The Cult Is Alive reviews
dispaterwisdom on July 11th, 2018
Many reviewers have described this as the beginning of Darkthrone's retro-revival-heavy-metal era. I disagree with that assessment, instead pointing to F.O.A.D. as the indicator of that shift. However, it must definitely be acknowledged that The Cult is Alive marks a clear turning point in the band's direction, regardless of the fact that this work is very much firmly planted in the classic era of Darkthrone. If this is only a crust-punk album as some claim, then it's surely one of the grimmest and "blackest" examples of crust-punk I've ever heard.
Nocturno Culto's guitar playing and riff writing honestly harkens back to the feeling of A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under A Funeral Moon. Its tone in the production is crispy, cold, and scraping as hell, just like you'd expect, but there's a revived vigor to them on this record as well. What makes these riffs sound so fresh is the more complex rhythms that they play along with the drums. And this takes us to the drum parts, probably the single most different thing to be found on this album. Fenriz goes full punk and 1st-wave black metal in his drumming here. This combined with the more traditional tremolo, buzzing guitars by Nocturno layered above and you get a fascinatingly fresh approach to the Darkthrone feeling. Add to this that the drums sound way drier then they ever have, nearly approaching a "tape demo" feel, without the super lo-fi element of a old cassette.
Although musically, Fenriz may have called this album in his interviews the beginning of a "regression", there's a real clarity to the production that definitely feels "updated" and appropriately contemporary. This is despite their claim to not do any mixing nor any "turning of knobs" once they record everything. If indeed they left the knobs at a random spot on the console, then fate did a good job at leaving them at the right spot because everything sounds just like it should.
Besides the drums being so unique in the Darkthrone discography, we get a more old-school, even black-thrash approach to lyric writing. When listening to "Atomic Coming" one can see a nod to Sodom in the lyrics. "Graveyard Slut" also harkens back to Venom, Sodom, and even early death metal bands that sang of similar topics. Fenriz also sings on this track which comes as a great surprise, really delivering a deeper, more grunted and primitive style that adds so much power and creepiness to the track.
Many consider their previous record, "Sardonic Wrath" to be the last black metal release and in a sense I understand where they're coming from because there is a strong continuity from Blaze in the Northern Sky to that album that cannot be denied. It's their consistency and purposely unchanging attitude that prevailed and made each release something you knew was going to be uncompromising black metal. However, crust-punk and heavy rock were always a part of Darkthrone's sound. This time around the band decides to focus in on this punk aspect to such a degree that in some ways it could be classified as crust-punk, but that would most likely fall short of recognizing this album's glory. It's incredibly fresh and different, yet also is totally recognizable as Darkthrone and real black metal. It breaks new ground while simultaneously regressing to a hateful primitiveness that is very palpable. In this sense this album achieves mastery.
Perhaps one could argue that crust punk CAN BE black metal if done in this way, but then we'd be getting way too mired in genre arguments... Lets just say that The Cult is Alive is one of the band's darkest, grimmest, fucked-up, and hellish albums ever, regardless of its label. Other highlights would be "The Cult of Goliath" or "Whiskey Funeral", and "Shut Up" for a little comic relief.
If you listened to this once, or even a few times and turned it off because it wasn't satisfying your expectations, I recommend you go back and give this another chance, a real chance, and realize that just like "Transylvanian Hunger" this album is meant to be listened to alone, in the dark, somewhere where you can allow this to sink into your mind, and once it does, it'll never leave you. Post-apocalyptic Darkthrone at its finest.
JackOfAllBlades on May 25th, 2017
A Snapshot of a Metamorphosis
To many, the name Darkthrone evokes the sort of lo-fi Satanic witchery that only Norwegian black metal could achieve. They are almost singly associated with the "true Norwegian black metal" sound, and with good reason. But with their eleventh album, the band seems dedicated to challenging expectations.
The cult, indeed, is alive. But it sounds a little different this time around. The black metal shriek so well-known to genre fans is here in spades, as is the spiny shell of trebly guitars. But the blast beats of old have given way to D-beats, and the minor key tremolo picking is replaced with punk rock power chords. And though the crust punk influence here is nowhere near the level of later releases like F.O.A.D. or Dark Thrones & Black Flags, it comes as a welcome surprise after the less-than-stellar black metal drudgery of Sardonic Wrath, Hate Them and Plaguewielder.
Strong opener "The Cult of Goliath" boldly demonstrates just how far from familiar territory the band is willing to stray. Speed metal-infused crust punk rages for two minutes, followed by a guitar solo introduced with a vicious howl of "come on, you fuckers!". It's the sort of thing that thrash bands call out during shows, yet Nocturno Culto's conviction is strong enough to make the rather absurd command sound convincing and well-placed.
Some of this absurdity seems to be on purpose. Any Darkthrone fan knows that the band doesn't take themselves nearly as seriously as most of their musical peers, and on The Cult Is Alive, they revel in the joys of ridiculousness. The laughably-titled "Graveyard Slut" is almost like black metal's answer to the Misfits: catchy riffs behind lyrics whose combination of the spooky and the sleazy is gleefully obscene.
Oddly, despite the questionable lyrics and stylistic deviation, The Cult Is Alive is quintessentially Darkthrone. The riffs are strong enough to forgive weaker lyrical moments and propel greater ones skyward. Fenriz' manic drumming is somewhat tempered by the slower tempos, but he includes some tastefully overblown fills. On a fundamental level, the disc represents the primal minimalism that Darkthrone has always embodied, even when some of the flashier instrumentals betray the simplistic song structures.
And within this lies the core of what makes Darkthrone work: even (or perhaps especially) when their impressive musicianship shows through the veneer of bare-bones heavy metal, it's obvious that they're having a hell of a lot of fun. If you're expecting a self-serious, corpse-painted album like Under a Funeral Moon you will be disappointed. But if you, like Fenriz and Culto, have a deep-seated love for heavy metal and punk rock, you'll find a lot of great songs and a whole lot of headbanging.
Napalm_Satan on July 10th, 2016
who gives a fuck
From this point on Darkthrone basically embraced the slovenly laziness that has defined their 'crust' era, and was present in spades for a decade beforehand. This album is such an incredibly boring listen that feels like a chore from the opening riff. Every facet of it is decrepit and wrong, and the fact that the only real defense of this album is 'they don't give a fuck, they do what they want' should speak volumes. Darkthrone just don't care and will make any old swill; only with this album they openly admitted it and embraced this in-built laziness, and simultaneously flipped the bird to the metal scene.
The worst thing about this album, by a country mile, is how utterly bland and unvaried it is. The album basically relies on its riffs and nothing else - sounds fine; but by 'nothing else' I mean any sort of interesting melodies, variation in structure, gracefulness during transition from riff to riff, variation in tempo, literally anything that could make one song sound different from the other, or memorable in any way. The riffs are essentially punk rock riffs with black metal distortion (no crust influence like many have claimed), which isn't a problem in and of itself, the real problem is that Darkthrone can't write compelling riffs of this nature. Every last one sounds stilted and awkward owing to the plodding 'punk bounce' that they suffer from. Songs feel disjointed as a result of it, compounded by their clumsy and formulaic verse-chorus construction and endless repetition of these stock riffs.
The other performances are largely the same. Barring a few d-beats Fenriz elects to stick to boring straight beats, again, with little to no variation at all. The bass follows the riffs, which is disappointing given the punk influence, I wanted some more cool bass intros and what not. And perhaps most offensively of all, Nocturno Culto's vocals are literally just rasping while talking with absolutely no energy behind them at all. Every vocal line is timed in the same way, its almost like the end of each verse signals a new riff and that is all the vocals are for, seeing as the lyrics are so generic and dull and the NC sounds more bored than anything. Don't even get me started on Fenriz's hilariously awful clean slots.
