Darkthrone - Arctic ThunderWriting a review for a new Darkthrone release is like writing a Yer Metal Is Olde article. In the last week, I’ve listened to every Darkthrone record so many times, my nostalgia is enough to crank out a YMIO piece on each one. From black-metal classics like A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Transylvanian Hunger to underrated oddities like Total Death and Hate Them to the heavy-metal transition pieces like Sardonic Wrath and The Cult Is Alive, these last thirty years have been quite the ride. For the last fifteen, this Norwegian duo have been turning out album after album of crusty, blackened heavy metal. Using these recent records as the balancing weight to their black metal counterparts. Though fans may be split on which seat they prefer on this dilapidated teeter totter from Hell, Darkthrone ain’t returning to their old, black metal ways. And Arctic Thunder is proof of that; adding even more weight to the leather-draped seat on this hellish seesaw. So, if you’re lovin’ your modern Darkthrone, you’ll probably love this too.

If you’ve been an ongoing member of Darkthrone‘s Cult and a participant in The Underground Resistance, then you already know what to expect from 2016’s Arctic Thunder. While The Underground Resistance was a diverse offering, Arctic Thunder is a straight shooter from beginning to end. The only real “surprises” being the complete absence of Fenriz’ voice and the choice for a camp-out photo instead of Dennis Dread or Jim Fitzpatrick artwork. The decision to have Nocturno Culto perform all the vocal duties (something they haven’t done in years) was to better capture the record’s primitive and solemn nature. The decision to slap a Polaroid of a campfire on the front cover? I haven’t a clue. But, just like Arctic Thunder, its stripped-down simplicity works.

And so Arctic Thunder begins with “Tundra Leech.” Perhaps the most-listened-to track of 2016, the opener is a fitting introduction to the record and exactly what we thought it would be. It’s got that old-school groove and one of the better ass-stomping riffs of the album. But, if you like “Tundra Leech,” you’re gonna love the title track. If there was ever a Darkthrone song to bang your head to, “Arctic Thunder” is it. It’s as simple as scrambled eggs, but an old-school ass kicker that can’t be stopped.

For those looking for some Underground Resistance variation, you ain’t going to find it. But, Arctic Thunder does have some clever ditties in the form of “Boreal Fiends” and “Deep Lake Trespass.” The former builds melodic distortion around its bass-led intro before Fenriz’ brief vocal performance breaks the song’s sinister atmosphere. What follows is another solid, old-school riff, complete with cowbell and one of the coolest guitar solos Culto ever wrote. The difference between “Boreal Fiends” and “Deep Lake Trespass” is the amount of melodic doominess found on the latter. But the emotion-soaked riffs that open “Deep Lake Trespass” are short-lived. As with “Tundra Leech” and “Arctic Thunder,” the song reinvents itself with another nifty breakdown. At first, it slams your eardrums with some staccato plucking before spreading itself out and smashing its way to the end.

Darkthrone 2016

While these four tracks support the record, the other four drag it down. “Burial Bliss” and “Inbred Vermin” have respectable chugs and character, but go nowhere. “Throw Me Through the Marshes” is an appropriately-titled doom piece, but it loses traction, throwing freezing cold mud into the air. And, unfortunately, “The Wyoming Distance” is pointless. Its straightforward approach and three-minute length seem perfect for an album closer, but it has nothing going for it. Not to mention that it pulverizes the mood set by “Deep Lake Trespass.”

All-in-all, this album is just as good as any of the band’s previous releases in the last decade. It feels cold and feels olde, but, its primitiveness makes for a stark contrast to The Underground Resistance. Resistance‘s “Valkyrie” and “Leave No Cross Unturned” gave the album originality and freshness, while Arctic Thunder sticks to a tried-and-true formula. This new outing isn’t disappointing by any means, but it’s typical and some of it is quite bland. Even so, the record has some of the slickest riffs the band has ever written and any trve Darkthrone fan will love it.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: The fuck if I know | Format Reviewed: A goddamn stream
Label: Peaceville Records
Websites: facebook.com/Darkthrone
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2016

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  • Reese Burns

    I was hoping that they’d be returning to their roots on this one, but sadly I guess not. I still feel obligated to buy it though, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy parts of it.

    • It’s a continuity to their roots in 80’s metal but not to their lo-fi BM.

    • darklordofgorgoroth

      It’s a return to the sound on “Hate Them”

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Wait, so you didn’t actually get the promo for this?

    • We did, but it was a stream-only promo.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Ah. The future is here!

        • The future has been here for a while and it annoys us.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            Make the future great again!

            Wait, what?

          • HippieOfDeath

            Grab the future by the pussy?

          • Jason

            Only if the future consents.

          • Adjudant

            Out damn spot!

      • Huh, I got downloads and a cd.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Lucky you!!!!!!! Fuck streams.

          • Right on. So fucking annoying to not be able to choose where and how you listen to music youre reviewing.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I agree. It sounds like a shit, each song fucking buffers so you lose the flow from one track to the next, and I have to be on my computer to actually give it a spin. Frustrating as hell and it takes away any chance of enjoying the album.

  • Antorus

    DR: Hello kitty tape/Nokia 1100 recorder

  • I’m like a diehard fan of everything they did even their inherited Soulside Journey. The purpose of the picture is that DT always makes them in order of 3, Unholy trinity (ABITNS, UAFM, TH), three album arts by Fitzpatrick, three by Dread, and now this picture by Fenriz. Expect two other album covers from treks into the woods.
    Can’t that be more Darkthrone than that?

