Under a Funeral Moon reviews
Evershifting on December 3rd, 2017
The Power in Your Eyes...
Few things in life make you feel like children again. Terrified. Cold. Screaming. Behold the Dark Thrones of the Black Kings...
This is the ultimate black metal album; evil, cold, malicious and amazingly well put together. The only problem is it needs more cowbell.
Opening up with a storm of guitar noise "Natassja" is a runaway killer of a song; a thrall's ode to his dead witch, the viseral emotions brought forth by Fenriz's lyrics are beautiful in the bleakest way. The guitar tone here completely redefines the phrase "razor sharp guitars", this is one of the best guitar tones you will ever hear (try Burzum's "Burzum/Dunkelheit", Saint Vitus'" Zombie Hunger" or Judas Priest's" Victim of Changes" [on vinyl] for examples). Production is poor, noisy and hissing (courtesy of Ted's bad copy of Vader's Necrolust which is also really cool), the treble is basically like a wasp and it's only added to by the stripped kit and primitive drumming patterns, 4/4 eat your heart out. The bass is deliberately buried but still absolutely vital as it is in all metal, Ted really holds it together well and performs effectively without going into trying to compete for attention like on an Atheist album for example. The whole idea is atmosphere, the rhythm section and production used solely to meet that goal; drawing focus to Ted's perfect rasps and ever present, deadly riffs.
There are so many cool riffs that I want to talk about every song but that isn't allowed so I'll give a quick count through of my favourites: Natassja's main, all of "Infernal Fields" and the title track, and the alien sounding bridge for "Triangle". The quintessential riffs however have to go to the Magnum Opus of Zephyrous and favourite Darkthrone track of both Fenriz and I: "Inn I De Dype Skogens Favn". This is the most primitive song on here and probably the most basic you can go before you get to bedroom black metal made by kids that don't know how to write or let alone read music. The whole thing is held together by TWO yes TWO riffs; the brooding, slow moving main riff, the fast change over that seems to spin in your head and was totally stolen from Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death" but is amazingly recycled here. I don't understand the hate; it's like an intro for itself that builds up slowly. The hi-hats tick and hell breaks loose with the THUMP of the floor tom that's been ignored for the whole album just for this moment, I must say to excellent effect. The Hellhammer rip off riff immediately follows with drums hammering wildly trying to deny the clever theft. Finally for the closing passage Fenriz brings back the riff crushing double floor tom idea used on the previous album to cover up death metal riffs. Except here this is a black metal riff and the double floor tom is used to ramp up the heaviness until your skull breaks.
Highlights: most tracks of this record are hailed as some of the best black metal ever made, rightly so. A quick few examples include "Under a Funeral Moon" with it's raw, suicidal lyrics and grim tremolo really speaks to the depressive force in us all. "Unholy Black Metal"'s furious charge and hateful curses towards the christian menace, is perfect for playing to oneself whilst walking across a churchyard, giving a burning (no pun intended) desire to continue the work of Varg, Euro and crew. And "Crossing the Triangle of Flames" even for black metal this is weird and supremely dissonant; alienated, otherworldly harmonies surge throughout the lifeblood of this champion song of dismay.
1993 is usually remembered as a terrible year for metal with hyper derivative nu and groove shite beginning to steam out the walls. However it is saved in part by this album, as proved by the sheer number of people that only turned up to Wacken 2004 to see Ted on stage with Satyricon playing just the title track of this record. The only bad thing about that performance was threat it had to be dedicated to the incredible Quorthon, who sadly passed away earlier that year.
Rest in Peace you Norse God of Music.
Felix%201666 on June 17th, 2017
Due to whatever reason, some dudes like fat girls. Some have an affinity for very mature skin, for example the shooting star of the French politics. He loves a woman who is 24 years older than him. Other people enjoy a life in asceticism. Finally, some dubious persons praise monogamy, albeit loyalty is just a lack of options. All these things leave me baffled. But Fenriz and Nocturno Culto will probably show sympathy for all these guys, because they also revealed a very strange understanding of beauty while recording "Under a Funeral Moon".
It has long ceased to be a secret that the production of the album sucks. It's this kind of production that makes mainstream fans laugh compassionately. Admittedly, seen from an objective point of view, one can understand their reaction. Yet Darkthrone had developed their own ghastly philosophy of black metal and the earthy, flawed, raw and thin sound matched the context. Given this situation, it does not surprise that the barking, snarling and nagging vocals celebrate ugliness in all its facets and the buzz saw guitars torment the nerves of the audience. The quirky duo goes well beyond musical conventions and due to this uncompromising approach it is not difficult to understand why this album is widely deemed as a cult record. Yet this does not mean that the song material fulfils all wishes.
Of course, the outstanding "To Walk the Infernal Fields" has an enormous impact. What a clever kind of paying tribute to one of the best tracks of Bathory. "Enter the Eternal Fire" comes to mind in a matter of seconds as soon as the first tones of Darkthrone's composition force their way. However, the song develops an own identity, although its main riff lies in close proximity to those of Bathory's masterpiece. It's a great number which almost reaches the phenomenal level of Quorthon's model example. The track has a similar pattern, it also opens the second half of the work in an epic manner and it slows down the speed significantly. And to be honest, this less rapid approach is more or less necessary after the first four songs. They impress with velocity and nastiness, but they do not deliver excellent riffs in abundance or many other outstanding musical feature. For example, the third track just rushes by and leaves me cold. More generally, these tunes are mainly furious, dirty and mean. A certain quantum of slower sequences, for example the middle part of "Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust", does not gain the upper hand.
In my humble opinion, the full-length must be understood as a kind of antithesis. I appreciate the album for its rebellious element and the idiosyncratic artwork, for its great title and its contribution to the last really exciting movement in the extreme metal scene, the Norwegian black metal riot. Yet I don't think that the music itself, actual the main component, is mind-blowing. Despite some pretty good pieces (opener, title track, closer), the compositions are just the necessary addition for the image Darkthrone wanted to create. Mission accomplished.
ConorFynes on October 27th, 2015
Atmosphere from beyond the fog.
Darkthrone have had one of the most interesting careers in metal history. For the band arguably most closely associated with black metal cliché (alongside Immortal) they remain deceptively unique and strange, even in the wake of countless would-be successors. With each album I've explored from them, it's forced me to reconsider my opinions on the albums around it. The basement fodder sloppiness of A Blaze in the Northern Sky seems that much more like a badge of honour when you consider the technical finesse the Darkthrone boys demonstrated on Soulside Journey the year before. It's taken some hours of intent listening to Under a Funeral Moon then to realize how deceptively sophisticated they actually were on A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Darkthrone cloaked themselves in a murky lo-fi fog with that one, but progressive riffs and ambitious song structures were still present for those with the ears and patience to dig a little deeper.
I now think of Darkthrone's second album as complex because of the new standard Under a Funeral Moon set for terms of sheer minimalism and rawness. A Blaze in the Northern Sky was weird and diverse. This is real black metal. This is the archetype for the cold and frostbitten legions that came hereafter. Darkthrone's third album is rough and completely void of professionalism. Of course, this is not at all because Darkthrone didn't possess A-list musicianship; rather, they knew that spare trinkets and furnishings would only serve to take away from the essence of their atmosphere. The same has been said of Under a Funeral Moon ten thousand times before, but fuck it, I'll say it again: This album is as evil and frigid-sounding as anything ever derived from the Norwegian canon. For whatever it lacks in individually memorable moments or distinctive soundbites, it totally makes up for with regards to its monochromatic, unyielding atmosphere.
