker, grizzlier (to steal a Darkthrone term) nature of their output due mainly to Nocturno's coruscating howl, while "Hiking Metal Punks", based on Fenriz's passion for hiking in the Norwegian mountains, is punk to the T. More punk infact than most 'punk' bands I've heard in recent times.
"Dark Thrones and Black Flags" is no great departure from "F.O.A.D." and to choose a favourite is very much a personal choice. For me, "F.O.A.D." edges out "Dark Thrones...", but not without album 14 giving it a run for it's money. Darkthrone make fun, caustic black metal for those who live life eternal and have the balls to show it.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
nibblemark on March 5th, 2009
F.O.A.D. Part 2
Ahh, the almighty Darkthrone. I could take both recent albums, filter out the good stuff, put aside the cheesy bullshit and make one cool disc. Darkthrone’s saving grace as a band these days is their ability to write surprisingly creative and original riffs and hooks, as well as the infectious energy they infuse their music with.
The D-beat driven black punk metal they have adhered to since releasing “Hate Them” 6 years ago is here, no surprise. If you enjoy it, great. If you don’t, pull out your copy of “Transilvanian Hunger” and weep. Good bands evolve, you can’t fault them for that, and Ted and Gylvie are well into Darkthrone phase 3. Nobody would recognize the same band who did “Under a Funeral Moon” any more than “Soulside Journey”.
Apparently the boys have shared all songwriting duties this time, but how the hell can you tell? It sounds exactly the same as their previous outing, “FOAD”. And does Nocturno have throat cancer or something? He always had a great sound and style… listen to “Transilvanian Hunger” and feel the chill in your soul. But now? He sounds like my chain-smoking uncle coughing up the night’s lung deposit. But he still sounds better than Fenriz. Listen buddy, just drink your beer and stop singing for fuck sake. And if there is one thing I despise the most about their recent work, it’s their damn cheesy bullshit lyrics praising the glories of metal. Fenriz, having always been a very good wordsmith, is mocking us. Many examples of this are here: check out the lyrical laziness of “The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker”, “Hiking Metal Punks”, “Hanging Out in Haiger” and “Witch Ghetto”. Eeesh. Here we have both puke and crap. Thankfully some of these tunes are actually saved by some cool riffs and tempo changes, like the old school tremolo picked theme of “Dungeon Shaker”, the kick ass energy of “Witch Ghetto” and the melodic breakdown at the end of “Punks”, alluding to Aeolian minor, rare these days for the band. And refreshing.
There are definitely some good things here, most of all some truly original and righteous riffs. Darkthrone shines brightest when paying tribute to 80s thrash, which they seem born to play. “Death of all Oaths”, “Launchpad to Nothingness” and my favourite track, “Norway in September”, with a cool main riff, sloppy but very effective, and a second section that is roooaaarrr! perfect raw 80s thrash.
I feel I should mention-- What’s with the title track? An instrumental that goes absolutely nowhere, that only sounds like the intro to a song that was never born. Again, the boys are laughing at us. Hehehe.
I get the impression Darkthrone fans generally feel the same way I do. Despite its faults, I still like listening to this disc, and to this band, one of my all-time favourites. And I accept their new sound. I just wish they didn’t wipe their asses with it so much.
joethecabdriver on February 12th, 2009
Eccentric Misanthropy for Hiking Metal Punks
I didn't know about this one at first. There are almost too many contradictions, but in the end, it all sort of makes sense, mainly after the glue takes hold. Darkthrone are best know as the proto-typical evil Norwegian black metal band, a band known as the Ramones of Black metal for their minimalist three chord all corpse fucking approach. They have evolved into an evil band for wise-ass misanthropes, smirking metal gods content to piss off their fan base by calling attention to the punkisms that were always inherent to their sheets of white noise.
This album is not Transylvanian Hunger by any means. The title should tell you that this is not a grim blizzard beast, but an obvious nod to punk. Old school black metal riffs pop up from time to time, but this is scuzzy crust punk for than anything. It's kind of hard to put a label on it, really. Jokey Manowar we love our metal so much that we border on parody lyrics; sloppy musicianship; simple 4/4 mummy daddy mummy daddy drum patterns; mighty riffs tinged with square peg sounding hardcoreness; I don't give a fuck English as second language vocal stylings; the occasional power metal howl; raw but clear production values, with more bass than a band that has gone for years without a bass player should legally be allowed to have.
