Review Summary: A fairly good black metal album, but it’s nothing new or groundbreaking.
Having listened to most of Darkthrone’s albums, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are a band who struggle with consistency; having experimented (unsuccessfully) with a more thrash approach to their music, their ‘best’ music seems to be locked firmly in the past. It’s fairly easy, and has almost become a tradition, to hate Darkthrone’s newer material. However, I think it’s very important to listen to this album with an open mind; and so I did.
Initially, I was pleasantly surprised. The opening track, aptly titled “Rust” (which may well have been referring to the strings on their guitar), definitely ticked all the boxes for what I class as quintessential ‘black metal’; the atmospheric production, the use of parallel minor chords, and the minimalistic structure and phrasing. I was also highly impressed with the production, of all things; although this maintains the low-budget and trebly timbre, you can actually hear every instrument, including the bass guitar.
One thing that immediately struck me were Nocturno’s vocals. Though in quite a similar style to “Transylvanian Hunger”, there seems to be something rather dull and lifeless when listening to this album. And then it occurred to me- the fact that this album is like their older music seems to be both the redeeming factor, as well as its Achilles heel.
Let’s be honest- Darkthrone really can’t win. If they attempt music in a different direction or genre, people will critisise that, because it’s not like their older stuff. If Darkthrone attempt music similar to their older albums, people will critisise that because it’s not as good.
And it pains me to admit this, but in a sense, the critics are correct. Although this is a fairly strong album, it doesn’t quite have the magic or the compelling nature that I experienced when hearing “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” for the first time. The trouble is that we’ve all heard this style before; and because of Darkthrone’s reputation, it’s impossible to listen to this album in isolation, without really considering their earlier work.
Another flaw with this album is that I feel the opening track is the strongest track- the other songs seem to flow into each other, with little distinction or memorable moments.
So to those of you considering buying or listening to this album, I won’t stop you; I might even encourage you. I can almost guarantee this album won’t leave your mouth open in awe, but it’s worth checking out- and it’s certainly stronger than calamitous albums such as “Goatlord”.
The opening track ‘Rust’
Listening to this with an open mind
This being your first experience with Darkthrone