Darkthrone provided a shock for their fans back in 1991 with the release of A Blaze in the Northern Sky
, it was raw, badly produced and simplistic; unlike their previous release, Soulside Journey
which was more technical death metal. However, Darkthrone themselves admitted that A Blaze in the Northern Sky
wasn't the black metal that they wanted to play; as they had to rush it there was still some 'death metal riffs' that Fenriz tried his hardest to subdue with his drumming. It wasn't until 1993, when Darkthrone released Under A Funeral Moon
that the transformation was totally completed.
A common complaint about this album is the production, but it really isn't that bad. Sure, if it's your first black metal album it might come as a bit of a shock, but to those of us who have heard real bad production before, this will present no problem. You can hear what is going on alright, the mix seems quite even (even the bass is audible). The thin guitar tone of A Blaze in the Northern Sky
is still present, but don't be put off by this as the guitar tone is an integral part of the atmosphere. Nocturno Culto's vocals are cold and disgusting, with a delay effect which compliments his vocals well.
The instrumental and vocal delivery is perfect. Darkthrone are often branded untalented (which is false, listen to their first album) by haters for playing simplistic music, but they are merely choosing not to bombard us with solos and the like. Fenriz's drumming is solid throughout the album, even excelling on the closing track, 'Crossing the Triangle of Flames'; he plays intresting beats yet still holds the role of a solid backbone for the rest of the band to blaspheme over.
One of the things I love about Darkthrone is how they manage to make simple stuff sound intresting. The music draws you in, and even the most simple of time signature changes or tempo alterations affect you. The unholy, evil atmosphere is ever-present throughout this album, dark, cold and ugly seem like suitable adjectives for describing the overall mood here, complimented beautifully by Nocturuno Culto's evil delivery of the dark, unholy lyrics.
A stand-out track on this album is 'Unholy Black Metal'. Delightfully simple with the verses all following exactly the same formula and repetitive riffing all above the usual, excellent drumming courtesy of Fenriz. The apocalyptic lyrics suit the music well, totally anti-chrisian delivered with full intention. The tempo is quite fast and very aggressive, portraying the Darkthrone attitude well. There's even a teasing little lead that you expect to break out into a full solo, but, like the rest of the album, the solos are held-back and the aggressive atmosphere takes centre stage.
The title track, 'Under A Funeral Moon' starts out with another simple guitar riff before the drums, bass and vocals suddenly kick in and provide us with the usual fix of aggression. The guitars excel on this track, epespecially one riff which is the best, and most memorable, on the album and probable Darkthrone's entire career. There are still the tempo changes which give the music a whole different feel, and the mid-paced section is one of the best parts on the album. A hint of a solo is thrown in over this section which fits well, and the section is contnued before we are pulled back into familiar territory with the faster parts.
The real gem of the album though is the final track, 'Crossing the Triangle of Flame'. Starting out with the usual speed and agression, it suddenly breaks into something more intresting: Fenriz's drumbeat takes on an almost swing feel over the usual guitar riffing and it sounds totally amazing, definately the highlight of the album. The atmosphere is once again prominent, and seems to be very tense under Nocturno Culto's haunting vocal delievery. Fenriz continues to amaze behind the kit with his subtle changes to the beat with their huge impact on the music. With a couple of minutes to go, the song breaks into something totally different; a grindingly slow tempo dragging along with some epic drumming from Fenriz, which is delivered perfectly, giving the impression that he is tiring behind the kit. The guitars drag along with the drums, banging out a simplistic riff over and over until it gradually fades out and we are left with what sounds like church bells. Possibly the greatest album closer, ever.
On the whole, this is a solid, mature, and fucking classic release. It builds on A Blaze in the Northern Sky
, rises above it and prepares you for their release that followed, Transylvanian Hunger
. I highly recommend this album to any black metal fans (shame on you if you don't already own it!) and to anyone looking to get into the genre. Recommend songs are 'Crossing the Triangle of Flame', 'The Dance of Eternal Shadows', 'Under A Funeral Moon' and 'Unholy Black Metal'.