Hiking Metal Punks is the straight up punk rock song. Norway in September is a bargain basement metal epic with a fantastic riff. The Winds They called Metal Shaker is one of the strangest songs in their repertoire, featuring an slow building, old school riff, jokey power metal vocals, and sets the shambling feel that most of this album displays. Grizzly Trade is Celtic Frost worship that would not be out of place on Panzerfaust.
I think this is a band trying to reinvent itself by playing up it's eccentricities while staying as close to the minimalistic formula they invented. All-in-all, a likable concoction from a band that has always strived to be the opposite.
Hate%20Forest on January 14th, 2009
Denial, defiance, pure metal ideals
With Under a Funeral Moon Darkthrone have put out one stellar album, and in their later works snapped in to a more atmospheric approach, which was first on display on Transsylvanian Hunger. While Transsylvanian Hunger was by no means a bad album, the works that followed showed a continued entrenchment in this style and turned out to be increasingly formulaic. After Total Death I felt no urge to closely follow their path anymore and restricted myself to reading reviews about the band's output, so that I would realize when they had possibly found a new direction. Their most recent releases finally caught my attention, and I was positively surprised.
The band's latest output is fresh, varied, gritty and angry, features a wide variety of riffs and unscrupulous changes, is executed with precision and doggedness, and at the same time features a punkish vibe and production, something which was already present on Under a Funeral Moon. The music stays true to Darkthrone's greater take on Metal. There is no big departure to bemoan, this is neither Rock nor Punk, and it's not as far away from works like Panzerfaust for example as some reviewers seem to think. The difference is that the makers have developed a rejecting mindset again and recharge their creativity with an opposition now targeted at stereotypes and some of the recent atrocities in their own genre. Add to that a suprisingly fruitful integration of stylistic ideas from the classic Metal handbook especially in the vocal department - of course Darkthrone are clever enough not to overuse them - and this old/new approach seems to infuse fresh hate and vigor into their music. Channelling their disgust for today's state of the Metal world was by far not the worst concept they could come up with at this particular point of time.
Denial and a return to traditional Metal virtues is also the message that this album (and its predecessor) communicates lyrically and through its cover art (which is great, by the way - the new mascot is perfectly allegoric in that it crosses classic Iron Maiden's with the cover art of The Exploited). The message part put aside, the musical ideals and ideas that may originate from Punk, Heavy Metal and first-wave Black Metal were already present on earlier works and went through several layers of Darkthrone's own musical, intellectual and production filters, and the result is inevitably Darkthrone and original, refined music, with no pattern in existance that could have been plagiarized easily, including older Darkthrone itself. The gassy, atmospheric and overly washed-out production of Transsylvanian Hunger makes no appearance here, while the music is more varied and adventurous than on the albums that followed, the guitar tone alone makes this an rewarding and very "Metal" listen, not to mention the top-notch musical performance, the surprising ideas in song-writing, riffing and vocals.
Put shortly, this is Metal of Darkthrone's own school. The reminiscences to old Metal and Punk is something which can be seen through, this is 2008 and not 1988, and Darkthrone have taken things many steps further in the meantime. The cover art (Eddie with a Mohawk? Outrageous!) and the lyrics are pure mockery, which in itself is something perfectly in line with Metal ideals, and it may also serve the purpose of putting off people which Darkthrone deem unworthy as their fans. There's nothing wrong with that, because the music is much more advanced than the album's appearance may suggest. Few bands will be able (or tempted) to emulate Darkthrone this time. Just listen to the music, it stands on its own feet and it's quite good.
Wormfood on December 21st, 2008
Listening to Darkthrone's "Dark Thrones And Black Flags" is kind of like gleaning through the remains of a feast held two days ago. Occasionally you may come up with a half-decent riff or semi-satisfying arrangement (Darkthrone's song-writing is never totally crap), but it's not the same as getting stuck into the origional thing. While this album is certainly an improvement over the dreadful "FOAD", that's not saying a lot; it's difficult for me at least to imagine the band getting more boring than that. This album is as listenable as "Sardonic Wrath" at first, but unlike that album doesn't seem to improve with repeated listens. They've lifted their game riff-wise, certainly, and as usual, every now and then a certain catchy riff comes through.
There's nothing that jumps out, grabs your throat and threatens you with death either instant or slow and lingering, and for all their "sometimes you need just bread" excuses and "old school" nattering, this is Metal and Metal is not supposed to be ordinary music. You can still have straight, down-the-line riffing and song-writing with impact and power, but Darkthrone are settling, once again it seems, for mediocre. Very little is memorable, very little makes me want to go back and listen again, and nothing makes me want to rate this as an album to remember. And I think it's fair enough to expect better from a band that's been around so long and has been so instrumental in Black Metal.