This album has no creativity, no passion, no flair, no energy, no nothing. It isn't even that the album repeats itself so often - the last time this band repeated themselves this much they produced the best metal album ever recorded. It is that they are repeating awful and weak ideas that shouldn't have been made in the first place. I'm not saying that this style is inherently inferior to what came before either, I am saying that they suck at this style - which is why the one black metal influenced song on here ('De underjordiske (Ælia Capitolina)') is the only thing here that doesn't insult the listener's intelligence. The atmosphere is cold and dead, and not in the way that 'the cult' was oh so good at creating - it is sterile, not grim. You won't want to nod your head to music that is this bland. It isn't catchy or memorable, it isn't technical at all, it is merely a nothing album. That is all it is, an act of sheer laziness. A regression in *every* respect.
But hey, 'they don't give a fuck', so it's all OK.
ConorFynes on February 24th, 2016
The muffled transition piece.
Graveyard sluts! Wow!
Although their crust and classic metal oeuvre can't hold a candle to the essential magic of their early black metal albums, I do think Darkthrone were in the right to shift their sound. Although Ravishing Grimness stands out as a pretty great album from their hazy mid-period, the other albums seemed to just exist without much determination of their own. Nocturno Culto and Fenriz weren't really trying to retrace territory with these albums, but this didn't stop the albums from having an enjoyable-but-wavering grasp of atmosphere and power. Even Sardonic Wrath-- the second best of the four-- showed signs of laziness on the band's part. In truth, they had already done about as much with black metal as any pair could stand to muster. Change was obviously needed. The Cult is Alive brought the answer.
I doubt the debate between Darkthrone purists and adopters of their punkish stuff will die down anytime soon. Judging by my tastes I suppose I'm an unlikely supporter in that regard, but I had a lot of fun with F.O.A.D back in high school. Detractors refer to the era that arguably began with The Cult is Alive as an over-the-top metal self-parody. I don't think anyone could argue to the contrary. For what it's worth, the effect is usually a ton of fun, provided you've got a 12 case to back up your stereo with. Although The Cult is Alive stands as a necessary transition record for Darkthrone, it actually lacks a lot of the charm that made the subsequent crust albums so enjoyable for what they were. Caught smack dab in the centre of their middle-of-the-road black metal and the all-things-traditional mix, the combination falls flat.
Much like Plaguewielder, this is another album that simply exists for what it is. To describe it like a heavy metal band hijacked Sardonic Wrath and went their own way would probably make it sound more exciting than it is. You would think it would be exciting to see Darkthrone pay respect to their classic influences, but the mix of sounds doesn't really manage to wring the best out of any of the genres involved. From a pure standpoint of songwriting, it may be as forgettable as Plaguewielder. Luckily, a predictably aggressive performance of this material gives it some worth to a prospective listener, even if only as an album to put on once the classics have been overplayed.
The album's textures are black metal, the songwriting is heavy/speed, and the lyrics fall somewhere between their circa-Hate Them misanthropy and the meta references to heavy music culture they would later embrace in full. Although Darkthrone had proven 15 years prior that they can jump from one genre to another without batting an eye, it's possible that an album like The Cult is Alive helped to ease the impact of the quintessential black metal band throwing in their guns for greasier pastures. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter what Darkthrone are playing so much as how they're putting the plan into action. To be fair, I hadn't expected much in the way of solid songwriting since Ravishing Grimness. The thing that's kept me coming back for more is the energy they usually fuel into their performances. After all, it wasn't the songwriting so much as the underwhelming presentation that made Plaguewielder such a dud. The Cult is Alive has a strong, edgy performance. Fenriz and Nocturno sound nice and pissed off. That's about all this album has going in its favour. Luckily, the styles they're playing don't normally need more than that to function. I'm most disappointed in this album for the fact that a kitchen sink combination of their past and future sounds could have worked. I mean, there's no reason for it not to have; lots of bands have fused crust with black metal together and it usually sounds great. The issue lies in the fact that they delegated a part of the music (the tones, the riff writing etc.) to a different style, as opposed to truly fusing it together as a mesh. I am confident Darkthrone had the potential to make something great with this stage. The songwriting doesn't really leap out, and having heard the album a few times now, none of the songs outside of "Atomic Coming" and "Forebyggende krig" sound identifiable. The tinny black metal timbres feel ill-spent on what are essentially amorphous speed metal riffs. To the album's credit, the lyrics are just as hate-filled as I'd hope to hear from their mid-period onward, but even then, mixing that with tongue-in-cheek references to metal culture somewhat defeats the effect of it.
Like it or not, Darkthrone finally moved onward with this one. Considering how stagnant their art was getting, The Cult is Alive cam e at the right place and time. If it helped set the stage for F.O.A.D and the rest, it's indirectly earned its keep as such. For the sake of actually listening to it, Darkthrone had technically done worse for themselves in the past, but I'm nonetheless disappointed they approached this new sound with the same bag of problems as the string of albums before it.
Felix%201666 on October 30th, 2015
The chameleon is alive
No intro, no hesitation. "The Cult Is Alive" is kicked off by an explosive riff which pulls the unsuspecting listener into the song immediately. As you surely know, the versatile chameleon called Darkthrone has already appeared in many different forms. Now it is back and already the untamed opener makes clear that the days of low budget productions are gone. "The Cult Is Alive" has a competitive sound and does not reveal any grave deficiencies. Instead, the mix is characterized by its density and gruffness. The radical rejection of any kind of compromise is the third feature which shapes the sound. Therefore, the frame is set and Darkthrone start working.
The impulsive duo has forged a handful of fascinating black thrash metal pieces. Three tunes, the opener as well as "Atomic Coming" and "Whisky Funeral" put the focus on speed while attacking with piercing riffs. Although these songs are based on a fairly ordinary configuration, they possess the typical iota of insanity for which the band stands. Apart from this trademark, each and every number marks a straightly running neckbreaker which does not lack of pressure and dynamic. Of course, these songs do not refer to their classic tracks such as "Transilvanian Hunger". Nevertheless, wimps should run for cover, not least because of the raw vocals which are strengthened by an almost overpowering reverb.
But Darkthrone would not be Darkthrone if they had not more curious stuff to offer. "Graveyard Slut" sounds as if a drunken Tom G. Warrior tries to sing a sinister rock song - and I see Fenriz with a moronic grin before my inner eye. Anyway, the snotty, shabby and filthy "Too Old, too Cold" is even more strange. A casual riff drives the mid-paced rocker that does not lack of catchiness and heaviness. One can blame this song for its simplicity, I praise it for its immediate effectiveness and the combative lyrics ("You call your metal black / It's just plastic, lame and weak"). Maybe you have the possibility to watch the video they produced for this song. Fenriz announced proudly that they did not pay a dime for it. Well, everybody who saw the video so far did not suspect anything else.
I could list a lot of more strange details, for example the squeaky guitar solo of "Tyster på Gud" or the black humour of the lyrics ("Victims, do your job / Die now for your own God", taken from "Forebyggende krig"). But let me turn the spotlight on the big picture. Darkthrone still sound ugly and independent. They are able to elicit the crudest tones from their guitars. Consequently, the underground charisma is omnipresent and that's probably the most important thing. Although the band has already shown a lot of different faces, its authenticity does not need to be discussed. This is not to say that every single song is a killer. I do not want to hide that the last four tracks do not enrich the band's catalogue sustainably. Yet they achieve an acceptable level so that the two Norwegians avoid throwaway tracks successfully. They have a knack for strong riffs, coherent structures and smooth yet effervescent melody lines. Although the colourless booklet is almost too stylish for a proletarian gang, this album underlines the relevance of the odd duo.
