Darkthrone// The Underground Resistance
Rating: 3.0/5.0 – True Norwegian thrash/crust punk/doom/power metal
Label: Peaceville Records
Websites: darkthrone.no
Release Dates: EU: 2013.02.25 |  NA: 02.26.2013

Darkthrone - The Underground ResistanceDarkthrone played an important role in my becoming a total degenerate.  Transylvanian Hunger and A Blaze in the Northern Sky were my soundtrack to many long, weird nights in solitude. Even their later material, like Hate Them, guided me through years of antisocial behavior. But as years went by, Darkthrone gradually evolved from fascist black metal pricks into crotchety professors of old school heavy metal and punk. Predictably, black metal fans cried foul; I simply stopped buying their albums. Which leads us to The Underground Resistance, the new record by a version of Darkthrone that is pretty far removed from where I left off with them.

I’m gonna spell this out for you right now: If you did not enjoy Darkthrone‘s last couple albums, then you will not be happy about this one either. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are hellbent on their regressive trip through the history of heavy metal, and as always, nothing will stand in their way. The interesting development, though, is that on The Underground ResistanceDarkthrone plays the heavy metal role more comfortably and capably than before, and the result is music that demands to be taken seriously.

“Dead Early” kicks off the record in classic heavy metal fashion, with a caveman thrash riff [I’m starting a caveman thrash band as we speak.. what a great genre title – AMG] and the always-ugly vocals of Mr. Culto. The thing that first catches the ear is not the song itself but the production, which is probably the best sounding mix that Darkthrone has ever had having apparently left the black metal studio behind them. The sonics are appropriately raw, but still thick with plenty of bass and fat-sounding drums. Track 2, “Valkyrie,” starts off with some medieval acoustic guitar shenanigans before kicking into full-on, super-cheesy epic power metal, complete with Fenriz breaking out his operatic clean vocals.

Darkthrone press shot 2013 December 12, 2012 © Ashley Maile“Lesser Men” has a ripping guitar solo at the end, which unfortunately fades out just as you expect something even cooler to happen. And for what it’s worth, Nocturno Culto still knows how to write a vicious fucking guitar part. The main riff from “The Ones You Left Behind” is a prime example, as are pretty much all the riffs from the amazingly-titled “Come Warfare, the Entire Doom.” Fenriz and Culto may have left “pure Aryan black metal” behind years ago, but that element of darkness is always there in the riffs.

Of course, these guys had to save the biggest surprise for last. “Leave No Cross Unturned” is 13 minutes of shameless Mercyful Fate worship. Fenriz busts out some high notes that would make the King proud, although whoever is singing the rest of the song sounds kinda like Ron Royce from Coroner. (Also, I’m pretty sure the lyrics rhyme “assholes” with “espressos.” Awesome.) “Leave No Cross Unturned” more or less sums up Darkthrone‘s mission statement at this point in time: to play metal that is old-school as hell, yet just as blasphemous as their early material, and have fun doing it.

I doubt that anything about this record was particularly calculated, but keeping the running time short was a wise move on Darkthrone‘s part. At 6 songs spread out over 41 minutes, the band can still squeeze as much epic-ness [Epicity? – AMG] in as possible without wearing out their welcome. 6 or 7 songs in this style can be massively fun, but after 10 or 11, the whole thing might start to get a little ridiculous.

My esteemed colleague, Angry Metal Guy himself, wondered aloud if Darkthrone‘s recent output was perhaps an attempt at trolling the entire metal community. It certainly does take a sick sense of humor to subject black metal fans to something like The Underground Resistance, and the band has made it increasingly clear that they’re not exactly taking this seriously. But beyond the shits and giggles, it’s clear that Darkthrone exists in a bizarre musical utopia, a world where BathoryAmebixMotorhead and Manilla Road are all of equal merit and metal cred. And if you’re unable to summon that kind of open-mindedness within yourself, then perhaps the joke truly is on you.

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  • I’m loving this personally. I don’t see why you’d automatically presume people that don’t like recent Darkthrone automatically wouldn’t like this, it’s less crust punk and more old school metal. Sure, if someone is still looking for Under a Funeral Moon part 2 then they’re going to be disappointed but surely everyone has given up on Darkthrone doing that a long time ago? Personally if they were still making music that sounded like early 90s black metal I’d have tired of them ages ago.

    • Faustian Bargain

      Nah, I ain’t attacking anyone for liking this album or any of them. I am attacking the hype built up around this band and all their releases.

      • Hype is built up around *any* band that have, at some point, released something important. There’ll be hype about the next Metallica album but they haven’t released a particularly good album for 25 years. What is starting to baffle me about the Darkthrone detractors is this idea that they’ve become money grabbing hipsters, changing their style to try and cash in on whatever’s popular. As if they turned nu-metal in 1997 or metalcore in 2003. It’s a nonsense. If Darkthrone were doing this for the money they’d take up any one of those countless offers to do the European festival circuit. One of them still works as a postman for fuck’s sake, they’re hardly raking it in doing this.

        • The postal job is the source of my favourite Fenriz quote – “Still pushing the envelope after all these years”. Blaze in the Northern Sky is and always will be THE Black Metal album for me, and it changed my musical landscape totally, but the crust and thrash elements were there from the start – just listen to “Snowfall” from the Frostland Tapes, or more recently something like “Divided We Stand” from Hate Them. Their more recent output has a raw energy and dare I say even a sense of fun about it that I find far more engaging than endless kvlt and true posturing. If they’re trolling anyone, it’s the fans who take Black Metal far too seriously. I’ll freely admit that included me for a time, but times change. People grow up. As for this record, I’m loving it so far, even if Fenriz’s vocals are something of an acquired taste (but then they were on Vinterskugge…). In an era of soulless metalcore screaming, Pro-Tools and band after band doing that stupid teabagging dance in derelict warehouses, Darkthrone should be cherished IMO.

