Darkthrone’s slow but vibrant plunge from the top of the elitist second-wave Norwegian black metal scene is hardly a secret. It’s common knowledge nowadays that the band has shifted their sound toward a more punk-influenced “black metal” sound which is part parody, part laziness, and part lack of creativity. However, there had to be some sort of middle ground where the gentle slide took place, because somewhere between what can be called Darkthrone’s last good black metal album, 1995’s Panzerfaust
and today’s era of F.O.A.D.
and Dark Thrones And Black Flags
, some sort of change had to have occurred. That middle ground could easily be labeled as their 2001 full-length Plaguewielder
, an album which still holds fairly firm to their esteemed black metal heritage, but an album which has gaping holes in nearly every single remaining aspect.
Take, for instance, the slight inkling of creativity which Darkthrone once had, however small it may have been. The intuition and desire to write such simple but effective black metal riffs as the lead to “Transilvanian Hunger” is clearly missing on Plaguewielder
, an album which saunters through the realm of mish-mashed riffs and highly (even for black metal standards) repetitive songwriting. The guitars are produced in a fairly standard black metal method, very crunchy and laden with reverb, but in the case of this album, that production doesn’t help the atmosphere simply because there are no real atmospheric riffs to create such a mood. Couple this horrid songwriting display with equally embarrassing and cliché lyrical themes, the complexity of which would make a fourth-grader laugh at, and you have an album with literally zero replay value, even for fans of the band.
So, amongst such glorious songs as “Raining Murder” and “Sin Origin”, we have a lifeless black metal album which succeeds in almost nothing besides giving the Darkthrone fans out there the distinct message that, while they are still black metal, they have completely run out of steam. The drumming remains clueless and ineffective and creating a half-decent beat, even the critical blast-beats of black metal are half-assed and uncreative, placed in moments where they aren’t really needed. The vocals of our friend Ted Skjellum sound tired and painfully devoid of pitch-changes or even the slightest hint of emotion. It’s sort of like that warm-up band that you saw live which, amongst the throes of other, more esteemed bands, subsequently fail to get the crowd to even nod their heads with the beat.
That is the effect which Plaguewielder
has on the listener; the desire to just sit there and listen, then once the album is done you nearly forgot you were even listening to music in the first place. It is placed in a period of Darkthrone’s career where nobody really remembers anything they recorded, and it was also the period where Nocturno Culto and Fenriz realized they needed to do something drastic to change their sound. For all intents and purposes, Plaguewielder
is just one of those albums everyone should simply skip over, because you are missing nothing besides a painfully average display of a style of black metal which died nearly a decade beforehand.