You take Soulside Journey
's debut, you turn it around, expecting pictures of the band members in an evil forest, maintaining mysterious poses. Indeed they are in a forest, but wait, Nocturno Culto is a blonde guy wearing jeans?
The year is 1991 and the band that would go on to make black metal classics such as A Blaze in the Northern Sky
and Transilvanian Hunger
had not yet discovered the enjoyable touch of corpse paint or black metal tout court
. It is said that Euronymous (of Mayhem
) got these guys into black metal and before that happened they were a death metal band. Some say technical, but to me that's only true in comparison to the minimalistic approach of their later albums.
Speaking of their later albums, I can't help but compare the two musical eras in their career. Obviously, this sounds very different. The first thing that you will notice is the production. It's much fuller than, say, Under a Funeral Moon
, an album with one of the thinnest productions known to man. Everything sounds clear, but the fans will still recognise that typical Darkthrone
In technical terms it is more accomplished, there are solos and Fenriz performs some of his best drumming to date. All of this proves that they do not play minimalistic music because they're not capable of anything more complex, as some think.
While all that sounds promising, this album left me somewhat disappointed. Yes, they sound different, but it's still Darkthrone, which means repetitive riffing and monotonous vocals. There are definitely interesting moments, namely, the solos, for one and brief spotlight moments for the bassist being another. The opener is easily the best song on the album, starting with chanting synths, breaking loose in powerful riffing. The synths reappear in the song and Darkthrone proves that you can use synths in death metal, which they make clear in a number of other songs. Unfortunately these moments rapidly vanish and that leaves us with a big chunk of other stuff.
The structure of the songs is repeated pretty much every song, starting slow with ringing power chords, then adding fast drums and tremelo picking a faster riff. This gets very tiring nearing the end of the album and the songs seem to go on endlessly, especially because many of the riffs are similar. (Which makes me wonder if the first song is best, purely because it is first and not the 11th song using the worn out pattern). Somehow they do the same thing on later albums and make it sound amazing, but it just doesn't work for death metal, keep the repetition in black metal. There it creates a dark atmosphere, here it's just boring. (Although the synths do hint at it, but they are used too scarcely to really make an impact).
While some people might enjoy this, it's not the kind of death metal that I like listening to. It is certainly not a bad album, but it's not consistently interesting, which makes it pale in comparison to what I think to be their best album, Transilvanian Hunger
. (much like their faces will pale with paint after this, ironically). Don't start here if you're trying to get into Darkthrone
, that is the message.