Review Summary: even then most barren landscapes look divine in the moonlight
Today I'm traveling by train from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Albany, New York. For those of you who don't know, these two states are a particularly scenic part of the country, especially this time of year. Dressed in the snowy leftovers of the season, as the train passes through the woodlands of my home state I can't help but be entranced by the natural beauty of this sight. The barren trees, the deep browns and golds of the leaves that cover the ground, and the scattered remains of our most recent blizzard all stand to amaze. It's death in its most ravishing form. The isolation of travel makes it all the more poignant; though surrounded by dozens of people, there is nary a sound to be heard. Each passenger exists only in their own little world, distracted by the technology that seems to be slowly choking humankind in a growing tangle of circuits and wires.
I have the most intense urge to listen to black metal; the setting demands it. I NEED to listen to Under a Funeral Moon. In this moment, I feel so connected to the scene the birthed this classic record - surrounded by the beauty of devastated nature and eerie seclusion - and there is no better portrayal of it than Under A Funeral Moon. It's a microcosm of black metal, the unparalleled representation of everything the genre strove to be then, and what it still aspires to today. "I stand alone in a valley filled with starlight, my eyes suffer from eternal sparks. So shut the lids and dream so I can see the trident clearer than ever now" Nocturno Culto rasps in "Summer of the Diabolical Holocaust". Though written over twenty years ago, that line is as affecting now as it was then; loneliness is eternal. Under A Funeral Moon encapsulates this sentiment in many subtle ways. Though the guitars, drums, and vocals all exist at once, they feel so separate from each other; each instrument exists only in their own little world.
The rigid minimalism the album ascribes to is drenched in lunar mysticism; even the most barren landscapes look divine in the moonlight. Throughout the primitively pummeling tracks of "Dance of Eternal Shadows" and "Under A Funeral Moon", not even the simplistic black metal battering can belie the sense of wonder that inhabits this record. The ragged production transports you somewhere otherworldly, where the seductive whisper of the bass eases you into this far-off realm of wintry static, sinister beauty, and dark intentions. Under A Funeral Moon is a dominion of its own, a separate universe where the pariahs of our world go to dwell in contented seclusion.
This is Darkthrone at their most effortlessly black metal. It didn't subscribe to the standards -minimalism, repetition, atmosphere - but rather it established them. Though they would go on the push the genre to new extremes with its successor, this set the template for what black metal perfection should song like; its almost as if Under a Funeral Moon was written by the essence of black metal itself. Though now I exit the train and re-acclimate myself to this world of the living and technology, I know that Under A Funeral Moon will always be waiting for me to visit again, an escape only befitting of my darkest hours.