Once you're under the funeral moon, you are trapped. Darkthrone most themselves cited this album as the only true black metal album of their whole career; while most of their post-Soulside, pre-crust material revels in an aura of blackened enshrinement, I would be inclined to agree this is the album that most closely resembles the black metal archetype they're so often accredited for imagining. Darkthrone really are one of the last among the real essentials I got around to checking-- I think I wasn't too excited purely on the merits that I thought I knew exactly what to expect. After all, so many others have done what they've done... but is that really truthful? Minimalistic song structures, repetitive and cold riffs, a treble-fetishizing production and vaguely animalistic vocals are all extremely familiar and probably overdone by this point. I don't think I'm being controversial when I say Under a Funeral Moon would not work, were it not for the band's grasp of atmosphere. As to how Darkthrone managed to perfect atmosphere through the most imperfect of means is beyond me. Unlike some of the other go-to black metal classics however, there's nothing supposedly tongue-in-cheek about the tone of the music. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto may be fun-loving blokes most of the time, but you wouldn't guess from the music itself. The latter's vocals here actually sound possessed, and the omnipresent tinny fuzz does strange things to the psyche, particularly if you listen to the album more than once in a sitting.Darkthrone's musical endowments take a total backseat to the atmosphere here, though I suppose atmosphere is itself a product of good musicianship. What I think a lot of people tend to overlook here is how interesting (if not conventionally solid) the band's performances here are. The next time you're spinning Under a Funeral Moon, try to pierce through the atmosphere and pay attention to the way they structure songs and write riffs. There is something so counter-intuitive about the way they will abruptly switch paces and ideas in their songs, with precious little to suggest a great deal of thought or intent behind it. Darkthrone were most certainly inspired in creating this album, but it's a wonder how much of the magic was actually intentional. I think that's a great part of the appeal behind this album compared to other, otherwise stronger albums in their discography. Darkthrone tapped into something Otherly here. A certain x-factor that can't be channelled into words so much as felt by the listener attentive enough to give themselves over to the atmosphere. This is what distinguishes Darkthrone from the hordes of soundalikes after them; while most others were making music based solely on their musical influences, Darkthrone were getting part of it from somewhere else entirely.
flightoficarus86 on November 20th, 2014
This album is probably my least favorite out of the “Unholy Trilogy.” This is not an insult. If you won a bronze metal at the Olympics, damned if you wouldn’t be proud of it. Anyways, from what I can gather, my ears are just not kvlt enough to fully appreciate it. My favorite is A Blaze in the Northern Sky, which Fenriz himself rails against even on the commentary track for containing too much death metal influence and “fancy pants” drumming. Under a Funeral Moon, on the other hand, he calls their only true black metal album.
Being a guitarist and former drummer, his complaints about the first album are exactly what draw me to it. There are a number of deceivingly simplistic, but interesting and memorable riffs. The drumming showcases a lot of variety as well, more so than on later releases. But enough. This is a review of the latter, not the former.
The entire sound has been stripped down, likely to fit a much more prototypical template. The drum kit was literally broken down to a few pieces and the playing is far more simplistic. The recording of the drums is also purposefully reduced in quality. The blast beats sound like distant cardboard being beaten with spoons. You could probably recreate it with a busted microphone and your hands slapping on your thighs. There are really only two style here: blast beats and mid-tempo 4/4 with a simple cymbal fill here and there.
Regarding the guitars, gone are most of the hooks and almost progressive elements of the last album. They have been replaced by a handful of simple riffs consisting mostly of alternating power chords and tremolo picking. Occasionally there is a standout, particularly on the main riff of the title track which I absolutely dig. Everything else fits very much in with the buzz and drone of fellow band Burzum. The difference is that Darkthrone keeps the songs to fairly average length and follow a more conventional rock structure. As for the bass, you can actually hear it, which is more than can be said about a lot of “tr00” black metal. It has a nice heavy, distorted buzz that is similar to hardcore punk. Not surprising given Fenriz’s taste for the 80’s and crust punk.
There is not much to be said of Nocturno’s vocals other than that I like them. They are a bit less aggressive and volatile this time around, but they fit the overall atmosphere. They come through slowly with a nice echo, like a demon calling out from hell. Definitely creepy and not at all obnoxious compared to some of the newer groups that tried to adopt this style.
Now to an untrained eye, all that I’ve said seems to add up to a negative review. Wrong. All of my points about the changes in guitar, drums, and production come together quite well to create a masterpiece of atmosphere. While I generally see that term as a masturbatory way of saying “boring,” here it is not so. The album carries a nice cohesive darkness, the songs never overstay their welcome, and few have managed to hit a balance like this before or since. Just when I find myself thinking “okay…I’ve heard enough of this riff,” they move onto the next song. Standout tracks are Natassja in Eternal Sleep, Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust, To Walk the Eternal Fields, and Under a Funeral Moon. I will always recommend Blaze and Transylvanian Hunger over this album, but it is no less important to hearing the foundations of black metal and Darkthrone.
Nokturnal_Wrath on May 17th, 2014
Black Metal's Most Important Achievement
As far as black metal is concerned, this may very well be the zenith. A bleak monochromatic soundscape set on a pedestal so high that only the select few will be able to envision. Under A Funeral Moon creates an album of such unrelenting darkness and nihilism that all other black metal albums seem light in comparison. Atmosphere will always be the key to success for a black metal band and Under A Funeral Moon delivers it in spades.
How does one go about creating atmosphere? This has always wondered me and I have spent many an hour debating this. There is no one way in which atmosphere can be created, but the end result is usually the same. Black metal strives to be dark, cold and misanthropic. Whether this is by a depressive black metal band creating an atmosphere of pure unrelenting agony, or an atmospheric band crafting long droning hymns to celebrate the winter, atmosphere in black metal (usually) comes across as cold and inhospitable. Needless to say there is always exceptions to the rule, with recent years showing an influx in the laughably named “good guy” black metal scene, with bands such as Altar of Plagues, Fen and Wolves in the Throne Room instantly coming to mind. However, one must realize that no other album has created the same unrelenting loneliness and emptiness that defines Under A Funeral Moon.
It can be said that Under A Funeral Moon serves as the counterweight to Transilvanian Hunger. Far away from said albums melodic sensibility, Under A Funeral Moon is dissonant, almost bordering on the outright atonal. Riffs seem to come and go in a random fashion, the songs defy conventional structure. Rhythms are strange and incoherent, with the seemingly random use of repetition making it even more off kilter and unconventional. The production makes this album all the more deranged, with the drums and bass being very distant whilst guitars and vocals are loud and piercingly thin.
Whilst many will pass this up in favor for Transilvanian Hunger, when looking at this album from a critical viewpoint it becomes clearer that Under A Funeral Moon is far more important in influencing the musical nature of black metal than Transilvanian Hunger which was far more important in cementing the genres primary aesthetics. Although Transilvanian Hunger is another flawless album, Under A Funeral Moon remains all the more compelling and intriguing. The bizarre nature of the songs coupled with the powerful vocals and perplexing riff changes makes for an album that is constantly challenging. There is really nothing accessible about this release, it is a black metal sound stream that is anything but therapeutic.
Similar to the ironically named Swans, Under A Funeral Moon is a prime example of beauty through ugliness. Each song, despite being uniformly dark has a strong sense of somber melody. The criticisms leveled at this album are entirely legit; it is essentially a sloppily played, minimalistic opus of droning black metal with very low fi production values. However, each criticism can easily be disapproved by saying it was all intentional. People who are focusing on superficial aspects only whilst ignoring the music as a whole are missing the entire point of the album. As an album that aimed to create an atmosphere of pure unrelenting darkness then you can’t do any better than this.
It comes clear that right from the start, with the introductory track Natassja in Eternal Sleep what Darkthrone aim to do. With jagged riffs lurching in strange patterns and vocals that sound like Nocturno Culto has risen from the grave, the sense of coldness embodies in the first track serves to foreshadow the dark and misanthropic journey the listener is about to depart on. There’s a very good sense of flow throughout this album, each track serves as a natural evolution of the ideas laid down by the former. Despite the unnatural nature of these compositions, the sound remains surprisingly natural and organic. Gone are the death metal elements of the bands past, the sound has been exorcised of all unnecessary elements. Gone is the powerful drumming that dominated the past albums, with Fenriz learning more about how black metal drumming should sound and thus toning it down.
Stripped down is an apt descriptor for this album and therefore can often be seen as a primary influence on the modern day bedroom black metal scene. The influence that Under A Funeral Moon has sown upon the black metal scene is undeniable and to this day, remains one of the most challenging yet rewarding albums in black metal history. Essential.
metal22 on February 3rd, 2014
What is it that makes a good black metal album? I have always considered atmosphere to be the absolute key to black metal. Atmosphere can be achieved in many ways, through orchestrations or unconventional instruments (Lustre, Emperor, Summoning etc), but what I have come to realise, is that NO other black metal album creates the pure darkness and bitterly-cold despair that is heard on Under A Funeral Moon. And we are not talking dreamy keyboards and menacing symphonies, we are talking raw minimalism and by god is it effective.
From when 'Natassja In Eternal Sleep' kicks in, the riffs are very repetitive but teeming with menace. The ultra-thin guitars create an eerie, hypnotic soundscape unlike no other, and even though some might complain about the production quality it is a key factor in making this album so dark. Black metal is rarely based around good production, and sometimes it can be unlistenable (Pure Fucking Armageddon anyone?), but this is different. This is how the genre should sound in its purest form. 'Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust' is one of the highlights as it shows off the writing skills of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. Strange, otherworldly melodies that sound like they were built for the overall vibe of the production.
Another ingenious factor of Darkthrone's third record is the structure of the songs. Riffs seem to change without warning defying conventional patterns, with the title track being an example. The unpredictability of it all not only makes it more interesting, but also more creepy. The vocals here are incredibly harsh as well, and stand high and proud above anything else in the mix. Nocturno Culto's rasps and wails are proof of the darkness that human beings are capable of producing, and together with the guitars create a frozen, unrivalled listening experience. There are also slight elements of thrash in here as heard in the opening seconds of 'Unholy Black Metal', which shows that Darkthrone can take elements of other genre and give them a blackened twist.
