Review Summary: Innovative and groundbreaking, A Blaze In the Northern Sky will forever be acclaimed as the pinnacle of black metal.We Are.... A Blaze.... In the Northern.... Sky.....
These are the first harsh rasps that escape the lungs of Nocturno Culto. A Blaze In the Northern Sky
is the seminal 2nd effort of the patriarchal black metal band Darkthrone
. Most fans of Darkthrone are aware that A Blaze In the Northern Sky
was the band’s turnaround from its Death Metal roots (i.e. Soulside Journey
) and a transition into the Black Metal genre. Although the band itself may or may not have been aware of it, A Blaze In the Northern Sky
would practically define the sound of the second wave of black metal along with of course, their Norwegian peers Burzum, Immortal, and Mayhem.
To undefiled ears, the (mere) six tracks and their accompanying seemingly random noisy guitar riffs and vocals may appear substandard and/or maybe even offensive. Typical of black metal, the guitars create a dark, grim, melancholy environment using distorted tremolo picked fast riffs while the drums pound away unrelentingly. The album is for the most part just as raw as its cover artwork; yet it is not near as plain. Most people will undoubtedly be turned off by the production, which can best be described as a thick wall of almost tangible fuzz. However, the listener that allows time for this album to sink in will be rewarded.
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opens with all the aforementioned traits, and the apocalyptic growling/chanting sequence done by Fenriz is quite a treat. As I mentioned above, the band shed its death metal skin (after only one album) for a raw black metal edge, which usually means no solos. This song is a highlight due to the unexpected solo, as most black metal is free of technical guitarwork. These solos add to the whole, and it works rather well. (Bathory is a good example of this as well). The fact that Darkthrone was able to do this separates the band from a lot of other black metal bands of the time; however if you listen to their later albums such as Transilvanian Hunger
you will notice that guitar leads have been completely exiled.
Most people’s introduction to Darkthrone is Transilvanian Hunger
. This statement is true for myself, although I can’t fathom why anyone would prefer Transilvanian Hunger
to A Blaze In The Northern Sky
after a thorough spin of each. Although Transilvanian Hunger
is unquestionably a great album, the aggression, raw power, originality, and overall black metal-esque misanthropic rage is captured in one irreplaceable snapshot on this masterpiece. Let‘s not forget, could any other band have worked in an acoustic guitar part on an album of this intensity? (Immortal's Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism
and Bathory's Blood Fire Death
also contain some acoustic parts) Darkthrone is able to pull off this feat on the album’s second track, In the Shadow of the Horns
Black Metal fans know ambience comes first, and people who have listened to this album also know that it is the embodiment of the perfect listening soundscape, rivaled only perhaps by Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
. A major high point is the vocal work. Spearheading the sonic assault is Nocturno Culto. His vocals are distinctly clear, not distant as per some black metal vocals. For those of you who are unaware, the bass is completely obsolete on this offering, making it one of the first black metal albums to attain the thin quality it is known for. One thing that furthers my opinion of the album is the lack of repetition. Darkthrone’s later albums seem to become progressively repetitive, however A Blaze In The Northern Sky
is free of that flaw. [If this album is your introduction to black metal, you may disagree with that last statement.]
Black Metal doesn’t get much better than this. If there is anything I don’t like about the album it would be that the lyrics are hard to decipher, but this is an impressive offering nonetheless. If you are a fan of black metal, I recommend Transilvanian Hunger
or Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
along with this. If you weren’t fond of it, f*ck you.
On a serious note, if you are interested in listening to black metal but need a solid start, get your hands on some Bathory, Venom or maybe even Mercyful Fate. It may spark the desire to listen to some darker, more ambient material such as this. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better black metal album.
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We Are.... A Blaze.... In the Northern.... Sky.....