Review Summary: "The Fenriz attitude: 20% John McEnroe, 20% Jello Biafra, 20% Lemmy, 20% King Diamond, 20% Larry David - 100% maniac!!!"
It took them over a decade and a few beers, but Darkthrone have finally mastered sloppiness. Once worshiped in the black metal community as innovators, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto now look towards the past - speed metal, crust punk, etc. - for inspiration. Given Fenriz's constant reminders of his distaste for sleek production and fondness of Motörhead and Discharge, this is really no surprise. Recent times have also seen both member's offbeat humor slowly infuse with the music, giving the songs a drunken, tongue-in-cheek feel that adds to the ridiculous atmosphere of it all.
Dark Thrones and Black Flags
follows in the same vein as 2007's F.O.A.D.
; thrash riffs are blurred until they sound like oddly upbeat black metal anthems, while croaks and yells pierce the listener's ears, obviously mixed too high. At first glance, "The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker" sounds like something straight out of the second wave, but just a few seconds of shouted, slightly out of key vocals automatically separates it from anything in that era. We got our first glance of Dark Thrones and Black Flags
with the absurdly named "Hiking Metal Punks," and it still remains as a definite highlight, with straightforward instrumentation accompanied by absurd and goofy shouts of "Hiking metal punks forever!". A prominent guitar melody features in the second half of the tune, lending a strangely epic feel to the song that one wouldn't expect from Darkthrone.
"Norway in September" and "Hanging Out in the Haiger" both continue this particular sound, morphing generic headbanger riffs into filthy, dirge-like black metal. The latter's lyrics are rock and roll cheese ("Another round in the bar in the cellar / It's head-bang heaven this night") backed by NWOBHM guitar buffoonery, including a wonderfully sloppy guitar solo. The coda, much like "Hiking Metal Punks," lends a melodic tone to the song and would sit well in a Thin Lizzy tribute band's repertoire.
The remainder of Dark Thrones and Black Flags
is stagnant and devoid anything particularly interesting. Unsurprisingly, most of these songs have a much stronger black metal feel to them and make a good case for those who believe Darkthrone should have stopped playing in that style ten years ago. The eponymous track acts as instrumental filler and goes nowhere, making even "Witch Ghetto" sound invigorating in comparison. These sections of intentionally second-rate material make it hard for the album to be enjoyable as a whole, and unlike F.O.A.D.
, there are no hilarious classics in the way of "Canadian Metal" and "Raise on Rock." And that's really shame; this is the stuff they do best.