The drums here are very muffled and distant, but it works well with the grim tone of the album. Although not being very clear the drumming itself is excellent. The lyrics are also more well written than on the predecessor, and are poetically evil. That is the word that sums up Under A Funeral Moon, evil, because it is so utterly devoid of light and hope that one cannot help but feel both creeped out and astounded by its unusual sound. This is as black as black metal can ever get, and no other album has used such minimalism to create such an eerie soundscape.
Darkthrone's finest, and an essential for BM fans.
TowardsMorthond on July 9th, 2011
Frigid depths of obscure origin
It is here where DarkThrone master their diabolical craft and fully seize and present the fundamental elements of "True Norwegian Black Metal". Having rerouted their approach on 1992's A Blaze in the Northern Sky, an initiation into the beginning steps to achieving ultimate representation of the core of this grim art, DarkThrone now embody the total, complete essence of the intentional definitive vision of the cold and dark ideology behind black metal music.
Structural variation operates within a minimalist aesthetic now razor‑sharpened in execution and extreme expression of violence. Guitars form riffs as frozen streams, a chilling buzz of distorted currents anchored by Fenriz’s merciless pummeling, a rhythmic simplification intensified through diversity of compositional representation. Nocturno Culto’s infernal shrieks, arranged here with a higher awareness of harmony with riff phrase and rhythmic patterning, bleed with an intoxication of venomous furor, the voice of demonic murderer of hallowed virtue, a contradiction in hateful affliction and indifference, a torn soul lashing out against the feeble and unacceptable.
"You must know that I can no longer see the difference of dream and reality"
These songs are not the dynamic black epics of A Blaze in the Northern Sky, nor do they intend to be. Rather, these are reductive works of abyssic descent towards cold and unforgiving forests in the depths of being. The music is cutthroat, frigid and grim in a tone unrealized to this degree in any previous form of metal music. Instead of choosing the stone over the sun and considering the grip on the stone as a destination in itself, DarkThrone exist through the stone in violent defiance of the sun.
autothrall on January 25th, 2010
Your weapon I will be
From the look of the cover art alone, Under a Funeral Moon would appear to be a redundancy after the game changing sophomore effort A Blaze in the Northern Sky, but skim below the surface imagery into the music itself, and you will find that there is a subtle transfer here from that more heavily Celtic Frost-influenced album into a fuzzed out wall of high-speed riffing. Other slight differences are that Culto uses a higher pitched snarl than his dark barking of the previous album, and bassist Dag Nilsen had left the band after recording his tracks for A Blaze, thus those duties are handled here by N.C. Furthermore, this was the final Darkthrone album to involve Zephyrous on the guitar (assuming you don't include the later release of Goatlord), so it also marks the end of an era, after which the band would consolidate into the duo we have come to recognize for more than a decade hence.
"Natassja in Eternal Sleep" initiates the album on somewhat of a somber note, a stream of excellent, quirky, jangling guitar notes ring off into a stellar nightscape, picking up steam before the minute mark to a depressive string of chords above which Nocturno's vocals appear as hammering apparitions, frozen into the sky after each syllable parts. The track really alternates between these two riffs, a bass steadily plodding below, and it seems to end rather abruptly before the thrusting abysmal bliss of "Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust" rages forth. This song is perhaps one of the best of the album, an unapologetic onslaught that sacrifices nothing in its momentum, a primal channeling of energy and despair, which journeys through a series of hooks that are both barbaric and introspective, before settling into a slow, crashing rhythm more akin to much of the material on the prior album. "The Dance of Eternal Shadows" continues this pattern, with a dominant, trudging opening riff which sounds like any band could write it in 30 seconds, and yet in the hands of Darkthrone, it seems like an otherworldly revelation, before the pace is increased with barrage of sombering chords much like the first two tracks.
'Lover of all - Face the apocalypse
You fade away under the black rain
and flowers remain'
"Unholy Black Metal" erupts immediately with a pair of repetitive chords that transform into a hammering change-up rhythm before the eventual shift into another, extremly simple riff, glazed in wailing, sporadic lead guitar abandon for a few seconds, before cycling back through the first two sections. Once again, this is the type of track that any musicians with amps and a drum kit could probably write in the blink of an eye, yet the adherence to the basics has never hurt Darkthrone. In their capable imaginations (and hands), they mutate shit into diamonds and the very atmosphere of the damned thing more than compensates for any lack of technicality. "To Walk the Infernal Fields" moves at a pensive crawl, with more of the band's obvious worship of Celtic Frost and Bathory, but there are delights awaiting within, like the war metal rhythm march at 3:30 and the further deceleration into a grim miasma of chords and rumbling noise that stretches across the blackness of the heavens.
The title track is another of the album's strongest, though there is hardly a track I would call 'weak'. Starts off simply enough, with more of the band's pummeling mid-paced lock-step rhythm, but becomes more distinct at :40 when it shifts tracks into a penetrating, vile speed lick like something Slayer might conceive when drunk. There is also a killer, muddy doom bridge, huge chords churning below the stagnant waters while a noisy lead erupts like a swarm of mosquitos, Nocturno crashing forward with his howls of pain. "Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn" spends almost 2 minutes grinding out the same, almost too simplistic rhythm, before a shift into another riff that you feel you've already heard on the album several times. I would never call the song bad, but its clearly the worst of the lot here and the prime reason I don't count this as flawless as its closest siblings. Thankfully, the closing track "Crossing the Triangle of Flames" comes around full circle to excellence, with big hooks that cavort through the escalating emptiness of widening ichor that Zephyrous and N.C. create through their callous riffing. The charging riff around :50 is the kind of brilliant, primal beauty this band has written the book on, and the turbulent, doomed nightmare later in the song sounds like drowning in quicksand, grasping for that last branch just beyond your reach, before the final tolling bells.
Trying to choose favorites among the vaunted pantheon of Darkthrone albums is simply a matter of apples and oranges, and I tend towards those that struck me the most when they first arrived. A Blaze in the Northern Sky had the advantage of taking me completely by surprise, and I worship each of its six tracks wherever I can find privacy, sanctum and sacrificial implements. Under a Funeral Moon did not have the same impact simply because I was expecting it, and I don't feel the raw strength of the band holds up quite as strongly through the entire playtime. "Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn" lags behind the rest just enough that I wish it had another riff in there to really round out the sum. As far as influence, this was certainly just as important as A Blaze or Transilvanian Hunger, and several other Darkthrone fans I know venerate this above all, and I cannot fault them for it. Certainly Under a Funeral Moon is essential listening for the Norse black metal fan, and really, ANY black metal fan should probably have a copy of this on hand in their vinyl bins or CD rack.
Highlights: Natassja in Eternal Sleep, Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust, Under a Funeral Moon, To Walk the Infernal Fields, Crossing the Triangle of Flames
Noktorn on January 17th, 2010
More essential than you think
Of Darkthrone's seminal works, this is probably the most influential. 'A Blaze In The Northern Sky' has its place, but in the end is very much a blackened take on old Celtic Frost, as does 'Transilvanian Hunger', which is influential but more on the level of aesthetics and presentation than real musical content. 'Under A Funeral Moon', though; you can draw a straight line from this to what we think of as the modern black metal scene. Those haunting, dissonant riffs, pulsing thrash beat drumming, and horrendously rasped vocals are in many ways the very foundation of modern black metal, and although this is perhaps the least spoken of aspect of Darkthrone's unholy trinity, it might just be the most important from a historical perspective.
Despite this, it should come as no surprise that no band REALLY sounds like this album, just as no band REALLY replicates the feeling of 'Filosofem', 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas', or 'Pure Holocaust'. Invariably, one thing or another gets lost in translation, but in the end it's the fact of the time period and musical context which makes this what it is. An album like 'Under A Funeral Moon' really couldn't be composed at any other moment in time. It's a stellar product of its environment, and what it lacks in the instant memorability of its immediate predecessor and successor it makes up for with a depth of songwriting possibly unequaled elsewhere in Darkthrone's lengthy catalog of releases.
The most important elements are some of the most subtle ones. In a lot of ways the overall song structures and riffing styles of this album are prototypes of the sort of thing you'd end up hearing on 'Transilvanian Hunger', but much less overtly melodic and often outright atonal. 'Transilvanian Hunger' had a great deal of repetition among simple riffs, but few of the riffs on that album would drag out individual chords for as long as Darkthrone does on this album, in many ways making this even more hypnotic and droning than the much-lauded sequel album. The atmosphere, also, is singular to this release, with a murky, droning, occult/ritualistic feel that hasn't been replicated anywhere else. The long stretches of droning chords over binary thrash beat drumming and Nocturno Culto's unusually venomous howls make for a listening experience that could be minimally described as compelling.