But by now, Darkthrone have set their style in concrete enough for it to seem permanent until the next time they re-invent themselves, disown their recent past and pretend they where about what they're doing right now all the time. And it may well be that this is as good as it gets from now on; I tend to think the reason they keep putting down people who dig "Transilvanian Hunger" is because they know their best is behind them (they need to be reminded that there's a reason people keep going back to that album; it's their only consistantly good one). The fact is, Darkthrone today are what they always where, a patchy group who just happened to be in the right time at the right place. "Dark Thrones..." may win back a few fans who, like myself, stopped actually buying their albums after "The Cult Is Alive" and just downloaded them. It's not a terrible album, not even a bad album, but we can no longer expect "great" from Darkthrone anymore.
PS What lyrics?
ravenhearted on December 18th, 2008
Darkthrone - Dark Thrones and Black Flags
If you've been following the Black Metal scene at all the last ten years, you know that DARKTHRONE's newest effort isn't going to sound like «Transilvanian Hunger» this time either. Stop complaining, there are more bands than you'll ever have time to check out who copy that characteristic cold sound with varying degrees of quality. Somehow it seems fitting that Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are two of the only guys in Black Metal not trying to sound like DARKTHRONE, then.
As with their previous effort, charmingly titled "Fuck Off And Die!", "Dark Thrones And Black Flags" sees this dynamic duo taking their music even further away from the classic formula. This time the guys have decided to split songwriting- and vocal-duties evenly, and it's not hard to hear their quite different musical influences. Nocturno Culto worships old-school Thrash, channeling a harsh and evil sound through songs like "Death Of All Oaths" and "Blacksmith Of The North". Like all young bands seem to be paying tribute to DARKTHRONE, Nocturno Culto gives a nod and a wink to classic Thrash and Heavy Metal bands, with a vicious and raw edge that keeps those heads banging.
A less formulaic approach comes in the form of Fenriz' adoration of Crust Punk, even though followers of the band have already seen it shine through on the last few albums. These songs have one particular thing in common; it sounds like the guys were drunk as hell and having a blast while recording them. Just listen to the chorus on opener "The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaaaaaker", and try not to smile or sing along. Basically these tracks are performed with a lot of humor and energy, and serves as a giant middle finger to all the elitist «true» people out there. Lastly, if you're going to hear just one song from this album, it should be the testosterone-explosion of "Hanging Out In Haiger", which is both the funniest and the best thing DARKTHRONE have recorded in years.
To sum things up, the dynamic contrast of the vicious black thrash attack and the all-out ridiculous drunken punk keeps "Dark Thrones And Black Flags" fresh, and should have something to please everyone able to laugh at themselves. It's nowhere near musical high art, but at this point in DARKTHRONE's career it's obvious that they don't give a fuck about what anybody thinks of them. The album reeks of spontaneity, and even though they probably had more fun recording it than I had listening to it, this is the perfect soundtrack when you're kicking back with a couple of buddies and a shitload of beer.
(Online December 18, 2008)
Written for the Metal Observer
Arboreal on December 18th, 2008
The old school
First I must say, "HIKING METAL PUNKS! FOREVAH!"
One could easily imagine a young Fenriz, clad in his requisite denim, leather, and Hi-tops in the 80's. He skips school to go hang out with his best friend, Nocturno Culto and drink some beers while listening to Motorhead. That's what this album brings to mind. I don't think they had ever dreamed that they would release the first Norwegian black metal album ever. And here it is, over 15 years later and they're still at the top of their game.
I've been tackling Darkthrone's music for a while now. I never really "got it", I guess. Sure, there are lots of good moments on the big three Peaceville records. However, there are many bad moments as well. I tended to lump this band in with others I considered "more historically important than good". Dark Thrones and Black Flags has changed my mind.
This may be the best rendition yet of the style that began with The Cult is Alive. It's got old school rock, heavy metal, and punk written all over it. One thing that always bothered me about early Darkthrone was the garage rock/punk feel. I also despised the vocals. THIS album is a completely different story. In the old days, it seem that they were trying to cover up poor instrumentation, forgettable riffs, nearly non-existent percussion, and lack of songwriting with "necro" production. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are now embracing their influences and shitty musicianship rather than mask it with overdone aesthetics. The vocals have also gotten much stronger as they've went along and this represents their best approach yet. According to what I've read, they split songwriting duties 50/50 and it worked great! They each have some vocals on this album, too.
