Darkthrone
Panzerfaust


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kyle Ward EMERITUS
January 22nd, 2008 | 682 replies


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

Review Summary: True Norwegian Black Metal

Let me begin with a rather brief but informative tale on what I see as the reason as to why I listen to perhaps the most misshapen (and probably misunderstood) genre of music in existence. Before all of this began, before I had heard such names as Burzum, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor or the like I was but a keen and avid death metal fan. However, I knew there was something out there which had delved further into the realms of darkness and those cold, chilling atmospheres which I so loved. I had yet to find it. As time went on I had gone back into my melodic death interests, until one day I stumbled upon a series of documentaries which would change my musical portrait from that day forward. The series, aptly named “True Norwegian Black Metal”, was a look into the genres underground culture and history through not only the eyes of the filmmakers, but through the eyes of Gorgoroth vocalist Gaahl.

It was within this video, namely the last two parts that I found what I was looking for. At the end of the video, Gaahl embarks on a walk into the cold, desolate mountains near where he lives, bringing the film crew along. They walk nearly all day in the freezing cold snow and sleet, up to the highest reaches of the icy peaks. At the top of this one particular mountain, high above where trees grow, lies a small wooden hut. Gaahl goes on to explain that the hut was built by his great grandparents, and how they had to haul every single piece of wood up the mountain in order to build it. The film crew sees almost no purpose or rewarding material in return for their exhausting hike, but I sat there staring at the landscape for a while afterward. It was exactly what I was looking for. I can’t explain how or why it captivated me, but I knew that this was black metal.

It may seem a completely irrelevant story, but if you take one single look at the album cover of Panzerfaust you will see a scene not unlike the one I mentioned before. The snow covered ground, the darkened trees, the full moon, and the shadowed figure of a man. Indeed a photograph to marvel over, this is but a piece of what exactly black metal of this variety is intended to convey…

True Norwegian Black Metal. I can say it as many times as one can bear to listen and there will still be people arguing about what “true” black metal is. It was mentioned in that documentary I was talking about, and it is so boldly stated on the back of Norwegian black metal band Darkthrone’s fifth offering Panzerfaust. Considered to be their last “classic” black metal album, it marked the end of the era when Darkthrone were pretty much the unwritten “kings” of true Norwegian black metal. If I could name a band which pretty much encompassed what it takes to write good black metal, it would be Darkthrone. “The most hated band in the world”, proclaims the statement on the back cover, but I think quite the contrary. What Darkthrone has accomplished for the genre is simply immeasurable, and it is safe to say that the raw, harsh nature of black metal may have faded away if it wasn’t for the efforts of this band to remain true to their roots.

“Unholy Black Metal”

If one thinks of the stereotypical black metal band, what comes to mind" Blast beats, repetitive riffing, no bass whatsoever, terrible production, headache-inducing vocals, unrelenting blasphemy, and the countless other staples of other, more uninspired black metal bands. It was Darkthrone who helped come together with this sound, and it is they who play it best. It seems difficult to repeat riffs over and over again throughout a 5 minute song and make it interesting, only to do the same with another riff in the next song. However, Darkthrone is capable of doing this with the sort of professional talent that you would expect from such highly regarded veterans of the genre. The way one describes the first minute of the album, the beginning of the song “En Vind Av Sorg” is nothing short of epic, with fantastic riffing and vocals which are reminiscent of Garm from fellow Norwegian black metal outfit Ulver. They take the first fantastic opening riff and repeat throughout, and I’m not joking, the entire track. It is strange how this riff seems to sound just as good as it did when it was first introduced, but it does.

They do this recycling of riffs with such subtlety that the listener won’t even notice. During a song, a new riff may be introduced for maybe 20 or 30 seconds, varying things up a bit, before going right back to that main riff, which sounds as good as ever. The thing with these riffs, however, is that they capture some really fantastic melodies within them which add lots of atmosphere to the album without the use of keyboards or other symphonic elements (something which many, many other black metal bands do). It’s also the fact that they don’t go full-throttle throughout the whole album which adds lots of atmospheric moments while also giving the listener a break from the onslaught of high-tempo guitars and drums. Take “The Hordes Of Nebulah”, for example. Who would have ever fathomed that Darkthrone was capable of producing such a strong doom metal styled riff" The song continues at a slower, mid-tempo pace before a final chugging riff brings the song back up to a usual standpoint.

The album is undoubtedly extremely guitar-oriented, so it’s a welcome gift that Darkthrone put forth a completely amazing showing of melody-laden riffing with a fresh take on their tempos. I could honestly see this album being one, giant, black metal blur without the inclusion of the slower riffing in “The Hordes Of Nebulah” and “Quintessence”. The real key with these tempo changes, though, is how much they add to the album, not take away. Feel free to rip your neck to pieces headbanging to these stunning tacks, I know I did.

With the guitars comes one of the biggest and most prominent issues with the album, and I have to drag in the vocals on this issue as well. While the vocals are great, with a real screeching effect at some points, they sound like an exhausted and desperate cry for help. However, the vocals are mixed too loud in the production, so it sounds like all of the instruments quiet down when the vocals come into play. This is such a big error by the producers and mixers because it takes away from the amazing guitar riffs, shifting them somewhere into the background with the drums and seemingly lost bass guitar.

However, more often than not the production is perfectly fine; something which I have gotten used to is bad production. But let’s face it here; you cannot like black metal if you cannot stomach bad production values.