Noktorn on August 30th, 2011
The cult is a lie
Of all the albums I have encountered in the metal scene, I don't think there's one which inspires more hypocritical and irrational defenses than this one: "The Cult is Alive," the album which announced Darkthrone's final, biggest sellout. This is, for all intents and purposes, Darkthrone's "Load" or "Cold Lake." Attempting to justify it on any sort of artistic level is not just myopic but completely laughable. Not only is it one of the most ideologically and artistically bankrupt stylistic shifts in the history of metal, but on its own terms, "The Cult is Alive" is a truly awful, unlistenable album that anyone in their right mind should disown without a second thought. When someone says that they think "Transilvanian Hunger" is a bad album, it's one of the few opinions I hear that make me massively rethink the musical intelligence of the person I'm speaking to. Approval for this album works in much the same way.
I don't find this album so shameful due to thinking that it somehow murdered Darkthrone's career- hardly. Darkthrone had been making basically irrelevant, disposable music for a full decade before "The Cult is Alive" dropped; it's not as though this album (or any of its followers) are taking the place of some sort of mythical "Under A Funeral Moon" part two which would otherwise have been crafted. No- Darkthrone's been pretty much artistically done for a long fucking time, so don't ever think that I'm complaining about a particular loss due to this album's failure. But the crucial element to remember is that even though all those fairly bland, generic black metal albums did very little artistically, they were legitimate pieces; at no point do I think that an album like "Ravishing Grimness," mediocre as it might be, is a cynical play on the metal scene's standards, a cash grab, a resignation to irrelevance, or anything else as shameful. Even at their worst, before "The Cult is Alive," Darkthrone were always TRYING- even on something excruciating and half-assed like "Goatlord," there was a certain zeal to the music. And herein lies the difference: "The Cult is Alive" is the sound of Darkthrone getting old, fat, comfortable, and smug. It's a transparent fuck-you to the metal scene, and even more disappointingly, is an instance of the band willfully vomiting on their own legacy.
The party to blame for all this, though, is Fenriz. Much in the same way that Morbid Angel's latest excretion was dissected in order to assign proper blame, I've taken a look at the (admittedly smaller cast of characters) involved in this macabre dance, and Fenriz is quite clearly the snake's head manufacturing this horror. To be perfectly fair: Fenriz has always, to a greater or lesser degree, been the public voice of Darkthrone. Nocturno Culto, for all his contributions to the band, has really always been content to rest in the background of the band's natural celebrity status, leaving Fenriz out front to soak up much of the glory and attention. Unfortunately, I think "The Cult is Alive" signifies the exact moment where Fenriz began to believe his own hype. Always an abrasive, sarcastic, somewhat tactless character in the past, Fenriz' attitude regarding Darkthrone's musical shift isn't exactly an entirely new phenomenon, but the sheer degree of his pig-headedness, arrogance, and obsessively self-congratulatory posturing most certainly is. All the more remarkable given the band's madogiwa zoku status in the metal scene, but I'll let that aspect slide.
Half a decade after its release, you've likely heard this already, but I feel the need to clarify some of the (in my mind) massively misguided points made about this album by many critics. The most glaring and crucial: this is not crust-infused. This does not have substantial crust influence, it is not a hybrid of crust and metal, and it's certainly not a straightforward crust punk album, as some have somehow managed to express. I'm not entirely sure what sort of music those describing this album as such have been listening to, but "The Cult is Alive" quite simply doesn't sound like crust punk. I don't hear a trace of Amebix anywhere on here- no Discharge, nothing else from the d-beat category, and certainly none of the more brackish crust bands who would go on to influence grindcore. The d-beats, simple, strummed riffs, and somewhat punky vocal delivery that litter this album do not on their own make this crust punk, and even when isolated on their own are not particularly similar to crust. I'm sure my reiteration of this is tedious, but it's equally tedious to see people express with such conviction that this is somehow in the same pantheon as Siege or something. It's not.
Which I suppose begs the question of what this is, if not crust punk. Well, while I wouldn't describe this as crust, punk is a fair enough descriptive term- or "punky," rather. Not a particularly intense or savage variety of punk either- apart from the d-beats and occasionally more aggressive riffing or drumming, this doesn't even substantially sound like old hardcore (which early Darkthrone did much better.) Many moments on this disc remind me more of the Sex Pistols than Black Flag. More overt than the punk, though, and probably the more substantial influence, is plain and simple rock and roll. Cut from the same cloth as Motörhead's more restrained moments and beefed up with the sort of Celtic Frostisms the band cribbed from way back in the "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" days, the bulk of this music has more in common with rock than any sort of metal, much less black metal itself. All the black metal on this release really comes out through aesthetics and not through composition: buzzy guitar tones, rasping vocals, and simplified drumming. Strip away the distortion, though, and what are you left with? Something even remotely comparable to "black metal" proper? Of course not.
But all this idle chatter about how to classify "The Cult is Alive" is ultimately meaningless, as simply "being black metal" is not an indicator of quality or value, nor is rock influence necessarily the death knell for those either. But even when taken on its own, devoid of the influence of the scene, the band's history, or Fenriz' attitude regarding the music, "The Cult is Alive" still manages to be despicably lazy, inarticulate, and bland. The truly amazing thing about this album isn't just that it's an utter sellout, openly capitalizing on hipsters migrating into black metal in droves, but that it manages to suck so badly from a simple craftsman's perspective. None of this music is interesting, stylish, or even merely catchy: in addition to failing as art, it fails miserably as entertainment, which only serves to make the whole package more shameful.
Astute writers have noted that, pound for pound, most of the musical techniques on this album aren't especially new for Darkthrone- really, it's more a matter of what's been removed. Complex melodies with unusual chord shapes- gone. Thrash beats and tremolo riffs- gone. Any sort of variation from track to track: especially gone. "The Cult is Alive" basically relies on a handful of very simple riff paradigms: uptempo, punky strumming, slower open chord chug arrangements (ala "In the Shadow of the Horns,") and the very, very occasional dip into some traditional black metal arrangements, such as on "De Underjordiske (Ælia Capitolina)." Unsurprisingly, when Darkthrone goes in a more substantially black metal direction (like on that track,) the music becomes at least somewhat tolerable. Not great, not interesting, but listenable enough that it doesn't bother you. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is the exception rather than the rule, and for the most part Darkthrone are content to swim around in a fetid pool of rock-based drumming, awful guest vocal spots by Fenriz, and an array of half-assed punk/rock/metal riffs which somehow manage to all sound identical to each other. Nothing conveys anything on this album; the songs just exist to be themselves.
Again, if this album appeared to have effort put into its construction, I wouldn't be as horribly frustrated by it as I am. But the reality is that you can clearly tell through the songwriting that these tracks were rushed out, slapped together, and barely looked over before recording. From a technical perspective, the songs are flawed: riffs transition into each other extremely awkwardly, and rhythms tend to interchange with no real subtlety or flair for organic development. While the obvious, simple alternation of riffs is a pattern that Darkthrone did great things with in the past, in those cases the riffs went together naturally and created a greater sense of the song's structure. On this album, riffs just go into other riffs regardless of how they might flow together because there's no greater sense of interaction between parts. Darkthrone are simply firmly aware that with enough style, attitude, and brand recognition, they can coast through basically anything without criticism- I mean, who's going to bother leveling the barrel at Darkthrone, after all?
And herein lies the truly odious, repugnant part of this album: the adolescent transparency of Darkthrone's goals and the fans who will eagerly lap it up. Even bothering to rebut the points of defense for this album would be dignifying it too much, but those points themselves are enormously indicative of the sort of audience that Darkthrone has decided to attract with this sort of music. Numerous (generally idiotic) people like to say that what Darkthrone is doing here is "authentic black metal," because they're displaying that "they don't give a fuck about anything." Well, I'm sure that's neat when you're thirteen and still gazing slack-jawed at the cover for "Butchered at Birth," but after then, you should have some standards. Yes, that general statement is ideologically in line with black metal- it's supposed to be a genre about independence, a rebellious and romantic perspective on life, and a distaste for "the crowd," whatever that may be. But is Darkthrone's "response" to the perception that black metal has become its own crowd really logical? Becoming a part of another crowd that's just as arbitrary but even more ironic about their appreciation?