'A Blaze In The Northern Sky' and 'Transilvanian Hunger' are infinitely more natural-sounding albums than this one. 'Under A Funeral Moon' has a potent sense of wrongness about it, with rhythms frequently lurching in strange, unsettling ways like on the last two tracks. Frequently odd repetitions of riffs will be used; three repetitions of riff A followed by only two of riff B, making for something that feels off-kilter and twisted despite being uniformly in 4/4. The production makes things that much more sinister and deranged, with a strange guitar tone that sounds like three separate, differently EQ'd instruments playing simultaneously grinding across a dry and lifeless percussive set, which is occasionally bolstered by inexplicable, sudden explosions of bass, like the striking of a bass drum with the circumference of Jupiter. Very weird stuff indeed.
It's understandable why this album often gets shoved aside in conversation in favor of its siblings; this is not an easy listen. Apart from the pseudo-throwaway track 'Unholy Black Metal', the songs on this album are challenging, frightening, and bizarre slabs of genuinely occult music. It would be difficult to say whether this or 'Transilvanian Hunger' is my favorite Darkthrone album, but in the end, it's really an apples and oranges sort of situation. If I want something frozen and melodic, the latter reigns supreme, but if I'm looking for something darker and more disturbing, well, here's the answer to that question. Essential.
WinterBliss on May 21st, 2009
Norwegian Classics: Under a Funeral Moon
With this release we see Darkthrone stepping away from the rhythmically involved and more dynamic song writing of their black metal debut and see them honing in on their most recognizable sound. Under a Funeral Moon shows Darkthrone's new found adherence to the old axiom "less is more."
The production offers the guitars and vocals, as well as the cymbals in the forefront, but gone are the powerful and compelling drum production that added so much to A Blaze in the Northern Sky. The production as a whole is a bit subdued and less intense than their debut, but works nonetheless. The crackling guitar and echoing vocals maintain their prominence throughout the album, from time to time. Whilst blast beats the drums fall to the wayside and become a mere blur. While these conditions would never be ideal, they work exceedingly well to create the sound that Darkthrone has made famous.
The departure from their debut is obvious, long and structurally diverse songs like "Kathaarian Life Code" are lost. Something like " Natassja In Eternal Sleep" foreshadows their next highly revered album, "Transilvanian Hunger ." the attention and repetition of catchy and powerful riffs is the meat and potatoes of this album. Songs like aforementioned " Natassja In Eternal Sleep" and "To Walk The Infernal Fields" are completely absorbing and majestic in their simple nature, but involve enough spark behind them to avoid the tepid minimalism of their next release. What this album offers is charm, and it's got more than enough of it.
It's undeniable to cite Darkthrone's quintessential status in modern black metal, and such a status was built on albums such as this. Where ABITNS bore a resemblance to the previous bands of the first wave, Under a Funeral Moon displays a completely Darkthronesque vision of what black metal is. If a textbook were to be made in regards to black metal, surely this album would have endless citations in the bibliography.
hells_unicorn on May 2nd, 2009
The embodiment of coldness.
This is widely regarded by both fan and detractor alike as Darkthrone’s crowning achievement, and insofar as their black metal releases, I am not one to disagree. It is a notable departure for a band that spent the bulk of their early days attempting to outdo themselves technically, although it still retains a good degree of the competency that made their death/thrash influenced works so impressive. The character of the band’s production has taken on an even colder and more fuzz driven nature than the previous release, exaggerating the practices that were observed on early Celtic Frost and Bathory albums to the point of sounding like all the microphones and amplifiers are buried under 2 meters of snow. But the overriding ingredient in this frost coated brew is the melodic contours that shape many of the riffs and how well they play off the more thrashing ones.
In the eyes of many “Under A Funeral Moon” is seen as slightly inferior to their more renowned follow up “Transylvanian Hunger”, much in the same way that many see “Reign In Blood” as Slayer’s crowning achievement while its predecessors were rungs on the ladder leading to it. However, if one looks at it from a stylistic viewpoint rather than one of catchiness, there is a good deal more going on here. It’s somewhat closer to the droning nature of Burzum’s albums at around this time if you look at certain individual riffs and songs, but there is still an overriding sense of structural development and contrast the keeps it outside of the drone realm. Probably the closest song on here to that minimalist sense of moving yet standing still is “Unholy Black Metal”, which essentially has 3 riffs that are drawn out to their fullest extent and ride over a continuous blast beat, but even here the band’s technical past still bleeds through with a couple of well placed guitar solos.
In some respects, this album could be seen as a precursor to the mid-90s work of both Immortal and Gorgoroth, though the influences are a bit more overt in the case of the latter while the former only shares a general similarity in their song structure approach and technical work. The melodic contours of the tremolo riffs heard on “Natassja In Eternal Sleep” and “Under A Funeral Moon” have this biting sense of coldness to them, not all that far off from some of what can be heard on “Pentagram” and “Antichrist” just a few years after this. It takes a somewhat less thrash oriented approach than said band’s works and mostly tends to rest on a more linear style of riffing that’s in line with pre-thrash NWOBHM work, but avoiding the chord progression clichés of the early 80s and going towards something a bit more dissonant and rhythmically disjointed.
Although the sound quality here is extremely raw and low fidelity, there is still a very clear set of boundaries set between the instrumentation. Zephyrus’ guitar tracking is crisp enough not to bleed into itself and done in a precise enough fashion to sound like one cohesive whole rather than 2 separate guitars fighting each other for prominence, which can sometimes happen with black metal bands that have multiple guitarists. The bass still plays a significant role in shaping the arrangement, though the absence of Dag Nilsen’s active lines and a greater concentration of root note bass lines does take this well out of the realm of the previous two releases. But Fenriz’s drum sound contrasts the most from the rest of the arrangement, as instead of being soaked with reverb, his kit is basically dry and free of effects, putting a greater burden on the guitars to give the album its characteristic sound.
Many have pointed to this album as being a large influence on the concept of bedroom black metal, mostly due to it’s really rough production, which is rivaled only by “Panzerfaust” insofar as the band’s discography is concerned. It is important to note that although many of these hack bands attempt to imitate the general sound of this album, none of them possess the competence to match the guitar work on here. Even though by the standards set by “Soulside Journey” this is a pretty basic album, the Jeff Hanneman inspired guitar solos heard on “Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust” and “Under A Funeral Moon” are well out of the league of any first or second year guitarist looking to show how cool he is for playing with a poor sense of rhythm. Likewise, the Quorthon-like vocal ravings of Nocturno Culto and the depth of the atmosphere that is established on here behind them are not something that just magically spring out of a rough take on an analog 4 track, but a careful refinement of volume levels and timbres that lead to a cohesive whole.
Although I still hold a slight preference to “Soulside Journey” for its unique charm and forward looking approach to death/thrash, this is deserving of the legend that it has attached to it. It carries a quality of rawness and coldness to it not all that dissimilar to Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, along with a symmetrically structured approach to songwriting not all that far off from Gorgoroth’s “Pentagram”, although the style does hint at a little bit of a throwback to Celtic Frost at many points. It’s not quite an album that could be considered ahead of its time like “A Blaze In The Northern Sky” was, but more one that was in the right place at the right time. It’s the hardest of all of their releases to like, yet once fully understood, is the easiest one to completely love.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on May 2, 2009.
red_blood_inside on December 15th, 2008
Norwegian Black Metal - Darkthrone -Chapter II
Under a Funeral Moon, great name for a BM release. This album has, up today, 12 reviews and an average of 92%, I guess it’s all said, so I’ll do the same I did for “A Blaze in...”, I’ll talk about my feelings about this release. I consider Darkthrone one of the most important metal band of the last 25 years, and that is because of their first 5 albums, the rest is disposable. In fact they should split up after “Panzerfaust” and remain as a cult band for eternity. But hey, they are fucking Darkthrone and don’t really care about these things.
Now on the album, the first thing I’ve noticed when listened to it was that the production was even worst than in A Blaze..., I know BM is all about dark and evil atmosphere and that low production helps a lot to create it, but in this case the guitars sound too buzzy, to thin, and this, on a first listen, really defies the seriousness of the release. This is the reason why it took me so long to understand the music inside, I had to get used to the veil covering the main idea of this release. After that I understood that this is one of the most hateful albums by Darkthrone.
The riffs, oh the riffs are so great, now you have pure Black Metal riffs, not DM disguised as BM, and the difference is quite clear. I don’t really know id Zephyrous was important at this time, according to the music it doesn’t sound like he was, but if he has something to do in the creation of the guitar work in this album, he should come back (and by the way, erase this entire new crust punk thing Darkthone is on right now). The drumming is rather simple but effective, as usual, plenty of blast beats and some slower moments. Note that slower doesn’t mean bland, there are no bland moments on this album.