It could be argued that they've learned to play their instruments better or at least use them now. Either way, this is very minimal ROCKING DA FUCK OUT. The drumming is much more alive and upfront than in many previous releases...which is the instrument I was mainly thinking of regarding their apparent skill levels.
The production is far from clean. The guitars have a slight rawness and the drumkit has a garage quality to it. There is some bass impact to the sound, thankfully. Those who have seen the YouTube video "Darkthrone Studioreport" may remember a certain oven, along with comments of pizza and "necro" production. These are two metal musicians I'd definitely get along with great and that's part of the fun here. They're just average dudes with a sense of humor doing what they love.
Cheese is in abundance on this album. I didn't think I'd like it when I first turned it on. But then something strange started happening. I smiled. It was a big smile and it kept happening during the rest of the album. God damn it. I even laughed a couple times. Yet this obviously isn't a "joke". It's just really fun music! I guess some people might be upset that they stopped attempting to capture the magic of the "Peaceville Three", but I for one am very glad they went this way. This is one of the few Darkthrone albums I can legitimately enjoy from beginning to end. The riffs on Oath Minus are absolutely godly! Or would that be UN-godly?
Basically, instead of rehashing the same bullshit over and over in total failure, Darkthrone has possibly invented a new fucking genre with their last three albums. Heavy Blackened Speed Crust n' Roll. I guess that's a weird phrasing. I just conjured myself up an image of burnt, lead-infused biscuits strapped to a jetpack. I suppose it actually works...
Daru_Jericho on December 1st, 2008
Thrones and Flags for Victory
Darkthrone are one of the original Norwegian black metal bands, responsible for forming far too many imitators. In recent history, they have polarized their fanbase by converting to a black ‘n’ roll sound over their raw black metal. Dark Thrones and Black Flags, as the reference to the band Black Flag suggests, is a continuation in their musically controversial path. With punk rhythms and reckless black metal riffing, Darkthrone have orchestrated yet another black ‘n’ roll full-length.
This album differs to the previous album F.O.A.D. predominantly because the black ‘n’ roll is substantiated by heavy metal influences in the guitars and even Nocturno Culto’s vocals, as evident on tracks such as ‘Oath Minus’, ‘Blacksmith of the North’ and ‘Hanging Out in Haiger’. Fenriz varies his drumming technique throughout, employing common black metal skills, simplistic punk rhythms and catchy beats. The title track is an unpredictable instrumental, threatening and straightforwardly the most atmospheric song on the release.
The weakest point of this album is a deficiency in fresh ideas. ‘Hiking Metal Punks’ sounds suspiciously similar to ‘Canadian Metal’, although retains a fair dosage of identity in other ways. ‘Norway in September’ is secure as the most black metal anthem on this album but offers nothing to seize the listener’s interest. Similarly, ‘Witch Ghetto’ is typical of Darkthrone’s black ‘n’ roll legacy and, whilst memorable, fails to accomplish more than filler work.
Darkthrone have formatted their sound differently, paving further progress in their development by splicing their punky black ‘n’ roll with traditional heavy metal. The results are commendable and the album overall is a catchy affair with sing-along choruses and highly entertaining lyrics. This is a definite recommendation for fans of these Norwegians' later endeavours.
Originally written for www.soundshock.net
DaBuddha on November 7th, 2008
Let me first say that I am a heavy metal fan. Black metal may be my sub-genre of choice but I'm just a heavy metal maniac in general. And to an extent I agree with Fenriz's whole 'modern metal sucks' attitude, but there comes a time when enough is enough. I absolutely love the old Darkthrone records, everything from Soulside Journey to Sardonic Wrath. All of them have their charm. Then when The Cult is Alive came out I listened once and immediately loved it. It was so catchy and the riffs were fucking grand. Nocturno Culto sounded great. His vocals were as raw and harsh as ever and Fenriz's drumming was outstanding (for him anyway.) Every song was bad ass. I was hoping the next album would be just as good, but goddamnit if I wasn't wrong. F.O.A.D. was for the most part, crap. There were a few good songs on it. Canadian Metal was awesome, so was These Shores Are Damned and Wisdom of the Dead. The rest was just pure garbage. Look, I know Fenriz loves metal but does he have to fucking write about it EVERY FUCKING SONG?!