More disturbing than this are the large numbers of people (who typically don't listen to metal) discussing this and later Darkthrone albums as being superior to their early work, or even the first Darkthrone material which has appealed to them at all. Now I'm the sort of person who rabidly defends "low culture" as being no less significant than "high culture," but this hipster elevation of beer-swilling, inarticulate, plastic rebellion is nothing short of ludicrous. "Low culture" and its relevance rely on authenticity- and what authenticity is there in summarily disowning the genre you helped create (and the records which brought you all your artistic credibility) in order to grasp at some sort of blue collar aesthetic which is as far removed from your artistic roots as possible? Really? This is what passes for authentic these days- abandoning nearly two decades of incisive, sardonic commentary on life, youthful passion and vigor, and a clear ambition to make something beautiful, compelling, and truly artistic in order to do songs like "Graveyard Slut?" Of course not- it's an embarrassing defense mechanism constructed by people who are afraid their friends will think less of them for listening to an album called "Under a Funeral Moon" without the appropriate level of ironic detachment.
Over the past half decade, "The Cult is Alive," just as much as Velvet Cacoon, Wolves in the Throne Room, or Amesoeurs, has been responsible for bringing a whole sect of people into black metal whose appreciation for the genre begins and ends at how much it can resemble something else. "The Cult is Alive" simply did it in the opposite way as Clair Cassis does today: instead of flattering the sensibilities of a person who wants to listen to black metal without any of the abrasive things that define it, this album constructed a false narrative of blue collar authenticity for those who like to "be metal" on the weekends. "The Cult is Alive" is the musical equivalent of the phone call a trust-fund anarchist makes to his parents to get more rent money: shameless, embarrassing, pathetic, and dishonest beyond belief. Darkthrone not only murdered their legacy with this album, but managed to dig a shiv into the side of black metal itself out of petty resentment for the very community who helped make them who they are. I always knew that albums like "Age of Winters" would always exist- I just never expected the well to be poisoned from within.
(Originally written for http://www.trialbyordeal666.blogspot.com)
hells_unicorn on June 3rd, 2010
The cult gets crusty.
There was something magical about Darkthrone’s original union with Peaceville Records. In spite of the latter party being drug along unwillingly in becoming a player in the birthing of metal’s most obscure and rebellious of offshoots, the end result of their collaboration was 3 manifestos to a purely reformed counterculture in extreme music that are still widely imitated nearly 2 decades later. That is not to say that Fenriz and Nocturno didn’t put out some fine music during their time with Moonfog, but a pretty broad consensus can be established in the musical superiority of Darkthrone’s 1992-1994 era. But what there is definitely less of a consensus on is the strength of their material once rejoining Peaceville, of which “The Cult Is Alive” is the first and arguably least well received offering.
I personally see this album as a return to form of sorts, though not necessarily in terms of its stylistic attributes. The overt crust punk tendencies at play here essentially scoff at subtlety in all its various manifestations, and whether intentionally or not, succeed in bringing back a spirit of greatness that has been missing from their music since “Total Death”. Part of it comes off in the tossing away of any inhibition regarding lyrics, rather than attempting to poetically restate the themes they’ve been dabbling with since 1992. With names like “Shut Up”, “Graveyard Slut” and “Whiskey Funeral”, it is difficult not to take notice of something new going on here. But surprisingly enough, the musical presentation actually takes it even further than such attention clasping zingers like “You call your metal black? it's just plastic, lame and weak.” and “You Copy my style and you call yourself a man.”, both very obvious and punchy responses to the band’s past-worshipping detractors I might add.
The influences going on here are pretty well worn on the album’s cover sleeve, although actually the artwork wouldn’t start to conform to this newly adopted sound until “F.O.A.D.”. Take all of the attitude, barebones simplicity and rawness of some of the best Discharge and Black Flag songs ever heard, darken the atmosphere with some production tweaking that bears some similarity the early Moonfog recordings, insert Nocturno’s guttural, troll-like barks and a slightly more technically proficient delivery, and a pretty clear picture emerges. Although this formula would get gradually better with the next few releases, this album essentially bridges the small but existing gap between black metal and hardcore in much the same way that Cro Mags and Suicidal Tendencies did for thrash and hardcore.
Although this sonic destination was pretty well marked on the map going all the way back to “Ravishing Grimness”, some have been taken aback by this album due to a perceived abandonment of genre. This might lay in the heavier promotion that this album got in comparison to the previous lot going all the way back to the early 90s, culminating in an EP and a single featuring songs from here. Suffice to say, for all of the assumed lyrical pretentiousness of “Too Old, Too Cold” and a couple of other songs on here, they are pretty damned catchy, which is an original concept in extreme music circles. Or it could be this age old stereotype that black metal shouldn’t have guitar solos, which this album is pretty well loaded with, particularly in the case of the wild shred fest at the end of “Forebyggende Krig”. If anyone out there knows this sort and you want to be cruel, force them to listen to every guitar solo on every major Norwegian 2nd wave release between 1991 and 1994, the experience will probably hit at their insecurity as pseudo-black metal elitists as much as Nocturno’s and Fenriz’s mocking of the band’s imitators in the lyrics will.
So to all interested parties, the cult is definitely alive, although the undead corpse has gotten a bit crusty from laying around for about 10 years before getting itself moving again. Those seeking a new deviation from established genre dogmas but still wanting the raw, frosty production that mainstays such as Immortal and Emperor got away from will find a welcome home here. This is probably among the least metallic of Darkthrone’s releases, and greater influxes of early metal ideas would be infused on the next couple albums, but for punk fanatics within the black metal core (no pun intended), this is probably the album to get of their current stock.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on June 3, 2010.
autothrall on January 28th, 2010
And you call yourself a man!
Enter the birth of Punkthrone. Perhaps I exaggerate here, but it was clear from the mild stagnation of (the still excellent) Sardonic Wrath that some sort of change was once again inevitable in the Northern camp, and The Cult is Alive, LP #12, is where this would begin to really take place. Now, the band has always admittedly carried the punk, rock and classic heavy metal influences through their career, wearing them boldly upon their sleeves, but never has it been more obvious than the tonal shift taken with this album. Not only through the music itself, but the extremely blunt punk lyrics on a few of the tracks which are at once self-deprecating and scathing critiques of what the 'black metal' scene had lost sight of, in addition to celebrations of the very art Darkthrone had mastered numerous times already in a single career...
But if you're worried that the band has lost their identify, fear not, because this entire album still fits snugly into the black metal realm, with the same raw Culto vocals you've come to expect, and a slew of riffs which do naught but honor the roots of the genre, plus the thrash, punk and heavy metal from which it evolved. For an early comparison, think of Brazil's Sarcofago. For a modern comparison, think of Joel Grind's Toxic Holocaust, who has been creating a more frenetic mesh of these aesthetics for years. The Cult is Alive does not sound quite as fast or crazy as either of those, but you get the general idea.
"The Cult of Goliath" begins with a barbaric rhythm reminiscent of some of the songs from Ravishing Grimness, with a savage thrust to its verse that is wholly violent slaughterpunk, and I love the breakdown, which is pretty rock & roll, with a lame but lovable guitar solo. Speaking of the rock, "Too Old, Too Cold" was already known to most, having its own EP release a few months before this full-length arrived. It's black punk rock, Hellhammer meets the Ramones, with some lyrics that, while a little awkward, pretty much encapsulate the feelings of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto towards the ever propagating scene of black metal hipsters, armed with irony and designs on exploitation. While fun, the song is actually not one of the better offerings on the album, and aside from the rather open lyrical call to arms, I'm not sure why it was chosen as a single over some of the others. "Atomic Coming" is far more of a bruising hymn, with blistering old school speed/thrash riffs that herald annihilation, congealing well with the crushing chords of the black/punk foundation.