One aspect that is to stand out is the vocal work. I’m not sure who sang on this album, but he did a hell of a job, I love the power these vocals have, and the intense hatred they transmit. The entire atmosphere created by the melodic approach of the guitar work is destroyed (in a good way) by the vocals and the relentlessness of the drums.
Stand out tracks, mmm, once again all are good tracks, but special mentions for the mid paced strength of the over seven minutes “To Walk in Infernal Fields”, the power of the track that gives the name to the album, and finally, the nice drum pattern in “Crossing the Triangle of Flames”
This is another album to have in your collection, if you don’t have it, you are a fool, dare to discover it, and if you already have it, give it a spin once in a while, you’ll see it can still surprise you.
Noctir on September 7th, 2008
Under A Funeral Moon
After releasing the classic 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky', Darkthrone began working on the follow-up, taking their time to perfectly craft every melody, every note; to create nothing less than pure, freezing cold Black Metal. While Fenriz mentions the presence of "fucking Death Metal riffs" that crept into the previous album, due to time constraints, this is where the band completed the dark metamorphosis. 'Under A Funeral Moon' is one of the most grim and morbid recordings ever made. The Celtic Frost vibe seems absent here, replaced by even more Bathory worship. (In one interview, Nocturno Culto actually mentions taking 'Under the Sign of the Black Mark' into the studio to give the producer an idea of the sound they wanted.) However, to imply that this entire album is simply derivative of what came before would be an error. Darkthrone came into their own, in many ways, on this album. While their influences are still obvious, there is a lot on this album that is neither Hellhammer nor Bathory, but rather pure Darkthrone.
This is raw and minimal, like nothing before. 'A Blaze In the Northern Sky' was primitive yet very powerful and thunderous. The drum work on 'Under A Funeral Moon' is quite different. Despite being exceptionally talented (as was certainly displayed on 'Soulside Journey') Fenriz showed a deeper understanding of what Black Metal is supposed to be and toned it down. The drums are basic and also lower in the mix than on the last album. They are there only to keep the song going forward. The focus here is on the guitar melodies. The guitars are much thinner and the bass is actually audible, maintaining a doomy feeling throughout much of the album. Despite the fuzzy guitar sound, everything is remarkably clear. Every note can be heard. Nocturno Culto's vocals are supported by a healthy amount of reverb and he sounds like he has just risen from a grave.
"Natassja In Eternal Sleep" is a fast paced song, with a mournful and repetitive tremolo melody that is accompanied by hauntingly sorrowful lyrics. The mood is evil yet also mournful, as the lyrics tell the story of a dead witch. Musically, this is a perfect example of , what would become known as, the typical Darkthrone sound.
"Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust" continues on at full speed, until midway through the song. This is when the bass becomes quite audible and the listener os overcome with a morbid grave lust. The eerie solo is very reminiscent of Bathory. This slower section of the song has a similar feel to Mayhem's "Freezing Moon".
What follows this is one of the most morbid riffs, as "The Dance of Eternal Shadows" begins. Nocturno Culto truly sounds as if he is calling out from the grave. The song begins very slowly, before picking up with the fast tremolo melodies. The song slows down again, near the end, as the feeling of death fills the air. As life fades, hell awaits. This song is very chilling, to say the least.
"I am ready...for the god below."
"Unholy Black Metal" is very fast and serves to bring a bit of life back to an album otherwise steeped in death and morbidity. The somber atmospheres and mournful melodies take a break and the listener is able to pull the knife away from their throat and let go of it for a moment. This song is very minimal, and could not have been more appropriately named. The old Bathory vibe is very clear, particularly in the brief solo. But this influence would get much stronger as the song ends...
"To Walk the Infernal Fields" has to be seen as a tribute to Bathory's "Enter the Eternal Fire", borrowing some riffs. This is the longest song on the album, and returns to the mournful and depressive atmosphere that prevails elsewhere on Under A Funeral Moon. Much like "Enter the Eternal Fire" this song is midpaced, with subtle melodies underneath the main riff. Late in the song, everything slows way down and it feels like a funeral march, with thunderous drums and cymbals leading the way to the nocturnal graveland. As you gaze into the abyss, certain of your own doom, the main riff returns and pulls you away from the edge.
“With my art, I am the fist in the face God.”
The next song erupts from the darkened abyss like a horde of demons. "Under A Funeral Moon" possesses some of the best riffs on the album, as well as lyrics that are absolutely perfect for the atmosphere that is being created. It is is possible for one song to embody everything that is great about an album, this would be the one. The Bathory-esque solo is bone chilling and the vocals could not sound more deathly and demonic. The slower section in the middle is brilliant and really takes the listener down, deeper and deeper. The story being told is that of a nocturnal ritual, leading through the gates of death and beyond. There are some very cold riffs here, foreshadowing what is to come on the following release, but this album fills my mind less with imagery of Winter forests and more with grim cemeteries, funeral torches and an overpowering lust for death and Hell.
"Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn" is very repetitive and feels less inspired than the rest of the album. It is not bad, but simply not as interesting as the other songs. There are some tempo changes, but there is something lacking from this one.
"Crossing the Triangle of Flames" really feels like it is dragging you down to Hell. The fast tremolo riffs and hateful vocals dominate the song, while Fenriz employs some interesting variation with the drums. Then the song slows down, and the guitar is nearly alone with only sparse drum fills. The riff is actually similar to something that one would find on a Burzum album and definitely has the trademark Norwegian sound. As cold winds sweep over the desolate graveland, Nocturno Culto snarls:
"I am Lucifer!"
Then the bells begin to toll. A slow, morbid riff repeats as the album fades out, leaving only the chiming of the funeral bells. With the funeral moon illuminating the cold landscape, the nocturnal rituals have been performed and the listener now finds himself face to face with his dark master, leaving all traces of life and light behind. This is Black Metal. This is the feeling that it is meant to convey.
Goatofold on August 28th, 2008
Unholy Black Metal
This was the very first album I heard by Darkthrone, many years ago.
Upon first hearing the album I knew that this was an album that I would come to love. Ironically though, I didn't quite get it at first. It hasn't got the apparent brutality of other iconic second wave black metal releases (such as Mayhem's "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas") which is mainly due to a very thin production of the guitars and a heavily unbalanced drum-mix (one single drum microphone the rumours say).
The album starts out with a bizarre tune, dissonant and hypnotic, and sets the mood which I would describe as lugubre, unsettling, very dark. The mere implication of when "Natassja" ought to have lived adds a quality of immortality or longevity and I can't really describe how important this song (or rather: it being the opening song) is to the rest of the album.
As a side-track I might add that it wasn't until I, some decade ago, heard "Over Fjell Og Gjennom Torner" on the Transilvanian Hunger album that I suddenly understood what Darkthrone was all about. That song's bleak minimalism and stark absence of any normal sounding production really evocates a feeling of complete abnormality, like both a fist in the face of humanity (not in a provocating way; rather in a non-human way) and yet that weird sense of retrospection - the remembrance of 'once being human'.
Anyhow, Under A Funeral Moon really came as a revelation of true black metal to me when Over Fjell Og Gjennom Torner had shown the way.
The album captures a sensation of exclusivity, like a soundtrack to the fraternity of what/who once was/were actual black metal with songs such as Unholy Black Metal - which, if not particularly good in matters of musicality, is really invigorating and actually lifts up the rest of the album from what elsewise could've been a dangerously depressing (and I mean that in a bad way) set of songs.
In a way, Under A Funeral Moon is iconic to me because it truly marks the point where black metal no longer seemed an offshoot of it's thrash origins but really something very different.
Musically, this album is much in the same fashion as it's predecessor A Blaze In The Northern Sky, yet strangely different. I think this is much because whereas "A Blaze..." strives for brutality in combination with truly haunting, dark atmospheres (just take Kathaarian Life Code for example), Under A Funeral Moon - although similar in pace and overall execution - doesn't have as much of a Celtic Frost influence, and ultimately lacks any resemblence of death metal.
The truth is (according to me) that the nature of the album is defined not only by what it actually contains but (perhaps even more so) also by what it is lacking.
What is it that it is lacking then?
FIrst of all, it lacks the feeling of competition. Fenriz is not playing as complex or fast as he could, because he realizes that that is not what it is about.
Although fastpaced it never feels as if they're trying to play fast. Also, the general lack of bass (some occasional floor drum hits represents the only 'heavy' side of the whole album) and the thin, buzzing guitars creates something very different. Whereas most other bands at that time in a sense could be seen as representing urban atmospheres and minds this truly is the pinnacle of something more rural - and I mean that in a deeper sense than most people would understand. It is as if they truly have broke loose from human bonds, now being amongst the ancient entities which roam the primordial woods. Of course, this is not the case but the music is at times ever so convincing.
Although minimal on the verge of monochromatical the album is driven by melody and timbre, which are it's main components.