I tend to dislike bands that write about the greatness of heavy metal in their lyrics. Manowar is a good example. I cannot stand Manowar. Their music is alright at times, but their lyrics kill it for me. The same is happening with Darkthrone. The music is ok but for the most part the lyrics are really bad. Fenriz used to be a really good lyricist. Just read his lyrics on anything from A Blaze in the Northern Sky or hell, even Plaguewielder or Hate Them. The man knew what sounded good. Now he just sits and drinks beer all day, smokes five cartons of cigarettes and writes about how much he loves metal, just in ten different ways.
Now here is the new Darkthrone album. I knew immediately what it would be like, but I still decided to buy it. I pop it in my stereo and the first song starts. Well this is a good riff. It sounds similar to something they would have written back in 94. The drums come in and it still is kicking ass. Then Fenriz's vocals start and I know it is the same shit. With lyrics like "In the depths of the underground, through the nurseries of real metal sound" you know what you're in for. Not again. Oh god not again! Don't get me wrong. The music is fucking brilliant, but it's the damn lyrics that ruin it. Vocals/lyrics are, to me, important to an album and I'm sorry, but I just don't like this. You can say that I'm stuck back in 1993 but damnit, this is just bad. Death of All Oaths is up next and this is a Nocturno Culto song. I've noticed that he tends to write better lyrics these days. This song sounds like old school thrash and I'm really liking it, but... what happened to his vocals? Nocturno Culto used to have maybe the harshest voice in all of black metal, and he sounded his best in a decade on The Cult is Alive, but now he sounds, dare I say it, yet again, utterly crappy. You could notice it starting on F.O.A.D. but even then he still had that harsh, gravelly tone to his voice, but now he sounds bad, really bad for the most part. Damnit!
The rest of the album follows suit. Hiking Metal Punks is a decent song, but yet again the lyrics are shit. The chorus is ok though, I'll give em that. Nocturno's songs tend to be the more serious ones and for the most part, the better ones musically. Fenriz needs to stick to drumming and let Culto write all the music.
It's funny, but everything I just said about this album, and the last one for that matter, is exactly what the band want you to think. They could care less about what we think. They just keep on doing their thing, and I can respect that, because after all, if you're not creating music for yourself you are just a slave to commercialism, but come on guys, the gig is up. Writing, recording and releasing a new album every year is the major pitfall of this band. Maybe if they took a little more time to write the albums they would be much, much better. Oh and Fenriz needs to stop singing, NOW! I don't want to listen to drunk Elvis impersonators, really I don't. You know what else is funny too? When the next Darkthrone album is released, I will buy it. I do not know why, I just know that I will end up buying it. Maybe it's in the hope that they will find the spark again to write an album at least along the lines of Sardonic Wrath. I would be most happy with that. But until then, I have only one more question. Who the fuck is the dungeon shaker?
Necroticism89 on October 29th, 2008
Another triumph for Variety!
What the hell? The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker is a very odd song! It's filled with ATMOSPHERE, that's right, Atmosphere. It's a strange Atmospheric Post-rock version of later Darkthrone, with the added influence of "The trilogy" of classic Darkthrone albums in there. As the first song it's hugely misleading, as if Darkthrone sort of said "Look! It's Black Metal! Now listen in dissapointment, all you Transylvanian Hunger obsessives as we completely ruin your hopes by changing the entire album." It's odd but utterly fantastic. Death of all Oaths somehow reminds me of 80's Metallica, vaguely. Metallica which had been mangled through the Darkthrone mincer to achieve that odd sound and straggled production. A great song.
I should probably stress right now that is about the end of the experimentation on this album. After this is good old new Darkthrone (If that makes sense)! The album toes the line that "F.O.A.D" drew in the sand so well, that every song on this album could've been off "F.O.A.D.", it is a natural progression (Or is that regression, in Darkthrone's case?). The only new factor is the increasing Doom element. Most of the songs have slower, more heavier parts than usual. It could be said that the line toed here is smack bang in the middle of Thrash and Doom metal (But not groove).
Hiking Metal Punks is utterly amazing. Nothing else for it. This song is the "Canadian Metal" of this album. The one that will get all the press and attention as well as getting a lot of criticism for the "Punks" part of the title. It is such a great and catchy song, possibly my favourite on the song. The solo is very Maiden-like which is surprising. It's such an awesome harmony and nice to see a bit of melody in a Darkthrone song!
Blacksmith of The North starts with a bit of ambience, which is nice and certainly adds something to the song. The song is good, but not a stand-out, I'd say. Norway in September, written quite obviously in Norway in September, is a great song, the black metal riffage on show is quite awesome. The title strikes me as odd, and will probably take a lot of flak. I was expecting a more Dunkelheit-y doom song, which it provides near the end of the song, with yet more Atmospheric, slow guitar work. But the false ending, with the double bass is simply awesome, and the small thrash segment after it is simply amazing, so intense, and just makes you want to headbang furiously. One of the standouts, definitely.
