During the early 00’s, Darkthrone was gradually losing steam as a black metal band, releasing album after album of mediocre and forgettable material that didn’t hold a candle to their three giants A Blaze in the Northern Sky
, Under a Funeral Moon
, and Transilvanian Hunger
. The previous album Hate Them
was their most noticeably punk influenced album, and this influence is amplified even further in 2004’s Sardonic Wrath
, Darkthrone’s last official black metal album. Over half of the songs actually fall more under the punk category, and in reality the only thing giving this the black metal title is the production (which is easily the worst part of the album since the songs themselves are quite good). Still, Sardonic Wrath
shows signs of Darkthrone finally doing what they want, crust punk with black metal influence, and on top of that, finally having fun with their music once again.
After an appropriately titled ominous intro, the album kicks off with album highlight “Information Wants to Be Syndicated,” the most ‘grim’ song on the album having a healthy amount of blast beats and catchy riffs to go along. “Straightening Sharks in Heaven” is another track pick, featuring some cold riffs almost hinting at their Panzerfaust
days. The song that hints most at their early black metal days however is “Hate Is the Law,” blatantly ripping off “I en hall med flesk og mjød” off their 1994 album Transilvanian Hunger
but adding a punk twist to it with a group chant chorus. The falling back on old ideas could be due to lazy songwriting, or just an attempt to remind listeners of their glory days – probably both. Unfortunately, it comes across as very uninspired but it’s a decent song nonetheless and provides a welcome change of pace from the overwhelmingly punky second half of the album.
Other standout tracks include “Sjakk matt Jesu Krist,” “Sacrificing to the God of Doubt,” and the doomy album closer “Rawness Obsolete.” The only low point of the album song wise is the middle two tracks, which aren’t bad by any means but come across as filler more than anything. Regardless, aside from the occasional blast beat the album is essentially a crust punk Darkthrone album with metal production – horrible production, mind you, but black metal-esque nonetheless. I’m sure if the guitar tone wasn’t so piercing and bright that Sardonic Wrath
would get more attention from Darkthrone fans, but as it is it’s a very solid output from the former black metal kings and bodes well as their final ‘metal’ album before transitioning into their full-on crust punk era.