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Ahhhh I see.

    • Petit Namteum

      You forgot Black Death and Beyond and the EP that came right before Too Old Too Cold, they have trek pictures too.

      • You are right about that! I tend to forget the EPs and collectible/compilation albums.

  • Oversimplifying Man

    That’s not the music i’d prefer listening to.

    • Adjudant

      You’re a drum’n’bass type of guy?

      • Oversimplifying Man

        I like Dissection.

        • Petit Namteum

          you are comparing apples and potatoes man.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I really like the art it’s no Edens Curse masterpiece but it has a lot of atmosphere and seems to really suit a return to roots concept, also the title Arctic Thunder rules.
    Dissappointing to see both Waldgefluster and Darkthrone get slightly underwhelming reviews here at trusty AMG. They along with the new SAOR are to be the next 3 albums I get. I’m planing to be immersing myself in them for the next few weeks.
    Also why no SAOR review?

    • Now we’re bashing poor Eden’s Curse over here too? Woe is them!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I called it a masterpiece!
        You’re starting to see conspiracies…

    • El_Cuervo

      Bruh it’s not out for a month! We’ve got time.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Bugger I thought it was either out or about to drop. They released the promo like 2 months ago!

        So when can I start hassling next week?

      • darklordofgorgoroth

        Bro, it’s out tomorow

        • El_Cuervo

          It’s out November 11th according to every source on the internet and the Saor Facebook page. I’ve no idea where you’ve seen this.

  • Lord Lucan

    Love or loathe the ‘modern’ Darkthrone sound, their determination to write whatever the hell they like and give zero fucks in the process is infectious. Even if Arctic Thunder got a 0.0, I’d still probably buy it.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yes!

    • Totally agree.

  • Adjudant

    But tell us Good Dr, was it a cold mountain stream?

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      A yellow one.

      • Adjudant

        Oh dear me no

  • Dead1

    “The decision to slap a Polaroid of a campfire on the front cover”
    Doubt it’s a Polaroid. I’ve got a Polaroid camera. They’ve just started reproducing Polaroid film a couple of years ago. And the quality is garbage compared to the original Polaroids (stopped being manufactured 2009). The new Polaroid photos (film made by Impossible Project) come out very dark and yellow. No way you could get the vibrancy of that cover art let alone the colour blue!
    As for the album, it is somewhat bland. I should love Darkthrone’s heavy metal musings but they never quite get it right. They’re often bland, somewhat disjointed, lacking in song writing. There’s too much crap black metal soul in there to be truly great heavy metal.
    And they struggle with immediacy – it all seems restrained. Even their thrash/punk stuff lacks immediacy, intensity, riffs etc. It comes across like a confused black metal tribute to the greats played by some high school band.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      The Polaroid thing was definitely a joke.

      I don’t know if I would call Darkthrone a “high school band,” but they definitely go with the flow and knock out albums without caring much for what people think. They seem to just do it and have fun doing it.

      • Dead1

        That’s all fine and dandy. But I’d like it if they capitalised on some of their great ideas and came out with great albums instead of poor-to-average ones.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          No argument there.

  • Treble Yell

    Been looking forward to this. Even though A Blaze in the Northern Sky was my introduction to black metal I prefer Sardonic Wrath over other Darkthrone albums. This being of that style suits me just fine.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I enjoy me some Sardonic Wrath too.

  • Innit Bartender

    Killer riff, but really, I can’t stand those vocals. Total respect anyway.

  • Bas

    I love modern Darkthrone, so this is another must-buy for me.
    Its a pity though that there is according to you no amazing song on this album….mann ‘leave no cross unturned’ and ‘valkyrie’ are amazing !
    Valkyriiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee !
    Although I think that on this site ‘circle the wagons’ got a similar review as this one… and I love songs like ‘I am the grave of the eighties’ etc.
    So I will probably also find something on this one!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Don’t blame this on me!!!!

      But, yeah, you will definitely enjoy this. I will be buying it myself.

      • Bas

        I know, you are that kind of dr. that manipulates fenriz and nocturnus culto…
        Neh, just kidding :-)

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          My medication is perfectly legal.

    • darklordofgorgoroth

      If you like the “Hate Them” album, you’ll like this. Yes, it’s very much back to basics

      • Bas

        that one and total death are the only darkthrone album i don’t know… so I should check them out !

  • darklordofgorgoroth

    I didn’t think it sounded like “modern” Darkthrone at all.. Gone are the crust elements, as well as the speed elements. This is straight up black’n’roll, very much akin to the “Hate Them” album. In other words, as old school as it probably will get at this point.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      It’s similar to Hate Them, but still has the flavor of their more recent albums. Kind of a progression of Hate Them.

  • Mindi B

    Guys you might want to edit the review – it’s Fenriz doing all vocals for the album this time, Ted didn’t do any.

    • darklordofgorgoroth

      Ted did all the vocals, Gylve didn’t do any! Get your facts straight..
      Also, is it that hard just to listen?

      • Mindi B

        I do have it and have been thrashing it. I was just shocked because it totally sounds like Gylve and not Ted, and recall reading Ted was doing all vox this time. My bad. It just sounds like Gylve, could be the production. ?

  • s Necros

    Totally disagree
    Best record of the year by far!
    Perfect Metal -I-