"Graveyard Slut" had also been released on the Too Old, Too Cold EP before the album dropped, but this is the version with Fenriz' 'Tom G. Warrior' style vocals. The song is highly entertaining, conjuring up nostalgia for teenage years of getting drunk, vomiting all over your denim jacket with all the great patches, and desperately failing to win the affections of that one semi-cool girl in your school who you mistakenly feel might accept you, even though you managed to get the car for that one Friday night. Oh, the pain! "Underdogs and Overlords" returns to the Culto vocal, and the second riff here is total asskicking blackened rock'n'roll, a groove that Thin Lizzy or Iron Butterfly might have conceived had they actually known and coveted the face of evil. "Whiskey Funeral" reaches even further back, grabbing and blackifying a raw rock'n'roll foundation, foreshadowing pretty much the entire Dark Thrones and Black Flags album. It's pretty damn cool, with a searing speed/thrash bridge rhythm and a nice melodic collapse before returning to the speed.
For the next two tracks, Darkthrone remembers that they are in fact Norwegian. "De Underjordiske (Ælia Capitolina)" leaps between the languages, a grimy, flowing rocker with bright chords that make Culto sound all the more menacing. "Tyster På Gud (Preemptive War)" opens as total hardcore punk, which falls somewhere between Discharge and Minor Threat in tone, with a little of the band's guitar bending chagrin', and a Hellhammer-ing breakdown. "Shut Up" is actually one of my favorites on the album, despite the rather no-brainer song title, with some excellent, filthy rocking rhythms and amazing vocals which ooze unbridled aggression. The fuzzy solo is quite cool, and the clamoring bridge hook, but believe it or not, there is also quite an amazingly dark black/death metal rhythm here as well. "Forebyggende Krig" was the 2nd single for the album, a more traditional black/doom rhythm piece that venerates the previous albums of Darkthrone such as A Blaze in the Northern Sky.
The Cult is Alive doesn't start off all that great, but it certainly picks up steam as it progresses through the track list. "The Cult of Goliath" and "Too Old, Too Cold" are passable, but I had already heard the latter a number of times and was beginning to get tired on it. Once the album hits "Atomic Coming", the rest is basically sheer bliss, and Darkthrone perfectly translates the more widespread influence of punk and rock into their sound without losing the bludgeoning barbarity of their youth. The production here is astounding, pure and cold and raw and as perfectly plotted as most of their other work. Truly, this is one of their 'fun' albums, but it also maintains a surprisingly serious side, ala the message found through some of the lyrics. It's probably cool to hate this record by now, but that's the great thing about Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. They are the antithesis of cool, and that is why are so endeared to their efforts.
Highlights: Graveyard Slut, Whiskey Funeral, De Underjordiske (Ælia Capitolina), Shut Up
Noctir on October 17th, 2009
The Cult Is Alive
The Cult Is Alive is an important album for Darkthrone, as this marks the point where the truly stopped giving a damn what anyone thought, whatsoever... even their strongest fans. While Sardonic Wrath was extremely mediocre and continued the new direction that began on Hate Them, this one seemed to more fully embrace this new Punk attitude. Released in February 2006, this ushered in an era of disappointment for many Darkthrone followers.
The sound is still primitive and lo-fi, even overly simplistic in a lot of ways. It's quite underproduced, keeping with the traditional sound that the band is known for. There are a few decent riffs, littered throughout the album. There are even a couple nice solos. However, it's difficult to really enjoy much of this as there are far too many distractions. Nocturno Culto's vocals sound as if it's not even him, at all. In place of his trademark rasp is something almost laughable at times. He seems to be drawing a lot of inspiration from Tom Warrior, which is ridiculous as this is a complete drop in quality. With that said, it's not all bad, but too much of it is that it leaves a bad impression.
Regarding the lyrics, what can be said? Fenriz really lost it, years earlier. He managed to change his style and still keep within the realm of adequacy, for a few albums; however, the terrible shift toward outright parody that began on Hate Them has come to fruition on this album. The lyrics are so bloody bad that you want to reach into the speakers and strangle Fenriz for writing such trash. It's bad enough that the music is so uninspired, but this only adds to the problem.
The Cult Is Alive is not a terrible album. It's just not what you want to hear from Darkthrone... at all. It's fine for tossing in if you want some half-decent background music and you happen to appreciate old school Metal and even some Punk. Nonetheless, chances are, you'll only stop and pay attention to the music for the occasional good riff or solo. It's not something to sit and really focus on. Really, you can't pay too close attention to it, since the lyrics are so stupid that you'll want to take the CD out and destroy it with a hammer. At least the band never sold out and began making over-produced psuedo-Black Metal, in some attempt to get music videos on television and so on. And, to think about it, they almost had to reinvent themselves if they wanted to remain 'unique' or to stand out from the rest. Had they continued putting out solid Black Metal albums, with the thousands of clone bands out there, they would take the chance of getting lost in the shuffle. At least, this way, they remained relevant, in some manner. Even if it's someone like me speaking poorly of them, they still managed to maintain a bit of notoriety, albeit negative. As the old saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.
At any rate, despite the few good riffs, this is about as low as it gets, when it comes to Darkthrone. The only reason I'd recommend buying this is if you're wanting to complete the bonfire that includes Total Death, Ravishing Grimness, Sardonic Wrath, etc. There are worse albums out there, but that's no reason to waste your time on this.
bfte666 on May 7th, 2007
Blackened Crust Punk, An Interesting Concept...
This album in an interesting listen, indeed. It is a concept album where the production values of black metal with the musical stylings of crust punk. I will admit, I truly enjoy the album, it has a very "old-school" feel to it.
Fenriz's drumming drives the album with a pretty consistant stream of D-beats and punky fills. The guitar riffs are, in themselves, punky as well, but the production quality is styled after raw, primitive black metal, evoking the sound and feel of black metal in spite of the writing style. Nocturno Culto's vocals are as they always have been, with the same reverb effect he's been using practically since the band's inception. Suprisingly, he occaisionally breaks from his black metal rasp to deliver some punky shouts. As far as his lyrics go, Nocturno's in my opinion, serve little more than comedic effect, with song titles such as "Graveyard Slut" and "Whisky Funeral" and lyrics such as "you call you metal black, it's just flaccid, lame and weak."
The highlight tracks on the recording are probably "The Cult of Goliath" and "Too Old, Too Cold," but if you like the style of the recording, you will probably enjoy the entire album. And if you enjoy punky sounding black metal (as I do), then you'll definitely like it.
woeoftyrants on April 9th, 2007
Dirty, Booze-Driven Madness... I love it!
Well... I guess some people just didn't get the joke. The clues have been there all along, really. We should have known things would turn this way back when Panzerfaust came out; when Darkthrone reinvented themselves as the booze-driven, reckless, and careless dudes who just loved to play really dirty black metal. But really, it was easy to see. A Blaze in the Northern Sky had a definite punk influence, but only in a roundabout way. Hell, even Sardonic Wrath was a big red light that screamed, "Hey, we're Darkthrone, and we're a black metal band who loves crust punk!" But of course, the shit hit the fan for a lot of people when "Too Old, Too Cold" was released as a single. So, all that aside, is it a good album? Damn right. What makes this album great is the fact that Darkthrone have figured out that it doesn't really matter what they do now, because they've done huge things for black metal. So it doesn't matter if people complain about the growing punk influence in the band's sound; technically, they can do no wrong at this point in their career.
Even with Darkthrone moving into a continual rock/punk territory with their dirgy, loose brand of black metal, The Cult is Alive shows a band with new blood in their veins. Quite a few of the past albums have come off as lazy and boring at some points, but this album bursts at the seams with conviction, energy, and a new sense of focus in songwriting. Though the structures remains fairly formulaic as it has on the past few albums, the riffs and instrumentation are better, and there's actual energy here; so there aren't any more moments where your mind goes numb from lack of variety. There's a perfect sense of dynamics in the tracklisting, as the more metal-ish tracks ala Ravishing Grimness are carefully balanced with the muscular, ferocious black n' roll hybrids.