The guitars are in centre, displaying melodies that are much more of a feat to compose than to actually play (again that apparent lack of competitiveness).
The timbre then; again we could speak more of what is lacking than what is actually present. The guitar production seems to be made without any care for 'good sound', with buzz and static noise further putting the focus on the melodies. This is not mindlessly executed though, the lack of good production is not equivalent with lack of any production. The vocals are cavernous and bleak - raspy but not brutal per se.
The totality of the instruments - the actual sound - is very consistent, non-dynamic in a way, like a being of it's own.
It remains a true icon of Black Metal, perhaps one of the very best albums of the genre ever because it's an archetype in itself, self-defining. If you haven't heard Darkthrone (or any of their clones) this might be hard to grasp at first (I don't think it's for everyone, and I am absolutely certain it is not meant for everyone).
However, one should not dismiss the album as a mere antithesis, it truly dwells in a world of it's own.
Perplexed_Sjel on February 6th, 2007
Nothing Can Be Said That Hasn't Already Been Said.
I dare anyone to show me a band (Apart from the obvious one's which are on a par with Darkthrone) that was more essential to the Black Metal scene as Darkthrone were pre-1995 when according to most of the original fanbase, "Darkthrone went downhill". "Under A Funeral Moon" was perhaps the first piece of Black Metal work that Darkthrone had produced, as A Blaze... was more of a Black/Death fusion. This is primarily Black and it's fucking grim! At this point in time, Darkthrone were one of the genre's leading bands in terms of setting the pace and creating the sort of music the genre craved. One can argue that they're still pace setters, but it's highly unlikely one would win that argument.
In terms of the music itself, this is grim, harsh and downright evil. No one can deny that Darkthrone are legends of the genre and they thoroughly deserve that title if not for this creation, as well as "Transilvainian Hunger", which is a masterpiece. The album begins as it means to go on. Cold and raw. Much of the unique atmosphere should be credited to Nocturno Culto with his inspiring screams of hatred and aggression. I've never, to this day, heard such conviction in a vocalists screams. Such emotion is portrayed in his wails of despair. The production is also a much needed asset in creating the frost-bitten atmospheric nature of the album. That lo-fi sound we've all become accustomed to and have grown to love over the years. You could be forgiven for thinking this was recorded in a basement. Heck! It probably was! It's cut-throat, it's blasphemous and it's evil ... Much like Darkthrone themselves. Minimalism is taken to another level by the mighty Darkthrone. Chainsaw guitars, guttural screams and pounding drums are necessary assets to this much loved band. Rhythmic, varied and following with ease. Mid to fast paced, often slowing down to give us all a taste of the innovative nature that Darkthrone possesses. Blast beats where appropriate. The buzzing distortion necessary. This is driven to a goal of blasphemic destruction and annihilation of the weak. The tyranny of the devil in man will reign supreme. Uncompromising and ruthless.
This is one of those albums that only comes along once every so often. This is an album that has the ability to kick you the fuck out of your chair and kick you back into it again. The lyrical content has improved in my opinion. "To Walk The Infernal Fields" is a great example of such an opinion. Comparisons to Bathory have been made and will be ignored. Darkthrone were nothing but a class act at this stage.
This is essential Black Metal. As much as i love "To Walk The Infernal Fields", i shall recommend the entire album on the whole.
Valleys_Of_Hades on April 6th, 2006
Minimal Black art
A Blaze In The Northern Sky was bit of a cross between Death and Black Metal, which sounded like an album that could have easily been released in the mid or late 80s alongside bands like Sodom, Celtic Frost and Bathory. But with this album, Darkthrone seemed to have taken minimalistic musicianship onto a whole new level. Yes, this album is harsh as fuck, but it isn’t heavy. The production is raucously loud, yet paper thin. There’s no bass work to be heard here and the vocals are so damn high in the mix, that they tend to turn off even the most extreme Metal fans.
Despite confrontations with the record label about the album’s sound, Darkthrone carried on with the recording of Under A Funeral Moon, which consisted of sloppy, minimalistic musicianship that required a particular taste to get into. In other words, most armature garage bands have better production than this. Many people accuse the band of producing such a minimalistic, low-fi album in order to disguise their lack of talent. And yes, there are plenty of shitty bands out there today who use this technique because they can’t play their fucking instruments, but must I bring up Soulside Journey again? These are the exact same musicians, excluding the bass player, playing on an entirely different album. The fact is, is that the sloppy garage sound and minimalism was done INTENTIONALLY, and those who bitch about the minimalism and low quality production of this record are clearly missing the whole fucking point! These truly are fantastic musicians whom are using the least of their ability to achieve great, black art, and with Under A Funeral Moon, they do that quite well.
Natassja In Eternal Sleep is one of the first Darkthrone songs I ever heard, and if not, it may just be the first! My first reaction was…”What the fuck is this crap?!”. There are something like…4 or 5 riffs through out the entire song, maybe even less. The drum patterns remain the same through out, and needless to say, this is RAW in the true sense of the word. The bass is practically non-existent. However, the absolute minimalism and rawness of this song intrigued me quite a bit instead of turning me off. Lyrically, this is like a Satanic love song which is dedicated to a dead witch named Natassja who was burned alive at the stake. I’m quite sure that the lyrics were inspired by Mercyful Fate’s Melissa..With the next track, Summer Of The Diabolical Holocaust, the use minimalism gets taken to the extreme. The riffs are barely decipherable, yet, the mood and evil atmosphere that this song conjures manages to keep things interesting. The rather loud vocals, of course, help with this factor. There is a slower segment during the middle of the song in which this searing, long guitar solo comes into play. One of the best? Maybe not, but it’s still a damn good song.
The Dance Of Eternal Shadows begins at a very slow pace, yet still lacks the overall doomed feeling that the previous two albums had. The reason for this is because from this album on, all the riffs that Darkthrone came up with were made up solely of open strings. In other words, you won’t hear that thick, crushing or heavy sound that most Death, Doom or any other extreme Metal bands form their riffs with. The strings of the guitars on this album are all open in order to be played in a sloppy manner. There are no definitive riffs to be heard here. Anyway, this track manages to pick up the pace pretty soon, but to say that it’s thrashy would be a false statement. The drums are far too low in the mix to create a thrash break for any song on the album. The following song, Unholy Black Metal, truly lives up to its title! Of all of tracks on the album, this one is by far one of the most minimal, consisting of only 2 or 3 riffs through out the entire song. The drum pattern changes pace only once or twice through out, which is still minimal even in a song that’s only 3 and a half minutes long. The vocals, however, are loud as fuck! Bone chilling, to say the least! Combine all of these elements together, and you get one of the best Darkthrone songs ever made. Now THIS is what Fenriz meant when he stated that less means more. This truly is Unholy Black Metal!
To Walk The Infernal Fields is merely a carbon copy of Bathory’s Enter The Eternal Fire. It’s just played much sloppier, that’s all. Is that such a bad thing? I think not. I view it as more of a tribute than anything else. The entire song consists of mid-paced, swinging drum patterns that change very little through the song’s 8 minute length span. As for the riffs…well…I wouldn’t call them a rip-off on the Bathory tune, but they’re clearly identical to it, just played in the Darkthrone style. The original Enter The Eternal Fire is overall thicker and much heavier, while the Darkthrone tune relies all on open strings to convey the melody across. Overall, I think that this track obtains a great atmosphere, as well as some killer lyrics and the best Darkthrone quote ever; “With my art, I am the fist in the face God!”. Gotta love that line!
Despite there only being very few riffs (of course!) in the title track, the main riff is pretty damn catchy when compared to what else is on this record. The vocals, once again, are ice cold and harsh, very much in the vein of the Unholy Black Metal track. Both songs don’t differ much from one another, with the exception of this one having more riffs and a bit more variety. There’s also this part during the song where it all slows down to allow this extreme, rapid guitar solo to surge through the speakers. Now when Darkthrone does guitar solos, don’t think that they’re high quality material. Their solos are no more complexed than old Bathory’s, Celtic Frost’s or Sodom’s. But hey, any cleaner or more precise, and the solos wouldn’t go well the music.
Inn I De Dype Skogers Favn is the first song that Darkthrone wrote entirely in Norwegian, and let me tell you, when Nocturno Culto bellows out his harsh lyrics in Norwegian instead of in English, the evil atmosphere is like multiplied times 10! His harsh, raspy shrieks match the language so well. I mean, this is one of the harshest sounding languages next to German, so it’s only appropriate that it’d be used for Black Metal. The English translation of the title is In The Deep Forests’ Embrace. Gay song title, but good song. Perhapse it was put into Norwegian for that reason? Musically, this kind of foreshadows what the following Darkthrone album would sound like. There are like…1 or 2 riffs through out the entire song. The lyrics are entirely in Norwegian and the drumming is as minimal as can be. The only thing that this song lacks is the incredible atmosphere that the follow up album would have, but that’s an entirely different review to come…
In the closing track, Crossing The Triangle Of Flames, Fenriz really displays some unique variation with his drum work here. Through out most the album, he relied on the same drumming technique, but with the album’s last track, he tends to use much variation with the drum snare, providing a nice rhythm to go along with the blazing fast riffs. The high usage of crash symbols adds much to the effect as well. So needless to say, this is a great song to end the album off.
