Ever since I picked up my first copy of Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger, I’ve been in love with old-school black metal (even though it wasn’t “old school” back then). I’m not sure if it’s the satanic themes, the atmospheric tapestry of nonstop trebly guitars, the vicious/desperate vox, or my craving for the frozen, isolated terrain that personifies the genre so well (“cold” isn’t a word used in the southwestern United States). Most likely it’s a combination of all of these elements that keeps me coming back to my lo-fi collection of Norwegian/Swedish/Finnish blackness. However, my unfaltering love for these classics makes me a critical son of bitch toward the genre. Like many listeners, I’m fed up with the Darkthrone/Mayhem clones regurgitating the same old shit. Therefore, when I come across another promo hailed to be “true Scandinavian black metal,” I usually shy away. So, what made me pick up The Deathtrip’s Deep Drone Master for review?
Well, all it took to intrigue me and make me wet my pants was finding out that Aldrahn (Thorns, Zyklon-B, ex-Dödheimsgard vocalist) chose to come back from the dead to front this new band and recruited Thorns legend Snorre Ruch to to mix it. However, the man behind the writing is none other than…Host? Not to belittle this fellow but it’s tough being kvlt when you write and play for Thine; a UK-based gothy rock band (who are fucking stellar in a totally different way). I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little worried about the outcome of this outfit’s debut offering. But after “Intro” drags you out to a deserted cabin in the darkest forest, “Flag of Betrayal” quickly convinces you there’s no way out. “Flag of Betrayal” has all the elements that I love; razor sharp guitars jacked from Transylvania Hunger, bombastic BM drumming, and Aldrahn dancing on your face with some Nocturno Culto-esque ferocity.
Deep Drone Master continues the BM nostalgia with some slow, plodding passages reminiscent of Gorgoroth, Satyricon, and Hate Them-era Darkthrone during “Dynamic Underworld.” It’s the kind of mid-paced emotion that causes one to rock mindlessly in their chair like a child possessed by the devil. You can find more of this in “Making Me,” “Something Growing in the Trees,” and the crushing closer, “Syndebukken.” The latter dishes out some monstrous riffs that make you wish the song (and the album) would never end.
Though there really isn’t anything new here, Host is a master of writing fresh and authentic old-school black metal. And as expected, Aldrahn continues where he left off years ago. His vox are stronger than ever as he delivers his signature hellish shrieks, screams, and cries on highlights like “Making Me” (where he even steals Abbath’s vocal chords), “Something Growing in the Trees,” “A Foot in Each Hell,” and “Syndebukken.” Those that have heard 666 International will know exactly what I mean when talking about Aldrahn’s vocal variations. While it’s this diversity that really makes Deep Drone Master feel fresh and modern, many will find Aldrahn’s voice distracting if they prefer the monotonous shrieking of most old-school BM.
Coming in at just over 40 minutes, Deep Drone Master delivers the goods and doesn’t go a second longer than you want. Additionally, you’ll find one of the best productions of any BM outfit this year; providing an old-school feel without the old-school sound. The vocals and guitars are the stars here, but Thine’s Dan “Storm” Mullins proves he’s just as competent as Fenriz or Frost and John Wesseltoft contributes his bassy low-end to his Thorns bandmate.
All summed up, there is nothing here that you can’t find in your ‘90s tape and CD collection. The music possesses all of the same elements of classic black metal releases, but with a modern and fresh execution that makes it feel so damn good. Deep Drone Master is more like an addition to that era rather than a wannabe clone. This old-fashioned, no frills black metal assault is fun and full of energy, and the blackened release I’ve been waiting for all year. Welcome back Aldrahn, welcome back.