Fenriz shines on this album. I'm glad he decided to let loose on this album, because the swaggering, raw feel of the drumwork helps things out tremendously. We see more fills here than we ever have before, and the time changes help to add some ear candy to the songs. There are plenty of pounding D-beats, mid-paced blasts, and the slower moments definitely have more balls behind them. There's even some occasional double bass, and it only adds more balls to the album. Aside from his drumwork, Fenriz has written some of his best material in years. All of the lyrics seem to be cynical, bitter, and even sarcastic. There's been some odd, kind of snide humor to the past few albums, and that comes full swing here. Open shots are taken at modern black metal in "Too Old, Too Cold," and "Shut Up" is pretty self-explanatory. Fenriz even does vocals on the catchy as hell "Graveyard Slut," and does a great job of adding filthy, old-school, Celtic Frost-esque grunts and shouts to the song.
The guitars switch up between highly crust-influenced bashings, mean thrashy riffs, and well... signature Darkthrone riffs. "Underdogs and Overlords" is an instant classic with its seamless switch between a bruising main riff and a more mid-paced section with a complimentary solo. Speaking of which, there are quite a few of those; frenzied, almost messy tremolo solos soaked in feedback make an appearance on just about every song, and help to fill out the booze-drenched feel of the music. "Forebyggende Krig" has a solo at its end as well, and even has a short but sweet harmony amidst the madness. Though some may scoff at the notion of Darkthrone being "catchy," it's hard to deny the pure rock fury behind the guitars. These songs feature some of the most attitude-filled riffs since Panzerfaust, and it's a good refreshing taste from the strict nature of previous albums.
Nocturno offers up an amazing performance here. There's ton of gravel and dirt in his voice, but still so much clarity. His voice has a new fierce luster that hasn't been seen since A Blaze in the Northern Sky, and "Whisky Funeral" is all the proof you need. There are still plenty of strung-out screams for those wanting that desperate edge, and of course the complimentary yells of "Fuck off!" Classic stuff.
The production here is a bit older-sounding, but cleaner than what you would expect. The guitars use a very gritty, old-school distortion, and the drums use a fat, open sound similar to Motorhead. Nocturno's vocals use a healthy amount of reverb to add some grit, but never overpower the music. In short, it's the perfect Darkthrone production.
Though we can't expect another "classic" anytime soon, I'm pretty happy with this new direction. Then again, I'm a huge fan of crust punk. Either way, those who are looking for a loose, attitude-filled album, metal or otherwise, will enjoy the sarcastic and booze-fueled madness that embodies The Cult is Alive.
Technogoat on March 23rd, 2007
Darkthrone - The Cult Is Alive
After a near twenty year existence and eleven previous full-length albums to their name (of admittedly inconsistent quality), Darkthrone are perhaps one of the best known acts to have emerged from the early wave of Norwegian Black Metal bands. And, unlike many of their contemporaries, they have been sticking to their guns since their inception in 1987. Although they have experimented slightly with Death Metal elements and even became a little more Rock-orientated for a time on the underrated “Plaguewielder” album, fans of Metal immediately associate the duo of Nocturno Culto and Fenriz with primitivism and a reluctance to progress their sound in any extreme manner. And with “The Cult Is Alive”, their twelfth studio release, musical progression is certainly not the focal point!
Quite simply, “The Cult Is Alive” is still a Black Metal album, but one that is infused with blatant Punk Rock influences throughout its duration. The main riff on opener “The Cult Of Goliath”, with its almost upbeat style, shows the listener what to expect from the entire album. The Darkthrone that created the classic “Transilvanian Hunger” is no more. Where previous albums “Hate Them” and “Sardonic Wrath” indicated a possible return to this style of harshly produced garage Black Metal, this album essentially acts as a “fuck you” to elitist fans and critics, with the band proud to be making the music that they want to make, as opposed to caving in to expectations or demands. They seem utterly frustrated by the genre which they effectively pioneered in the early ‘90s turning into a fashionable modern scene, which is evident from the hate-fuelled lyrics on “Too Old Too Cold”: “You call your Metal black; it’s just spastic, lame and weak.”
But the main problem lies herein: “The Cult Is Alive” is not actually all that great. Whilst some of their post-2000 material has been reasonably impressive, this musical relapse has resulted in a substandard and frankly pedestrian glitch on a catalogue that has been gradually declining in quality. There are some standout moments, like the fantastic main riff of “Atomic Coming”, which sounds like it could have come straight from “Under A Funeral Moon”. Also, Nocturno Culto’s vocal delivery still sounds as rough and booze-fuelled as ever, which is much more than can be said for Fenriz’s first attempt at vocals on a Darkthrone album on the awful “Graveyard Slut”.
Overall though, the album’s near forty minute length begins to drag after two or three songs, with the music becoming far too repetitive and sluggish for anything to really come across as memorable. It’s certainly commendable that Darkthrone have tried something different here after perhaps working their Black Metal persona to death, but the listener is left with nothing to take away from this quite inane and monotonous work. If they took more time to perfect this new style, then by all means we might still see another landmark release from these Norwegian Black Metal leaders (they started working on album number thirteen as soon as this one was released) but “The Cult Is Alive” has nothing to take it beyond the level of mediocre. If you’re an old school Darkthrone fan, you’d probably do best to ignore this, or get a real shock upon hearing your favourite Black Metal horde go Punk.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk
Goatpunk on March 14th, 2007
I can with a clean conscience and complete honesty say that this album truly deserves a 100% rating. This is in my opinion the best album that Darkthrone has ever put out and yes I know that it´s not a very evil or necro album. Don´t get me wrong I like they´re old stuff as well, I absolutely love it but this album really tops them all.
This album shows the completion of what Darkthrone started on with "Hate Them", mixing punk into their music. The music is very punk but still very black metal, old-school black metal that is, and the it works damn well. To be honest there isn´t a single filler on this album. The guitar sound is thin and crunchy but without loosing any feeling or power and the bass... well it´s there I guess but I can´t really hear it. The vocals are, as they have always been, excellent and the drumming is just so fucking brilliant and awesome! Fenriz really lets loose on this album and so does Nocturno Culto with the guitar solos. The solos are fantastic as well, none of them stretch on for too long and none of them are cheesy or overdone.
If you hate punk and can´t stand black metal that doesn´t sound like "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" then this really isn´t anything you should spend any money on. If on the other hand like old-school black metal and don´t mind punk influences then this is something you have to check out. If you haven´t already checkec it out then hurry up because you are missing something amazing!
LordBelketraya on December 15th, 2006
Blackened punk metal.
Darkthrone is in my mind one of the top 5 most important black metal bands in the genre. Their influence is evidenced by the countless amount of copycat bands out there. Most of them are shit and some are good. The band is in the twlight of their career and their music hasn't been essential since Panzerfaust. But they still put out some really good music today. I hate when so many fans rip this band apart for not making another "Blaze, Transilvanian or Funeral Moon". The creative run they had from 1990 to 1995 was one that will never be bettered by themselves and probably not many others can even match that string of excellence.
Darkthrone have in some way made a good run starting with 'Hate Them', 'Sardonic Wrath' and now 'The Cult Is Alive'. They have taken a bit of a different direction in their style musically. There's signs of a punkish vibe along with doom laden riffs in their music. I personally don't have a problem with it as others who have posted here do. Darkthrone in 2006 is very different from the band circa 91-94. They don't wear corpsepaint anymore, they don't play gigs and they look to be more comfortable in their own skin with normal, happy lives. Back then they were much more the black metal band, look wise and lifestyle.
Nocturno Culto's voice is still fucking top notch, he hasn't lost a step one bit. With opener "The Cult Of Goliath" he lets loose with the guitar and vocals, the only difference being that the riff aren't 100% necro like before, there's rhythm and a punk rock sound now. The single "Too Old, Too Cold" is a catchy headbanging song with cheesy lyrics. They've got nothing to prove, they're just hellish rock n roll freaks like N.Culto said in the song. There's a couple of songs that really just look like they have run out of ideas like 'Shut Up' or 'Whisky Funeral', lyrically they're some of the worst songs written by them but the melodies make them bearable.
