Review Summary: If this album were an item of clothing, it'd be a denim jacket sporting the patches of 80s metal bands you'll never be cool enough to have heard of.
Despite 'headbanger' being a popular synonym for 'heavy metal fan', (most likely due to the influence of groove and the influx of bands sporting the 'core' suffix) one's neck is under far less pressure than it would have been in metal's 80s heyday. 'Dead Early', the opener of Darkthrone's 2013 offering, remedies this in little time with its speed metal riffing and Thomas G. Warrior styled vocal. A far cry from the band's classics ('Transilvanian Hunger' and 'Blaze in the Northern Sky'), they still maintain their uncompromising attitude and unpolished studio mix. They deliver with genuine passion and enjoyment, liberated from any pretension or desire for critical validation, as 80s style proto-thrash meets hardcore punk in this underground pit-inducer. Whilst having shed their 'black metal' tag years ago (one they helped define, no less), this is still very much Darkthrone, and some might argue their most 'Darkthrone' release to date, as the Norwegian duo record the album that their teenage selves would have most certainly made had they the opportunity and experience.
The fittingly epic 'Valkyrie' might startle some with its melodic leanings, but nonetheless it is a track to instil pride in the bands Norse ancestors. Featuring drummer Fenriz' clean singing, this track is akin to the thrashy punk of the Misfits marrying the Viking metal majesty of the likes of Tyr. Alternating between songs written by guitarist/primary vocalist Nocturno Culto and those written by drummer Fenriz (the songwriters have 3 songs each on this 6 track release) Darkthrone traverse various styles as early 80s thrash meets the dark atmospherics of black metal ('Lesser Men') lo-fi NWOBHM ('The Ones You Left Behind') or blackened-doom ('Come Warfare, The Entire Doom''). Closer 'Leave No Cross Unturned', a 13 minute-plus doom marathon invites obvious comparisons to Mercyful Fate, in most part due to Fenriz' piercing falsetto. Whilst it may be a shock to more black metal purists and fans of their earlier work, it is in itself a statement of the band's freedom of expression and unrestrained artistry.
The album boasts variety; each song stands individually as a musical journey, however Darkthrone's 'cold' production and trademark riffery lend the LP consistency. Free from the concerns of delivering a commercially viable release or pleasing critics, Darkthrone are more free than ever to make the album they wish to make. Previous releases may have served as a middle finger to the expectations of the listener and the media, yet with "The Underground Resistance" they simply don't appear to register either.