Grizzly Trade is yet another song with slow-burning doom elements. With tribal drumming and haunting riffs, it's utterly astounding. I wish they could just do a whole song of this stuff, they could pull it off so well. Not only that, but maybe a song in the style of Reverend Bizarre or Electric Wizard. With Darkthrone's grim production, it would be an utter revelation. This song is about the closest you're going to get to a full blown doom metal song by Darkthrone. Hanging out in Haiger starts out with an loveably crap drum solo. The drums just seem oddly out of time quite a bit. The riffs are good, but a bit disjointed if you ask me. It feels all very funny to me. More of a riff-collection then a song.
Dark Thrones and Black Flags is, sadly, an instrumental. I was hoping for some lyrics about how Metalheads can like Punk and vice versa, in that typical Fenriz manner. But it is not to be. This continues more of the doom element, this is ALL slow, seeing as it's only one riff and is only 2 minutes long. Launchpad to Nothingness is a good song, continuing to plod along in the same style as the rest of the songs, with more of that dreaded Doom element, and fuckloads of atmosphere. The ending is chilling, so repetitive, yet hypnotic. It's 2 notes but that's more than enough to take you into a trance, another world.
Witch Ghetto, apart from having the greatest track title of all time, is AMAZING. It takes a while in coming, but when you get to Witch Ghetto, you are rewarded. This is possibly the most punky song on the album. Before this album's release, the album title had many people thinking that this was going to be an exercise in Punk along the lines of "The Cult Is Alive", but it has been contained to the confines of this song along. Along with HIking Metal Punks, this is my favourite song on the album. It's so bang-your-head-alongingly good. It's good to see Darkthrone keeping up the speed for a whole song here.
Although, there are a few cons. The fade out is very fucking annoying. The first 3 songs all fade out. It's annoyingly consistent. This doesn't help the fact that some of the songs seem to mush together, all sounding the same. Hell, they all sound like songs off "F.O.A.D" which is even more fucking confusing!
Also, actually, I can't really think of many cons at all to this album. I fucking love it.
As a whole, this album is very good. VERY fucking good. There is so many great songs, it's unbelievable, and Hiking Metal Punks and Witch Ghetto are two of the greatest songs Darkthrone have ever fucking made. But is it as good as "F.O.A.D."? No. I think when "F.O.A.D." came out, it was such a shock to my system that I instantly fell in love with it. This isn't as shocking, despite having some new elements. Maybe over time it will ascend the ranks. But for now, it's 3rd in the league of Darkthrone, behind "Soulside Journey" and ahead of "...Hunger". Yes, that's right, ahead of "...Hunger".
New Darkthrone kicks old Darkthrone in the stones, to be honest. To all you people suffering the Transylvanian Hangover who still think good music ended in 1996 with "Filosofem", it might seem an unorthodox concept. But, to be honest, that's when Black Metal really got going. The paths taken by each individual band (Such as Mayhem's ultra technical, darker turn or Satyricon's foray into rockier territory) is infinitely more interesting than the crummy old demos and debut albums which all followed a very basic format. I still believe Burzum's greatest album was "Daudi Baldrs", always have and always will. I worship at the realm of "Grand Declaration of War" and "Now, Diabolical". So, it will come as no surprise to you when I say that I prefer new Darkthrone to old, as it's an infinitely more interesting concept. It's nice to see the slower side to Darkthrone, and the addition of atmospheric and melodic parts is very welcomed. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Well, in Black Metal terms, this is a full blown Chicken Vindaloo.
Download; "Hiking Metal Punks", "Witch Ghetto", "Norway in September", "Dark Thrones And Black Flags", "The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker".
crudux_cruo on October 23rd, 2008
Hiking metal punks... FOREVER!
The masters of the riff are back again. So soon, you ask? Well, it appears that Fenriz and Culto have taken the whole old-school values thing completely to heart, and are going to give us a new album every year. But hey, who's complaining other than Transilvanian Hunger purists?
'Dark Thrones and Black Flags' follows on pretty closely from last year's 'F.O.A.D.', and if you enjoyed that last blast of black aggression, you're going to find plenty to love on this new disc. It's all still here: the low-fi "Necrohell II" production, the black metal-tinged with-old school metal-tinged with-punk-tinged with-whatever the hell the gruesome duo feel like, and the great 80s-esque cover. I'm wondering whether this fellow on the front is going to become some kind of Darkthrone Eddie...