Very few bands have been able to mimic this style without sounding like utter crap. Hell, even most Metal fans would state that the sound on this album is utter crap, but truthfully, they’re missing the entire fucking point. We already know that Darkthrone are great musicians, so there’s no need to accuse them of lack of talent. After all, doesn’t it take much talent to create something so sinister using only little elements of what you’re really capable of? That’s like someone telling you to write a paragraph on a certain subject using only a few given words. It would be hard, wouldn’t it? So quit bitching people, because you’re missing the point. Even if you can’t stand this album, at least understand the point it’s trying to convey, okay?
namelessheretic on January 13th, 2006
one of the most influential albums in black metal
Production: Emphasis on guitars and vocals; drums almost drowned in mix while bass is audible but not overbearing.
Genre` defining album that, along with "Transilvanian Hunger", established Darkthrone as one of the most influential bands in black metal history. There is little doubt that this album alone sparked the creation of countless copy-cat bands that continues to this day. There is so much magic and energy in this release that it naturally motivates people to want to be this amazing. It is after this album's release(not initially though; it was mocked and hated when first released) that so many musicians said, "I want to be like this".
Stripping away all finesse and going straight for the throat, Darkthrone abandons all acknowledgement that nothing other than a nihilistic approach matters when making music in today's world. With "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" they boldly stepped out of the box; with "Under a Funeral Moon" Darkthrone blazed again, even more so in creating a new path that so many others have tried to follow.
Guitars are pushed to the front, with every song formed around minimalist motif riffs. Atonal aggression is expressed through a super quick picking technique that occasionally slows down to catch it's breath. Guitar tone is flavored with a vibrant, harsh, buzz saw sound that is fueled by adrenalin.
Vocals are just as harsh, and in many ways just as buzz saw sounding as the guitars. The difference is the vocals come across as more rhythmic than the melodies of the guitar motifs. Both though put an exclamation point on the emphasis of highly motivated evil.
Fenriz puts to use his now signature drumming style; blasting away in the background, cleverly forcing each song to run straight ahead, no matter what the melodies are doing, although at times the melodies do run faster than the rhythms. The point is this: drumming here is not ego driven flair and showmanship; it is a tool used to make the song better achieve it's goal of supremacy and annihilation of the weak.
At the time of this album's creation, the interaction between the drums and guitars expressed here was so very unique. Never before had such a talented metal drummer put his skills into promoting the importance of the melodies, forcing the riffs to dominate the structure and direction of each song.
Bass is not made to dominant, and never has with Darkthrone, but with this album it is important to note how it gives each melody extra force with it's distorted lower end frequencies.
Darkthrone had such a drive, an ambition to take this concept of black metal and utilize it for no other reason than to piss on every single thing that the music community considered untouchable, and to cast aside the crowd so something genuine with real thought could return to metal.
All in all this album is flawless. Even with the focus on speed, there are enough breakdowns and tempo changes to keep this work interesting from beginning to end. This extremely intense piece of art shows how Darkthrone became one of a small group of trailblazers that created a new aesthetic and approach to music that hadn't really been seen before. A masterpiece that tops most masterpieces, and one of the most influential albums in all black metal.
Abominatrix on March 29th, 2005
Deserves most of the praise...and here's why
Many things have been said about Darkthrone; their early days of sophisticated and moody death metal, through the gradual stripping down of their sound to its most primal elements within a black metal framework, to the final revellation that, big surprise, Darkthrone are just a couple of guys out to make loud and raucous heavy metal. Much of what's been said seems inaccurate, overblown, exagerated or simply misrepresentative. Whatever the case, it seems that nowadays everybody even remotely interested in metal has to have some kind of opinion about this band, even if more often than not that opinion is based on negligible fact or musical examination that is far from thorough.
So what's Darkthrone all about, circa 1993? Two years previously the band had disillusioned a great many fans by releasing an album that was markedly more ferocious and less rooted in the death metal tradition than its predecessor, yet in the end many of these fans came back after repeated listenings, because they realised that in fact the previous album's influences were still rather in tact, only cloaked by a thinner, much less immediately ear-pleasing sound and with much of the Scandinavian death tradition replaced by some nasty early 80s aesthetics. It was with "Under a Funeral Moon" that many listeners simply lost a grip on Darkthrone's singularly regressive plot. One reviewer described the album as "sounding as if it were "recorded inside a moving car", and while death metal fans could forgive the admittedly less immediate complexities of "A Blaze in the Northern Sky", the minimalism that seemed to be creeping into Darkthrone's compositions at this point seemed rather unpalletable.
Of the two points that are often levelled against this record, production is the easiest to tackle and to grasp. It is interesting to me that for the uninitiated listeners for whom I've played this, it is invariably the punk fans who find this easiest to swallow. Perhaps this is because true punk rock was never made to "sound good", and poor production values were at least in the early days second nature to the genre. Interestingly, the guitar tone on this particular (very metal) record reminds me more than a little of "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" from the Dead kennedies, and in fact there's a specific riff on "Under a Funeral Moon" which a friend of mine pointed out sounded a lot like a DK riff (from "Let's Get Drafted", I think?). Comparrisons aside though, I find it difficult to see why anyone who listens to something other than slickly produced albums like "Shout At the Devil" would have any trouble with the sound of this particular Darkthrone album. Hell, Bathory's seminal "Under the Sign of the Black Mark" sounds much worse than this to my ears, yet seldom do I hear anyone complain about that particular masterpiece.
Yet, I'm not a "Darkthrone apologetic". In fact, I think that most of their albums have a perfect sound, or rather, perfect for the musical ideas they're attempting to communicate. It is remarkable to me that a band of Norwegians who, according to most of the naysayers, haven't a clue what they're doing with regard to playing their instruments let alone manipulating a mixing board, manage to go into the studio every couple of years and, almost unfailingly, come out with a slightly tweaked and different soundscape/production approach that fits their music so exactly. The Darkthrone production, in its various forms, is central to the music itself, and operates as a constant backdrop to the actual playing influencing the mood of the compositions and of the listener. It is, really, a stroke of genius that Darkthrone ought to be lauded for more often. Yes, the sound on this one is thin and reedy, the guitar tracks of Nocturno Culto and Zephyrous so brittle and dry sounding that they call to mind a burial mound on a blasted heath. Yes, the drums clatter and rattle away like a broken air compressor, or maybe like the dragging chains of a forgotten spirit (please excuse the melodrama!). But, hasn't anybody noticed, oddities aside, how clear everything is? Can you say with accuracy that you can hear every note played, every nuance of percussion laid out on your favourite Abyss Studios release (Marduk, I am looking directly at you!)? Darkthrone don't play fast, and they never allow everything to become blurred by constantly blasting snare and overmixed/compressed guitar. You can even hear the bass on this record! Despite the rice-paper guitar tone, that bottom end is a constant, a clean and reliable rumble that is like a grounding force holding the listener down to earth and sometimes serving as a reminder of the often obscure melodies being played. Vocals are so up front that you'd think they would overpower the guitars, yet they never do, despite the rampant use of an echo effect with a much longer delay than would be normal for say, your average 80s thrash record.
So Darkthrone can hide nothing with this high, stark degree of clarity. But why should they need to? We already know from "Soulside Journey" that they are capable of perplexing time changes and winding, jazz-inspired structures. Here they have done away with all the autopsy-isms and most of the Celtic Frostisms of "A Blaze in the Northern Sky" and replaced them with something that is part Bathory, part Hellhammer and part early Norwegian black metal trademark. Some of these songs do indeed have very few riffs, two or three, in fact, yet why does a metal song need more than that? Mankind's most ancient, pre-christian musics were unflinchingly simplistic in nature, stripped bare of incongruities and embellishments to tap right to the essence of the soul, rather than to be broken down bit by bit by a brain desperately searching for meaning.
But, as is the case with life in general, things are seldom quite as they appear and many of these songs do possess clever shifts and tricks that are, I would argue, based more upon the manipulation of sound rather than on a desire to implement crafty musical ideas. Take the closing track, "Crossing the Triangle of Flames". Why does it sound so different from the rest of the album...almost unsettlingly so? The riffs are strange, sure, obscure and melodic in an off-kilter sort of way, yet the drumming is really what does it. Formerly subdued cymbal splashes are suddenly constant, sharp rings, and it sounds as if Fenriz is flagging behind the kit, growing wearier and wearier as the song progresses, almost holding the band back, dealing out haphazard, painful sounding tom fills at strange seemingly inopportune moments. This sounds horrible, on paper, yet it works to the band's advantage here because you know that by this point they think of their compositions as soundscapes, canvases on which to paint audial portraits of embittered life and death. When you start thinking of music in this fashion, suddenly a whole wealth of new techniques becomes open to you, and former ideas about correct musical structure become limitations rather than benchmarks of quality. It's notable too that this is the final song, and all of us know damn well by now that Darkthrone are not amateurs, that they wouldn't set anything to tape that wasn't in some way purposefully concocted.