The majority of the songs are really good like 'De Underjordiske (Elia Capitolina)', 'Tyster På Gud' and 'Forebyggende Krig'. Add those with the first three songs and you have a really good release. I guess I cut these boys some slack because I know that the days of Blaze, Transilvanian... are long gone. I don't mind the change in style too much, I realize that many are disappointed or infuriated that they drifted from their early to mid 90's style of black metal. While they're not as good as in the early days they haven't "lost it" and are capable of making some quality music.
blacklordofisengard on March 26th, 2006
The cult is fucking alive!
The first thing I noticed was that this new album once more comes in a great looking packaging. The regular album version comes in a slipcase package while the limited edition box comes in a cardboard box with an additional poster and video clip for the single "Too old too cold". The lay-out has once more been done by Trine & Kim and just like with the "Too old too cold" single also on "The cult is alive" they have once more delivered a marvellous job suiting Darkthrone's image just fine.
But, as always, it is the music which matters most. On "Too old too cold" Darkthrone showed a musical style which headed more into dark punk rock. Still the music was typically Darkthrone with the many Celtic Frost references. Yet the band dared to move a bit more into punk rock as well, a musical style where Darkthrone also has got their musical roots. On "The cult is alive" the same musical direction as on the single can be found and the new album displays a great mixture of traditional Darkthrone black metal with dark punk rock with on top some occasional chaotic guitar solos. These slight new 'influences' enrich Darkthrone's music a lot as well as makes the 'red line' throughout the whole album much more obvious. Because of the many variations in songwriting "The cult is alive" stays interesting the complete 39 minutes and I unconsciously push the repeat-button from my CD-player again and again. This album really is like a drug. After the first listen it immediately becomes addicting and you'll crave to hear more, again and again and again. The single title-track "Too old too cold" can be found as well on "The cult is alive" just as the brilliant "Graveyard slut". Biggest difference though is that on the single Nocturno Culto does the vocals while on the album version Fenriz does the vocals. Mentioning any further seperate songs in this review isn't necessary simply because the complete album is damn good. The quality in songs remains high throughout the whole album and I think "The cult is alive" definitely belongs to Darkthrone's best albums ever.
As always the die-hard purists claim that Darkthrone lost their credibility because Darkthrone never have come up with "Transilvanian hunger part 2". With including a bit more dark punk rock influences in the furthermore well-known Darkthrone sound these purists will now stand even stronger behind their, to me narrow-minded, beliefs. All I can say is; ignore such morons and instead take a listen at "The cult is alive" and let the album grab you by the balls. Just like it grabbed me by the balls. "The cult is alive" shows that the cult named Darkthrone still is alive. Alive and just as strong as ever!!!
chaossphere on March 24th, 2006
Shut up, you fucking twats.
Hooray, another Darkthrone album. Either you love this band, or you’re a fag. There’s no middle ground. The Cult is Alive takes the raw, punky approach of the last album Sardonic Wrath and slows it down to a more relaxed rock‘n’roll pace, injected a lot more expression in the guitar department (half these songs have jamming, almost bluesy solo sections), and a whole lot of extra grim rawness. Thus, it moves even further away from the expectations most people would have for a Darkthrone disc, while remaining completely true to their trademark attitude.
The first single “Too Old Too Cold” is actually a fairly good representation of the whole album. The weird song here is “Graveyard Slut”, where Fenriz provides a surprisingly clean vocal approach while the song itself is pure blackened swagger. Elsewhere, “Shut Up” is amusingly aggressive and “Whisky Funeral” just flat-out rocks. They seem to have gone back to the good old “4 tracker in the rehearsal room” approach to recording too, which gives the album a very abraded, rough sound – it’s certainly much cleaner than, say, Transilvanian Hunger or Under A Funeral Moon, but also has a significantly thinner sound than the last few discs.
If you’re expecting a return to the “Trilogy” and won’t settle for anything else, don’t bother with this. If you liked Hate Them and Sardonic Wrath, this is also worth investment. It’s a grim, catchy, sometimes punky album which absolutely reeks of attitude and irreverence. In other words, pure Darkthrone.
vorth on March 19th, 2006
I am really tired of Darkthrone. If I weren't told that this album was different, I wouldn't care nor listen to it. However, I did, but I'm still tired the same as before. "The Cult is Alive" is another example of how a great black metal classic can't find its way after 20 years of playing. Now, the band switched to some rockandrollish whatever not caring about the music itself. It seems that any change in Darkthrone's style is so big event, that nothing more is important.
"The Cult is Alive" contains 10 songs. All of them sound the same, but it's quite normal for Darkthrone lately. The riffs are the same, all that really got changed is the rhythm and general sound - both turned more to rock and roll, punk or something like this. The lyrics are different, either - now they are three times more stupid than before. All would be fine, if the songs were good. Unfortunately, they are not, they're just mediocre. I can remember one or two riffs from the whole album and they aren't even good.
I'm not saying this is a bad album. But I'm not saying that it is good, either. It may be a pleasant background for beer adventures, but generally there's no possible way to enjoy "The Cult is Alive" itself. Darkthrone is dead, I hope that at least Nocturno and Fenriz enjoy the music.
Pahomije on March 5th, 2006
Another classic underground record
It's very hard to objectively review a band that you consider one of your all-time favourites. Moreover, I like ALL Darkthrone albums, so if you are a "metal purist" (which I'm definitely NOT) you might as well skip reading this article.
Fenriz once said : "Well, Nocturno Culto always says it's going to be different, but when we go and rehearse it, and when we go to the studio and record it, I think it usually sounds like the same album all over... And I'm perfectly happy with that!"; this can be in general said about this album as well. In my opinion, from 1991 on, their releases have had basically the same influences, even chords/music to some extent, but the overall atmosphere was different on each of them.
For a start, let's face it-the key influences on Darkthorne, namely Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Venom and Bathory owe to early punk/hardcore as much as they do to hardrock and classic metal. The proof of it can even be found in today's so-called "crust" bands which are too numerous to even mention. If there wasn't for the punkrock's ugly head, black metal or any form of extreme music would't even exist; Darkthrone understood this from the start and their attitude was metaphorically speaking "punk" within black metal-take their classic "Transilvanian Hunger" (LP) for example : underwater production, stripped-down repetative three-chord riffing and ugly shouted vocals in a distant point recall more on the Sex Pistols than Iron Maiden (which, ironically, started off as a punkrock band). In 1982 Lemmy of Motorhead said in one of the interviews something like this : "If you play The Damned, The Adverts and then Motorhead, you'll probably say that it's just another punk band"-regardless of what he thought whilst labelling his band "rock'n'roll", this statement is pretty much accurate, and since they had an enormous influence on punk as well as metal, esp. Venom and consequently Celtic Frost and Bathory, it could be applied to these bands also. Another thing relating black metal and punk was the spirit of rebellion, although it's strength was channelled against different authorities-religious/false moral in the first case, and political in the second.
Having this in mind, I'll try to point out what's new and what's old on the new Darkthrone album : the distorted "primitive" production doesn't really differ much from their previous albums, the harsh and ugly vocals are there still being one of the best in (black) metal ever, i.e. not sounding like a deranged witch and/or demonized alien repltile; on the other hand, there's more punchline in the riffs and the drums pace is somewhat "slower", similar to the first Venom album. The songs are rather short (3-4.5 minutes), almost pop-structured, and that works out almost perfectly. The lyrics are a bit of a weaker point as they are way too basic, but still darkly humorous and ironic. I'd dare to say this was done deliberately in order to sound even more distant from the bands who call themselves black metal nowadays.
