Darkthrone// The Underground Resistance
Rating: 3.0/5.0 – True Norwegian thrash/crust punk/doom/power metal
Label: Peaceville Records
Release Dates: EU: 2013.02.25 | NA: 02.26.2013
Darkthrone 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 Resistance, Darkthrone 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.
“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 Bathory, Amebix, Motorhead 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.