Still, as far as the music goes, you can expect to hear a pretty similar bag to 'F.O.A.D.', but everything here appears somewhat more refined and consistent than the last record. That's not to say all these tracks sound the same - they most definitely don't - but the whole thing just feels a bit more polished and complete than on 'F.O.A.D.' (an album which I also loved).
Apparently, for 'Dark Thrones and Black Flags', Fenriz (here credited as Gylve Fenris "mao tse tung rock" Nagell) and Nocturno Culto pretty much split the writing of everything 50/50, which results in a pretty damn varied, interesting record. From the get-go, you can tell which tracks Fenriz had the biggest hand in penning, with a succession of 80s headbangers peppering the disc, usually revolving around his favourite lyrical topic: "REAL METALLL!". These are amongst my favourite tracks on the disc, kicking off with the tremolo-riffing of 'The Winds they Called the Dungeon Shaker', through 'Hiking Metal Punks' (a great drunken shout-along if ever there was one), the demented screaming of 'Hanging Out In Haiger', and the closer, 'Witch Ghetto'. If you hated Fenriz's previous yells and Tom G. Warrior stylings, this album definitely isn't for you, because you're going to hear a whole lot of them. For the rest of us, you won't be able to get enough!
The Culto-centric, more traditional tracks are also great, with plenty of icy riffing and sparse drumming to keep most black metallers happy. These tracks are similarly strong, and I really can't find any weak spots on the disc. My personal favourite of these is 'Norway in September', the longest track here, and a real work of black art. The song incorporates a variety of interesting parts and riffs, including a creepy atmospheric section in the middle which could have come straight from the soundtrack of Culto's recent film project 'The Misanthrope' (you'll know it when you hear it).
Overall, this is probably the best output from the Norwegian veterans we've seen since the heady early Peaceville days. It takes everything that makes Darkthrone's newer approach so great, and hones it to perfection. Of course, those of you stuck in '93 waiting for a new album in that style aren't going to like this record, as it won't be "grim", "tr00" or "kvlt" enough for you. But if you have more diverse tastes and are open to Darkthrone's recent output, this 40-minute thrasher will have you banging your head like a trip to Haiger.
AssholePatrol on October 20th, 2008
Darkthrone is a band that is not at all opposed to tweaking or even completely changing their sound from album to album. As many know, in the early years of the band they changed from technical death metal to black metal and then years later they turned into more of a heavy/thrash/old-school black metal/punk/”evil rock” band. There are many fans of the band that enjoy practically every era to some extent, but for the most part, Darkthrone fans today are typically divided into groupings of fans of the three above eras. Personally, I enjoy all three eras of Darkthrone, although that is not to say that their discography is flawless as they have a couple releases in the middle of their discography that I am not exactly a huge fan of.
With that said, if you enjoyed what you heard on F.O.A.D. and The Cult is Alive, there is a decent chance you’ll like what you hear on Dark Thrones and Black Flags. However, if you’re still bitter that Darkthrone dropped the corpsepaint and/or the traditional second wave black metal style (that they helped create) behind and didn’t once crack a smile in agreement while listening to the last couple albums, then you, my friend, will find nothing to smile about this time around either as this album more or less continues the tongue and cheek, old-school metal and punk worship of the last two albums.
Of course, calling Dark Thrones and Black Flags a carbon copy of the last two albums would be a mistake as I see plenty of differences between this album and its two older siblings. For example, The Cult is Alive showed the band increasing their already huge punk influence to new heights and F.O.A.D. added onto this sound by including a great deal of old-school heavy metal into the fold as well. Dark Thrones and Black Flags doesn’t necessarily add anything “new” to their sound in a major way this time around, but rather shifts their emphasis to different parts in their sound that they created on F.O.A.D. by way of becoming even more of a heavy metal/punk rock band. This would be 100% okay with me if the album turned out to be near the same quality as the last album, but sadly, I found Dark Thrones and Black Flags to be inferior to F.O.A.D. but that does not mean that this album is bad at all, but rather that F.O.A.D. was just that great of an album.