“Monument of Misanthropy and Wrath”

Shifting slowly, the last track “Sno Og Granskog (Utferd)” inches in by way of a sinister and altogether depressing chorus of horns. This shows perhaps a different side of Darkthrone and comes across as completely unexpected yet utterly enticing. Once the voice of Darkthrone vocalist Nocturno Culto works its way in, the listener may be either captivated or dumbfounded. Not often do tracks of solely spoken word vocals get put so highly in my regard, but this one is nothing short of fascinating. It is the only I way I would want an album like this to end, and it is the only track which embodies the overall atmosphere of this album. Forget the typical eerie ambience which closes most black metal albums, this is something totally unexpected yet totally and undoubtedly enthralling it cannot go without mention.

Overall, the grim and bleak atmosphere accomplished by Panzerfaust is one worth noting as Darkthrone’s last “true” and classic offering. It brings together and shows exactly what Darkthrone, and black metal as a whole is all about. It is a staple of the stubborn (or brilliant, depending on your point of view) unwillingness to evolve a genre, a move I consider to be a noteworthy attribute of black metal. This genre is more than just music, this genre is a following, and this genre is an undeniable scar upon the culture of an entire nation. This genre is true Norwegian black metal, and Darkthrone show that they continue to play it best.



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user ratings (614)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
TwoMonthsInTheCold (2)
A horribly average end to the Darkthrone we know and love....

rattlehead42147 (2.5)
Panzerfaust is the epitome of mediocrity....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Emeritus
January 22nd 2008


17363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Number 50! *waves flag around in the air*



I know the first two paragraphs may be a bit unrelated, but it helps establish what I consider to be "true norwegian black metal".

BallsToTheWall
January 22nd 2008


49136 Comments


Fiddy, very nice. half way to 100. Solid review again. Darkthrone, has slipped past me. Might get Transylvanian or this.

Digging: We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It - Bostin' Steve Austin

Crysis
Emeritus
January 22nd 2008


17363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd recommend Transylvanian Hunger or A Blaze In The Northern Sky before this one.

combustion07
January 22nd 2008


6444 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review I like this cd.

Slaytan
January 22nd 2008


1185 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Transilvanian Hunger is their best IMO. Congrats on getting to 50.

Crysis
Emeritus
January 22nd 2008


17363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's hard to choose my favorite by Darkthrone, "Transilvanian Hunger", "Under A Funeral Moon", "A Blaze In The Northern Sky" and this are all amazing.

rattlehead42147
January 22nd 2008


1345 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

'lot better than my review, although I like mine as well. I happen to think this album blows in averageness. The first four Darkthrone cd's are the best, this does not live up imo.

Wizard
January 22nd 2008


20202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I know the first two paragraphs may be a bit unrelated


The film crew sees almost no purpose or rewarding material in return for their exhausting hike, but I sat there staring at the landscape for a while afterward. It was exactly what I was looking for. I can’t explain how or why it captivated me, but I knew that this was black metal.


I was absolutely stunned by your first two paragraphs. This is exactly the reason why I love Black Metal so much. Your best review by far and good to see it was your big 50 as well. I haven't heard this album yet, but I'm inspired to listen to it now.

EyesWideShut
January 22nd 2008


4847 Comments


Yea that was a great intro and im gonna get into this also. I have Transilvanian and Blaze so this looks great.

Silenius
January 23rd 2008


305 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Best Darkthrone album in my opinion, edges TH by a little bit though most would say otherwise.

Crysis
Emeritus
January 23rd 2008


17363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was absolutely stunned by your first two paragraphs. This is exactly the reason why I love Black Metal so much. Your best review by far and good to see it was your big 50 as well.




Thanks a lot, I'm glad to see people realize the purpose for that introduction. If you want to see the series just youtube True Norwegian Black Metal and i'm sure you'll be able to find it.



Rattleheaed, this CD was certainly one which had to grow on me, if you keep listening to it I'm sure you'll up your rating.This Message Edited On 01.23.08

Wizard
January 23rd 2008


20202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If you want to see the series just youtube True Norwegian Black Metal and i'm sure you'll be able to find it.


I'm getting on that when school is done today. Seriously, one of the best black metal reviews on this site. Period!

FR33L0RD
January 23rd 2008


1474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Crysis

Your past months blackmetal reviews want me to get into this stuff lately.

nice reviews.



An other to my "toget" list

Wizard
January 23rd 2008


20202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Crysis,

I just wanted to say that I watched that 'True Norwegian Black Metal' documentary on Youtube. Should have been called an interview with Gaahl. Anyhow, I was blown away with that unbiased view of him. Great recommendation.

Crysis
Emeritus
January 23rd 2008


17363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad you liked it, it is very centered around Gaahl but it brings together all that is Norwegian black metal and how these guys live and what they believe in. Easily the strongest and most thought-provoking parts are the hike up the mountain, Gaahl's artwork, and the one which hit me the most is the short story about Gaahl's school and how the only kid he went to school with killed himself at 18... really crazy, deep stuff.

masscows
January 23rd 2008


2230 Comments


Yeah, I really dislike how people automatically dismiss people like Gaahl as insane when they don't know the full story behind it. You shouldn't judge what you don't understand.

Crysis
Emeritus
January 23rd 2008


17363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I really dislike how people automatically dismiss people like Gaahl as insane when they don't know the full story behind it. You shouldn't judge what you don't understand.




Couldn't have said it better myself.

Wizard
January 23rd 2008


20202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

He was extremely laid back in the documentary. When the journalists were hiking up the mountain with Gaahl, I was absolutely mesmerized by Gaahl's outlook on nature and its connection with life in general.

masscows
January 23rd 2008


2230 Comments


The fact that that some of the guys on the crew were typical dumb American fatasses marred it a little.

Fxxkit13
October 8th 2009


1565 Comments


Really great review/ cd



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