          • I wonder if Fenriz will ever decide to make another Isengard album, because even his odd baritone delivery on Vinterskugge still has me humming along to that title track.

            And I totally agree with your last comment, I’d much rather listen to this than the majority of ‘-core’ nonsense out there.

  • Faustian Bargain

    Darkthrone certainly enjoys their freedom, which is great. This review was fair, so what I am about to say has nothing to do with it. It has to do with my beef with a few issues surrounding this band, particularly the sycophantic mindless Metal followers and hypers. 1. I am not a Black Metal purist. 2. I was there when the 2nd wave started and embraced it lovingly. 3. The ONLY good album this band did was ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’. 2. Anything afterward, particularly the pure Black Metal releases were purely ideological, i.e. shitty necrosound and boring black metal riffs on ‘repeat’. There was no musicianship, ingenuity, or anything of any remote value to them. Transylvanian Hunger was written in two weeks, so says Fenriz. And it sure sounds like it too! So why in the fuck does anyone like this album or those that shortly followed ‘A Blaze’? They weren’t transcendental or monumental, but were weak rehashed records, and even at the time they were released! And moving back a few steps, their first release was a boring Death Metal album. Yes, listening tastes vary, but this album in all counts was kinda of cool, but boring.

    So, yes this band is legendary in my mind, but only because ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ was one of the most brillant genre defining Black Metal albums ever. But, alas, that is it. They have become insignificant beyond fact. Now, these good gentlemen are just having fun, which is great. I don’t care for it though. Good music has to have some kind of discipline This doesn’t. Its just regressive and stupid old metal worship. But cheers to them for having fun. I guess I could have just said “Don’t Believe the Hype”, because that is the only thing that has surrounded this band after that amazing aforementioned release. There I spoke my peace. Now, tell me how much you love the other releases and justify yourself. Good luck..

    • Personally I think the song ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ is the greatest black metal song ever written. But I don’t see why I have to justify that. I do think Darkthrone became fairly redundant after Panzerfaust ( which was more Celtic Frost worship than black metal ) but they always put out solid releases. It was their shift to crust punk that made them interesting again to me as the music is such fun to listen to. Ditto this. I don’t think they’ve written anything *important* for over 15 years. But I still enjoy what they do and that’s what counts. How many long running bands are still re-inventing the wheel after all? At least Darkthrone try and do different things, even if they’ve all been done before.

      • Faustian Bargain

        My last line was kinda of tongue and cheek. You don’t have to justify anything you like bro. that is just me ranting. hehe…

    • I enjoy these rants and raves.

    • felix

      I see what you mean and agree with some points, though the overall attitude is arguable. But your opinion about Transsilvanian Hunger seems pretty stupid, actually, and based on some “dogma” about “real” metal-songwriting. They achieved great expression with that album (or song) and the method is indispendsable for that and still unique and I think requires a lot of “discipline” to come up with in the first place. I don’t think you can objectively raise the musicianship of A Blaze in The Northern Sky above it. They are both kinda shoddy, but also have great atmosphere, and in completely different ways.

  • I really love the samples you guys are giving with the reviews, it gives us a really good (and easy) way for us to get a taste of the album before we decide to buy it. That, along with the excellent reviews.

    About this song, it feels like an aged King Diamond teamed up with Tom Warrior and decided to write jams together.

    Nocturno Oculto, hail!

  • You know, I also think there may be some points in this record when it really feels like they are trolling the entire genre. Like I get where they are going but then they pull a “Crazy Ivan” just to see who gets the joke. It is an enjoyable listen at some points but the vocal gymnastics they deliver are quite off-putting for me at some times. Leave No Cross Unturned is probably the only track I will be coming back to, but I don’t see myself soldiering on the whole record just to get to that track. Even so, nice review!

  • James Taylor

    I just pre-ordered it from the first riff alone it’s going to be worth it. Ironically, I wasn’t a fan of their early black metal work… it never grew on me.

    It’s not that the old school schtick was bad or anything… just not my cup of tea.

  • I wrote up a review of this on my site, and its a little different from your take, and while there was a moment when I wondered if Darkthrone released this knowing it would further alienate and agitate some people, I can’t get behind the notion of them trolling the metal community as AMG suggested. If you levied that at F.O.A.D., or even Circle the Wagons I could understand that a little better (yet it could still be disputed), but this album is far too musically and structurally complex (on Darkthrone terms) to be a piss take.

    I think it would beggar the question, “Trolling for what?”. They’ve already made it obvious that they either don’t listen to outside opinions or heed them if they do. I could be totally wrong about this, but I think they’re making music from a genuine place. Anything else would be a waste of time and Ted anyway doesn’t seem to be the type of person to go along with anything like that.

  • If it’s good, it’s good, no matter the f’n genre, this album rocks hard.

  • KingKuranes

    Finally heard this, and I love it. Definitely picked up the Mercyful Fate influence too.

  • felix

    “But beyond the shits and giggles, it’s clear that Darkthrone exists in a bizarre musical utopia, a world where Bathory, Amebix, Motorhead and Manilla Road are all of equal merit and metal cred.”

    That’s a pretty strange phrase in itself. I don’t think there is any controversy about the “merit” and “cred” of all those individual bands (except for Amebix, which sounds like you made it up…). Maybe you meant the idea of combining them, which I think again is pretty insignificant und uncontroversial in and of itself. There are simply no “realistic” formula or criteria for evaluating this.

    Again, strange, pointless phrase as far as I can see. Maybe there is some justification behind it, but it wasn’t expressed at all.