But what did I find so appealing about F.O.A.D.? I believe what I found so appealing about the previous album lies in the awesome anthem-like songs, brilliant riffs, highly atmospheric moments, and beautifully minimalist, yet headbangable lead guitar work. The sad thing about Dark Thrones and Black Flags though, is that all of these elements I loved so much about F.O.A.D. are not in abundance on this album. A major difference in the writing process this time around is that both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have an equal amount of songs that they have contributed to the album. While both writers typically deliver badass riffing, I believe that Fenriz is the one typically responsibly for the anthem-like songs whereas Nocturno Culto is the one usually placing more of an emphasis on the above-mentioned songs with heavily atmospheric moments and beautifully minimalist, yet headbangable lead guitar work that often ends up in trippy territory. I’m typically against album reviews that describe every song, but I believe due to how different most of the songs sound from one another on this album, I find this to be exceptional.
Dark Thrones and Black Flags begins with a Fenriz song called “The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker” which follows the tradition of kick-ass opening tracks on Darkthrone albums. This pro-metal anthem is also notable as the chorus is not only simplistic and catchy, but also features Fenriz breaking into a vocal styling that may remind some of his days in Isengard as he shouts “the Dungeon Shakerrrrr.” The song also breaks into a really atmospheric part that breaks into some nice guitar leads. “Hiking Metal Punks” is another awesome, anthem-like song, complete with a catchy chorus, Venom/Warfare-styled riffing, and an awesome Iron Maiden-esque solo. “Hanging Out in Haiger” is another anthem (noticing a pattern?) as well and while it is a fun song complete with vocals reminiscent of King Diamond at his most “normal-sounding,” and even features some sweet melodic riffing that sounds right out of a late ‘70s/early ‘80s heavy metal record, it somewhat pales in comparison to the two previously mentioned songs written and sang by Fenriz. The other two songs that Fenriz contributed to the record are “Dark Thrones and Black Flags” and “Witch Ghetto.” The instrumental title track isn’t bad by any means, but it just didn’t serve much of a purpose to my ears and the oddly-titled “Witch Ghetto” is a pseudo-anthem of sorts that closes the album and would make a 1980s Tom G. Warrior proud.
And then there are the songs written by Nocturno Culto; the source of the drugged out songs that sometimes feel as if Tony Iommi and the trippiest of doom metal and NWOBHM guitarists have bestowed upon him their magical knowledge of the riff! Nocturno Culto’s best offerings on Dark Thrones and Black Flags are “Death of All Oaths (Oath Minus)” and “Norway in September” which both make me involuntarily grin like a jackass due to the amount of badass riffing and atmosphere. Actually, I must say that “Norway in September” just may be my favorite song on the album as it in some ways reminds me of “The Banners of Old” which was probably my favorite song off of F.O.A.D. The two songs are similar due to both songs having slow doomy riffs that build up into really simplistic, yet powerful guitar leads with very atmospheric moments surrounding said guitar work. The main difference between the two is that “Norway in September” rips into an all-out thrash metal assault! Try not to hurt your neck listening to this one! “Blacksmith of the North (Keep that Ancient Fire)”, while having an undeniably awesome song title, somehow fails to live up to said awesomeness. The riffs aren’t bad or offensive to my ears by any means and it even features a really nice, almost psychedelic-sounding part for a very brief period. It just… lacked something that stopped it from being anything more than just “okay.” “Grizzly Trade” is also fairly notable as it is a catchy little song that at times sounds like a bizarre mixture of Under a Funeral Moon with Darkthrone’s newer sound! The last song that Nocturno Culto contributes to the album is the slow-paced rocker “Launchpad to Nothingness” which has a really cool main riff and while not a bad song at all, compared to some of the other songs on the album, it’s quite forgettable.
In short, Dark Thrones and Black Flags is a great record that escapes reaching a slightly higher level of quality due to a lack of consistency amongst some of the songs. So, if you enjoyed the last two albums, more specifically F.O.A.D., there is a chance you may not like this album as much as those, but by the same token you may like it a lot more than F.O.A.D. in contrast with me, but you’ll certainly enjoy it more than all of the zit-faced basement dwellers that don’t like black metal (or metal in general) made before 1991.
Dark Thrones and Black Flags track list
|1||The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker||03:52|
|2||Death of All Oaths (Oath Minus)||04:16|
|3||Hiking Metal Punks||03:22|
|4||Blacksmith of the North (Keep That Ancient Fire)||03:13|
|5||Norway in September||05:46|
|7||Hanging Out in Haiger||03:22|
|8||Dark Thrones and Black Flags||02:24|
|9||Launchpad to Nothingness||04:31|
Dark Thrones and Black Flags lineup
|Nocturno Culto||Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Lyrics (tracks 2, 4, 9)|
|Gylve Fenris 'Mao Tse Tungrock' Nagell||Drums, Vocals, Guitars, Lyrics (tracks 1, 3, 5-7, 10)|