Review Summary: A sweet, stylistic mess that satisfies the primal urge for all things metal
It’s not often enough that I get to hear an album so bold and so enjoyable as The Underground Resistance
. The sounds that may have been abandoned by the larger metal realm as passé have been picked up by Darkthrone as innovation via regression; a retrograde rebellion that takes all that was once fun in heavy metal and shows it on one succinct and powerful record. It has been a long time coming, that’s for sure, because since The Cult is Alive
things in the Darkthrone camp have been largely up in the air, with stylistic offerings from the likes of crust and punk to classic heavy metal with a slight lick of black metal each making an appearance, but all of it hasn’t quite come together in the way it had the potential to – until now. The Underground Resistance
is just the kind of thing that makes a band like Darkthrone so incredible and so unique: the flawless incorporation of mountains of musical influences into a landscape of sound that mashes what sounds on paper like a patchwork mess into something quite the opposite.
That’s not to say that the record isn’t obviously all over the place – it most definitely is – but it also works in a really crazy and unorthodox way. The grooving riffing of tracks like “Lesser Men” sway back and forth between maniacal guitar solos and punchy vocals, bringing in an air of metal antiquity but also something a bit more modern, showing that Darkthrone aren’t just out to revive the old-school but are instead around to make the classics their own by tossing in a slew of other elements. Take “Valkyrie”, for instance, a track so obviously different from the rest, showcasing a wicked lead that can be described as nothing short of epic, but quickly ripping into wailing clean vocals and tight, quick riffing before one can make any atmospheric comparisons to Bathory at all. Nocturno Culto shows that he is a jack of all trades and likely a master of many, because aside from the fact that this is the single best guitar performance on any Darkthrone record, he shows that he is able to unleash so many styles, some of which are quite opposite to each other. So many converging and diverging guitar lines permeate the album, from the dichotomy that is “Leave No Cross Unturned” to the startling closing minutes of “The Ones You Left Behind”, where the track snaps away from a melodic bridge into a dark and frantic closing verse.
It is true that The Underground Resistance
is more distinctly inspired by classic heavy metal, much like Circle the Wagons
felt predominately punk-influenced, but that still doesn’t mean that this overarching theme comprises the majority of the record. “Dead Early” has a black metal vibe to it that makes the riffing feel more sinister and serious, coupling Fenriz’s distorted grunts to create a track that feels strangely familiar to the past while also remaining completely different. By comparison, “Leave No Cross Unturned”, aside from being the longest Darkthrone track ever, is simply a breakneck ride down the road of Mercyful Fate with a very distinct Darkthrone flavor and twist, but is one that is instantly appealing from the very first high-pitched wail to the closing, thunderous chords that will leave your urge for headbanging riffs quite satisfied.
The magic to The Underground Resistance
is really that no two songs are alike – not even remotely. Each time the notes from one fade out you can expect to hear something completely new as the drums begin slamming and guitars start to spew out untold amounts of sweet licks and solos. It’s all memorable, and it’s all worth listening to again and again. This is an album that can be listened to over and over, and even if you manage to memorize each passage and somehow discern and commit to memory the lyrics under the ever-shifting vocal styles, there is still more to enjoy. Darkthrone have created a timeless piece simply because it has no set style – there is a huge representation of the old but yet it is all wrapped in something new. At this point, to give Darkthrone a genre is impossible simply because they don’t care to have one any longer – they play whatever the hell they feel like playing, and that is something not a whole lot of bands accomplish. Call it carelessness if you want, because that’s what it is, but I’ll also call it maturity. It may sound crazy, but Darkthrone have been playing music for 26 years now, and they have moved on from the style that made them famous and are now playing only what they want to play. You want to know why The Underground Resistance
is so bafflingly good? Because you can tell Glyve and Ted are having an absolute blast playing the songs here, and they don’t care if you like what they’re playing or not. Take note.