Darkthrone - Hiking Metal Punks

29 May
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The masters of the riff are back again. So soon, you ask? Well, it appears that Fenriz and Culto have taken the whole old-school values thing completely to heart, and are going to give us a new album every year. But hey, who's complaining other than Transilvanian Hunger purists?

'Dark Thrones and Black Flags' follows on pretty closely from last year's 'F.O.A.D.', and if you enjoyed that last blast of black aggression, you're going to find plenty to love on this new disc. It's all still here: the low-fi "Necrohell II" production, the black metal-tinged with-old school metal-tinged with-punk-tinged with-whatever the hell the gruesome duo feel like, and the great 80s-esque cover. I'm wondering whether this fellow on the front is going to become some kind of Darkthrone Eddie...

Still, as far as the music goes, you can expect to hear a pretty similar bag to 'F.O.A.D.', but everything here appears somewhat more refined and consistent than the last record. That's not to say all these tracks sound the same - they most definitely don't - but the whole thing just feels a bit more polished and complete than on 'F.O.A.D.' (an album which I also loved).

Apparently, for 'Dark Thrones and Black Flags', Fenriz (here credited as Gylve Fenris "mao tse tung rock" Nagell) and Nocturno Culto pretty much split the writing of everything 50/50, which results in a pretty damn varied, interesting record. From the get-go, you can tell which tracks Fenriz had the biggest hand in penning, with a succession of 80s headbangers peppering the disc, usually revolving around his favourite lyrical topic: "REAL METALLL!". These are amongst my favourite tracks on the disc, kicking off with the tremolo-riffing of 'The Winds they Called the Dungeon Shaker', through 'Hiking Metal Punks' (a great drunken shout-along if ever there was one), the demented screaming of 'Hanging Out In Haiger', and the closer, 'Witch Ghetto'. If you hated Fenriz's previous yells and Tom G. Warrior stylings, this album definitely isn't for you, because you're going to hear a whole lot of them. For the rest of us, you won't be able to get enough!

The Culto-centric, more traditional tracks are also great, with plenty of icy riffing and sparse drumming to keep most black metallers happy. These tracks are similarly strong, and I really can't find any weak spots on the disc. My personal favourite of these is 'Norway in September', the longest track here, and a real work of black art. The song incorporates a variety of interesting parts and riffs, including a creepy atmospheric section in the middle which could have come straight from the soundtrack of Culto's recent film project 'The Misanthrope' (you'll know it when you hear it).

Overall, this is probably the best output from the Norwegian veterans we've seen since the heady early Peaceville days. It takes everything that makes Darkthrone's newer approach so great, and hones it to perfection. Of course, those of you stuck in '93 waiting for a new album in that style aren't going to like this record, as it won't be "grim", "tr00" or "kvlt" enough for you. But if you have more diverse tastes and are open to Darkthrone's recent output, this 40-minute thrasher will have you banging your head like a trip to Haiger.


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