So, if you call this punk/crust, then it is; who cares, because obviously they don't. One thing's for sure, they got bored of current black metal scene and quite rightly so in my opinion-like with REAL punkrock or grindcore or alternative music and/or any other strongly influential musical direction, the days of true black metal are way behind us. I do regret to say this VERY MUCH but I think they are right..... Darkthrone did what they did in "those" days-created at least three out of top ten most cloned records in black metal history, which practically invented all those "tr00 necro" bands. On the other hand, it is obvious that they didn't see any point in repeating themselves for another million times. They just got bored, and I think I'd do too if I had a band as influential as theirs.
I've always regarded black metal as an enemy of everything gentle, nice and subtle, or, to put it as an anti-thesis to one Mozart statement, a music that should "insult your ears"; it was never meant to be melodic and/or polished. To be more specific, I fully respect their (in my opinion slight) change in musical/lyrical direction; even if this record is more influenced by (true) punk (of course not the modern Green Day crap), this is a shift to another underground old-school style. In fact, their last three albums are among the finest amalgams of the sort.
HereticBlood on March 1st, 2006
What's the fuss about?
Yet another "ignore the hype" record, this is not a fucking Discharge album as everyone either hopes or fears it. In fact, the only punkish songs are the ones that were on the EP, and really, they arent that punkish . Unless by punkish you mean Motorhead. That's really the biggest influence on here, well, other than Hellhammer and Celtic Frost that is. Really, this is only slightly less heavy than Panzerfaust or A Blaze in The Northern Sky.
I really shouldn't say ignore they hype, because, this is most certainly a record worth paying attention too. Yes, there is a bit of a change of direction on here, but really, its nothing that warrants either the hype over it, be it the kids getting all excited or those getting bent out of shape. The riffs are still deathish black metal. No tremolos though. Fenriz's drumming is as sludgy and heavy as ever. Nocturno Culto's vocals are upped a notch on the vehemenence level. They are more discernable then on during their glory years, but really, nothing new. In the Darkthrone camp, nothing new is something good.
There are two different styles on this disc, so this is the only caveat. The songs "Graveyard Slut", "Too old, too Cold" and "Whiskey Funeral" have that Moterhead vibe I was talking about. They might annoy some, I personally like them, but wish they werent on this album. The rest of the songs, just bleed Darkthrone and intolerance. The overall style is, surprise surprise, very tyrranical. I would say this is the attitude that Craft wishes they had. No tolerance, and even now not much fun.
Stand out tracks; Cult of Goliath, this sets the stage nicely, a bit of a motorheadish/punky intro, but once Nocturno Culto starts rasping away "666" you know this is no-holds barred Darkthrone. Atomic Coming, the vocals on this really stand out, thicken up the guitars and this song is on ABITNS. Shut Up, this song is musical despotism and a middle finger to all their old comrades and new imposters to the black metal throne. Forebyggende Krig, this reminds us once and for all, Darkthrone represents musical repression. Cold and ugly. I give this 9/10, despite the couple out of place tracks. Hails.
Falconsbane on February 24th, 2006
The "Cult" Was Dead a Decade Ago
And here it is, the latest in a decade's worth of irrelevant releases from the "cult" of DarkThrone. I'm sure quite a few metalheads will be shocked by what they find on this disc, and I'm equally sure I will find that reaction baffling. The truth is that The Cult is Alive is merely the culmination of internal trends obvious in DarkThrone's work dating back at least to Panzerfaust.
Many (perhaps most) fans will view The Cult is Alive as a radical departure from DarkThrone's previous work. After all, their career to this point, with all its inspired highs and insipid lows, has taken place entirely within the context of black and death metal. The Cult is Alive, on the other hand, is essentially a straightforward crust/hardcore release with a few isolated genuflections in the direction of black metal (vocals and the occasional melodic turn, as in "De Underjordiske").
A careful listener, however, will notice that the technique used here is not substantially different from that employed on Transilvanian Hunger or the band's other black metal landmarks of the early 1990s (which just goes to show how ephemeral the aesthetic divisions in extreme music really are). The real differences are not so easy to pin down.
The brilliance of DarkThrone's classic works of 1991-1993 lay in the ability of these works to evoke ideas of great complexity through the careful manipulation of deceptively simple music. In this, these works were highly advanced despite being birthed from a spirit of atavistic primitivism. The characteristic expression of this art took the form of basic tremolo picked riffs made gloriously ambiguous through extended phrases and a resolute refusal to allow melodies to resolve in any predictable fashion. The Cult is Alive retains a significant portion of the technique of DarkThrone's classic works, but the spirit that once guided them is long dead. The feral beauty and ambiguity are gone, and the riffs, while superficially similar, are rendered inert through shortened phrases and a tendency to pander to the dumbest members of the audience by bringing each riff to the expected rhythmic and melodic conclusion, suitably violent to be sure, but, like all product, lifeless in that it substitutes the simulacra of emotions for any overarching idea.
Not surprisingly, The Cult is Alive is long on pretense and contempt for its audience, and perilously short of any meaningful creative impulse. Anyone who already has the classic works of Discharge has pretty much heard every riff on this album (and heard them without the annoying repetition and obnoxious production values). Many metalheads will be crying foul because this is a "punk" album. But the real crime isn't that DarkThrone released a punk album, but that they released the sort of terrible album that has been ubiquitous within the punk scene since the day someone figured out you could sell three chords and irony as if they alone constitute a sufficient reason to be.
Lord_Seth on February 19th, 2006
the "new" Darkthrone arrived
I really didn''t dislike at all this album, but there is something missed here. We can recognize Nocturno Culto's voice, it's raw and noisy and the album production it's obviously "bad"; seems like we are listening the music through a metal cone, in my opinion they went too far.
Pointless to review each song, cause of all them sounds kind of the same, maybe would be easier to divide them into: "bad ones" and not "that bad".
Let's make it fast and let's help to some people to save some money.
As I said, it's not really a bad album cause some tracks are really catchy and I think that it's caused to the strong punk influence on it and this is a majour change on the band; isn't just a "bad" album but another direction on their sound.
And with this new sound they sound sometimes a bit childish, a bit funnny and you can't take seriously this album. This album is to get some fun, drink at your favourite bachelor party and to "impress" to your friends letting them know how "bad" you are.
"Underdogs And Overlords" it's from the "not that bad" tracks, and it's really into the "old" Darkthrone. Graveyard Slut" introduce us to Fenriz singing (wow :| ) and this is from the "bad ones", just take your favourite punk band, tune up your guitars into a black metal style and try to be funny on the lyrics in a dark way, and you may have a very close idea about this track (and the whole album).
Almost all of us listened before at the "Too Old Too Cold" track, and well, if you liked that one you may think seriously in to go and buy the album, cause that song is the worse one, so the rest of the album will be "cult" for you. Ridiculous and nonsense lyrics.
"Tyster På Gud" and "De Underjordiske (Aelia Capitolina)" are more from the "not that bad" the rest, as you may imagine, belongs to the "bad ones".
And at the end, if you wanna be just simple and plain, there is not a real bad or good song in this album, it just looks so flat and pointless but at the same time you can't say that it's shit (only if you are a hard Black Metal and Darkthrone fan).
Take advantage if someone else buy this album, listen it at his/her house and when you feel like listen to it again, go and pay another visit to that friend, otherwise, if you liked to listen to Nocturno Culto singing:
"Yeah, we're old."
"Yeah, we're cold."
"Alright. St. Black Anger, there you go!"
and you were headbanging and smiling nervously, as I said: go and buy the album.
The Cult Is Alive track list
|1||The Cult of Goliath||04:02|
|2||Too Old Too Cold||03:04|
|5||Underdogs And Overlords||04:02|
|7||De underjordiske (Ælia Capitolina)||03:14|
|8||Tyster på Gud||03:09|
The Cult Is Alive lineup
|Nocturno Culto||Vocals, Guitars, Bass|
|Fenriz||Drums, Vocals (track 4), Vocals (backing) (track 10), Guitars (rhythm) (track 8), Lyrics|