Review Summary: "Transilvanian Hunger" brought Darkthrone's black metal years to an end with an emphatic thirty nine minutes long slab of nothing more than raw, unadulterated, full-speed-ahead black metal.
To accurately sum up Darkthrone's 1994 studio album "Transilvanian Hunger" is a difficult job indeed. The album is such as relentless assault on the ear drums of nothing more than black metal in its purest, most unadulterated form; so to describe the album in a few words would be difficult. However, after much deliberation I believe I have found the words necessary. They would be : Hypnotizing, Mesmerizing and Horrifying. Of all of Darkthrone's albums, I am of the belief that "Transilvanian Hunger" was the release on which they got everything right and were firing on all cylinders. "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" and its successor had set the stage for what was to be showcased on their 1994 affair, but it was on this album where they hit their peak and everything they stand for was embodied in one raw thirty nine minute long harrowing experience.
The instrumental work for this release is pretty much the standard black metal affair: high pitched tremolo picked power chords, lightning fast drumming and bass work fast enough to singe the fingers off of Satan himself. This template made their previous two outings so solid but on "Transilvanian Hunger" they have been refined to the point that the instrumental performance is absolutely flawless. The vocals are as unhinged as they ever have been, carrying a rough feel to them that is almost warning the listener to stay away. The idea of this band's music was always to get their own feelings of isolation out in musical form regardless of how it sounded and even the vocals here showcase this. From the opening title track right through to the end, Nocturno Culto throws himself into his role as vocalist with a lot of conviction. His screams echo the torments of a thousand lost souls as he roars lyrics about all manner of odd and occult subjects, and it is hard to imagine anyone else shrieking the words "transilvanian hunger, cold" with quite as much anger and despair as Nocturno Culto manages.
The atmosphere has always been an essential part of black metal music, and the very core that it is hinged upon, and on "Transilvanian Hunger" it is almost unmatchable. The raw production job helps to build a harrowing, dark, foreboding wall of sound that could not sound more evil had the devil himself made it. The title track in particular stands out as a watermark in black metal music and atmospheric music, with a very aggressive and yet somewhat beautiful sound to it. To complement the horrifying atmosphere at work, the lyrical content is very morbid, as one would expect from a band such as Darkthrone, especially given that the last four songs of the release had lyrical contributions by none other than the infamous Varg Vikernes. These songs speak of blasphemy and other evil topics and the lyrics really add something to the sense of isolation and darkness that "Transilvanian Hunger" strives to attain.
The songs themselves are of a very high standard, but this release is best suited to being heard as a complete experience, especially when alone and in an environment that is pitch black and very cold, just to get the perfect atmosphere for it. "Transilvanian Hunger" kicks the album off with an emphatic six minutes of sheer musical chaos and mayhem, with some of the most evil sounding guitar work out there that is still incredibly melodic. The one thing that really does stand out about this track is the fact that there are three riffs throughout the entire song and it still never once threatens to bore the listener. Where bands such as Mayhem can cram ten riffs into their songs such as on "Funeral Fog", Darkthrone were happy to keep the riffs to a minimum here in favor of writing ones that really strike home to the listener. This is an album that never really dips in quality either, with a short track picking up where the title track left off, and the latter half of the album is also flooded with gems such as "As Flittermice as Satans Spys", the second longest track on here. Each song is just a masterful showcase in how to create an evil-sounding atmosphere with some chaotic guitar work and drumming and vocals that aren't exactly accessible but are very nice to hear.
"Transilvanian Hunger" is a landmark black metal release that embodies all that is good about Darkthrone, with its incredibly morose and bleak outlook on life and untouchable atmosphere. If you are into black metal and have not heard this then it is an album that I highly recommend, especially the title track.