The highlights here are many. I already mentioned "Crossing the Triangle of Flames", and I think it is one of the best album closers in my collection. After the flagging, broken sounding semi-blast, the band collapses into a most colossal, doomy riff that is the epitome of hateful sounding, to be slowly superceded by the chhiming of a synthetic gong fed through some kind of strange studio effect to sound merky and as though it were recorded underwater. The title track is also a winner, as it actually possesses quite a few distinct riffs, one of which is so catchy and memorable that one really cannot help but appreciate it (you really ought to know the one I mean). My former band used to cover this one and it was always a fun song to play, right down to the great midpaced middle section with some very proud, malignant sounding chords backed by the kind of howling, dissonant soloing that is par for the course on this album. Of solos there actually are few, but they are very effective, seeming like a desperate and drunken Nocturno Culto's attempt to play every note possible on his guitar simultaneously and occasionally striving for understated, brief melodies in a similar fashion to what both Quorthon and Tom G. Warrior had already done.
Speaking of Bathory, who inevitably must be invoked frequently in any discussion of this album, "To Walk the Infernal Fields" sounds a hell of a lot like "Enter the Eternal Fire", but I prefer to view it as a tribute rather than a pitifully disguised rip-off, especially since darkthrone has an earthy, organic feel that Bathory, despite Quorthon's mastery, never really attained or seemed interested in achieving. "To Walk the Infernal Fields" is the first track I heard from the album, and its swinging drum beats, rather melodic riffs and powerful vocals (Nocturno Culto's gravelly snarls are really at their best on this record) drew me in after a few hesitant listens.
And if you listen hard enough, you might just hear the dying gasps of the Scandinavian death metal influence in Darkthrone's sound playing their way discordantly through the distinctly odd "Natasja in Eternal Sleep". It's a black metal love song, of a sort, with lyrics oddly juxtaposed with the music so that it sounds as if they are being narrated rather than "sung", reflectively spat out by a filthy wretch of a man in between gulps from a bottle clutched in shaking hands. The band plays under this bitter monologue to establish the narrator's state of mind: a strange set of a very few riffs with notes that spiral upward in an unpredictable manner that almost remind me of a certain title track to a certain Entombed debut!
I'm not sure if this is Darkthrone's crowning achievement, but it is damn close. Their personality and inventiveness seems at the highest level on this one, displaying a quirkiness of songwriting and arrangement that is undenyably Darkthroen and, though minimalist and regressive in playing approach, is progressive where it counts; namely, the band has reached the level where they can finally see their music as more than just a collection of riffs and ideas. Instead, we have full, detailed acoustical portraits that are more than the sum of their parts. This kind of thinking has been prevalent in the visual arts world at least since Piccaso (I'm hardly a painting expert), but it seems that the metal public often have a hard time swallowing this degree of abstraction in audio. And, for every one who does really grasp the concept, there are at least two hangers-on who are so quick to sing the album's praises yet still miss the point entirely. Still, isn't that always the way?
Lord_Jotun on January 26th, 2004
Ugliness has never sounded better
This is where Darkthrone completed their metamorphosis from their Death Metal origins to one of the most quintessential and uncompromising Black Metal bands. Where "A Blaze In The Northern Skies" still showed sparse riffs and structures reminescent of the band's past, "Under A Funeral Moon" sports a totally cold, haunting and unfriendly musical attitude. This is not saying that the work presented here is anti-musical or performed by untalented players, it doesn't get more false than that. Simply put, Darkthrone got hold of the identity they were striving for, and such identity was never meant to please a large number of listeners.
The differences between this album and the previous are quite apparent. First, the departure of Dag Nilsen, bassist extraordinaire whose highly unappreciated skills were a fundamental component of early Darkthrone, who had agreed to perform bass on "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" before quitting the band due to his lack of interest for the new direction. His style would clash with the band's music anyway at this point, and despite that, this album has some inventive bass parts anyway (handled by Nocturno Culto).
Next, the production, or better the lack of. "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" had a very harsh sound, with the drums and echoy vocals often overpowering the trebly, fuzzy guitars and the barely audible bass. Here, it just gets worse. Everything on this album sounds incredibly thin. The guitars are a kind of buzz which seems destined to be drowned by static anytime, the drums are very flat and lifeless, the bass is heavily and unpleasantly distorted (although it stands out pretty well because of its thick low frequencies) and Nocturno Culto's vocals are a very raspy croak, very different from his usual style, and loaded with echo. This barbaric demo-like soundscape would be enough to put anyone off, yet I have to underline how well it actually works. No elements overpower others anymore, and the volumes are very well balanced.
Finally, the song structures themselves, no longer as epic as in the old days but way more minimalistic, although some technical solutions still stand out. This si something you cannot bang your head to, you cannot air guitar to... this is ugliness at its best.
Album opener "Natassja in Eternal Sleep" immediately gets to the point: a repetitive yet weird-tempoed tremolo guitar riff blazes along over Fenriz's droning beats, with Nocturno Culto adding basic bass lines and reciting the beautifully sorrowful lyrics. The middle section has some great guitar arragements going on. A great opener, which in time has become one of the band's best known anthems.
"Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust" (I'd never thought that a Norwegian Black Metal band could ever mention summer in their songs) opens with fast and furios strumming and beats, the verse riffs alternating with an originally developed melodic tremolo part. Near the middle the song evolves into a slow, menacing soundscape which reminds me a bit of the middle section of Mayhem's "Freezing Moon" (especially considering how both songs go into this slower part coming from a fast rhythm, and both have a solo in the slow section). The fast beats pick up again, and near the end the tremolo guitar part is closely followed by the bass and goes into one finaldifferent variation.
What follows is one of the strangest songs Darktrhone did this far, "The Dance of Eternal Shadows". This one begins as a slow plodder, then turns into another fast part backed by a rather complicated-tempoed riff (the part where only the vocals and guitars are left, with Fenriz inserting only a few percussion, is chilling), and closes as a mid-paced march.
On to "Unholy Black Metal", a title that says it all... this is where minimalism is brought to the forefront, as the song has exactly three riffs and the vocals follow the same pattern in each verse (and the verses themselves are all built on the same structure), most o fthe variation coming from Fenriz's well known subtle pattern changes. A seminal chapter for the band's evolution, which lives up to its title.
"To Walk the Infernal Fields" is a real surprise. This is the slowest track of the album, as well as the longest, and keeps a midpaced approach all the way through (expect for a variation which brings it into an even slower part). the riffs are very melodic for the band's standard, and are built upon an intimate interaction between guitars and bass; the guitars themselves show subtle variations under the main riffs, which is one of Darkthrone's trademarks.
Next is the title track, which once again mostly sticks to fast beats, yet is one of the more developed and varied numbers of the album riff-wise, and doesn't omit a more mid-tempoed variation in the middle.
"Inn i de Dype Skogers Favn" is in my opinion the least successful track of the album. Where the other songs successfully show the interesting achievements that can be obtained through a severely stripped down approach, this one comes across as simply repetitive and uninspired. I can see some importance in this one, as it foreshadows what the band will come up with in their next album, "Transilvanian Hunger", considering the rhythm that never changes, the very repetitive riffs and the Norwegian lyrics; but Darkthrone themselves would do the song much better on the following album as "I en Hall med Flesk og Mjød", the album where this apporach will really show its true potential in terms of intensity.
"Crossing the Triangle of Flames" finishes the album on a very high note, thanks to its unusal drumming and very interesting riffs, among the most melodically complex in the whole band's history. A very underrated song in my book.
Overall this is one of the best examples of Black Metal's beauty through ugliness, because in the end this album is simply beautiful. It's raw, intense and uncompromising. Even without looking at its historical importance, there's no denying its rich substance.
Under a Funeral Moon track list
|1||Natassja in Eternal Sleep||03:33|
|2||Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust||05:18|
|3||The Dance of Eternal Shadows||03:44|
|4||Unholy Black Metal||03:31|
|5||To Walk the Infernal Fields||07:50|
|6||Under a Funeral Moon||05:07|
|7||Inn i de dype skogers favn||05:25|
|8||Crossing the Triangle of Flames||06:13|
Under a Funeral Moon lineup
|Nocturno Culto||Vocals, Bass|
|Fenriz||Drums, Percussion, Lyrics|