Review Summary: Old dogs, old stars.
There's something galvanizing about the fall back to a Darkthrone record whenever a listener wants to interpret a mix of old and new. Whether it be the need to appeal to our sense of old school flair, cult status or simply the want to listen to some “trve” authenticity as we "hail" Satan and sacrifice the casual goat to a corpse painted god... Darkthrone has been there. It almost goes without saying that Old Star
is the eighteenth full-length the dynamic duo from Norway showcase. And while there’s some subtle, yet consistent changing of sounds from their last offering, Arctic Thunder
(the band's most recent foray into doom metal inspired blackness) and the sensual, if somewhat self-plagiarised fluidity of The Underground Resistance
which took direct inspiration from every little genre variance the band has offered since Panzerfaust
. However it's in 2019 that Darkthrone releases an album that is undoubtedly a loose take on rock n’ roll and the band’s love for doom, capitalizing on their Old Star
the way only they know how, while simultaneously pulling on the soul-strings of their nostalgia-biased fan base.
is a direct movement into the world of doom laced metal, done with all the traditional-ism only a band like Darkthrone could muster. It's an achievement, as authentic and bold as this band has ever been but the rock laced tendencies showcase a musical awareness built from the very foundation of experience. The riff heavy plodding onslaught of "I Muffle Your Inner Choir" sets the tone immediately, paving an ambitious landscape full of the usual metal cred. The traditional meets vintage doom feel offers slanderous rapture in place of icy fire. But it's the atmosphere captured that lifts one train of thought directly into the next. The track itself is a placation of a traditional black metal opus, but the tempo makes it largely laden within its own mid-paced vigor that wouldn’t be too far out of place within a Black Sabbath or Grand Magus album. Old Star
it seems, pays direct homage to the music that defined the very essence of a great riff, not to mention some slight leanings on the NWoBHM scene.
It’s clear that Darkthrone opt for the tried and true methodology in regards to their songwriting styles. Where Old Star
sees no sign for opulence or innovation, the duo’s practices for the ritualistic dark arts of rock-laced doom simply triumphs where copycat acts fail. Fairly, the band’s listeners may give credence to a band (or rather brand) with a caliber preset for success, but there’s definitely more going on here than a simple repetition of done before ideas summarized into yet another Darkthrone record. The early octane shown throughout “I Muffle Your Inner Choir” melds Darkthrone’s typical raspy growl onto a bedrock of near rapturous riffs. The sound reminisces completely with the late 70s and 80s celebrating quite simply, the power of a riff. As Old Star
progresses the atmosphere behind the new album begins to creep further and further into existence and by the time listeners are greeted with “Alp Man” (which isn’t to say you should be skipping “The Hardship Of The Scots” and the title track - because you really shouldn’t) the hulking swagger of Old Star
is in full-force. The bruising appeal to Darkthrone’s music hasn’t exactly changed over the years and while they will lean from one genre direction into the next, there’s a consistent approach to holding quality. “Alp Man” is but one example of the well-working Darkthrone formula. The track bleeds into the tempo, centering the slight sludge tinged doom vibe. When “Duke Of Gloat” arrives, so does Darkthrone’s blacker themes. The tempo lifts, snapping the listener out of the numbing lull of “Alp Man”s hypnotic rhythm. It’s from here that the record hints towards their older material and with “The Key Is Inside The Wall” both Fenriz and Nocturno bring back the doom laden ‘everythings’ that makes this album a new centerpiece for new “old-school” music.
All in all it is hard to exactly pinpoint what makes Old Star
such a solid, successful record without investing a whole lot of time in the Darkthrone brand. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto may not have released the same album twice but they have certainly hybridized a lot of their back catalog into this hulking doom fest. Old Star
will not (and should not) see the same praise as A Blaze In The Northern Sky
or Under A Funeral Moon
but will likely fall into the same worship shown to records like F.O.A.D.
, The Underground Resistance
and even Arctic Thunder
with more relevance to their most recent outputs. That aside, Old Star
is a worthy addition to the band’s long list of achievements, polarized only by the band’s ability to shift their sound within whatever scale they prefer. These old
dogs need no tricks, instead they offer the same consistent formula at their eviscerating pleasure.